On behalf of Occupy Wall Street protestors, a group of New York civil liberties lawyers has issued the following letter to the CEO of Brookfield Office Properties, who recently requested NYPD intervention at Liberty Park, where protestors have been stationed for weeks. The park is scheduled to be cleared "for cleaning" tomorrow morning, October 14. Occupy Wall Street has issued a city-wide call to action to oppose the clearing.
Liberty Park Legal Working Group
c/o 299 Broadway, Suite 806
New York, NY 10007
October 13, 2011
BY FAX TO 212-417-7272
Richard B. Clark
Chief Executive Officer
Brookfield Office Properties
Brookfield Global Real Estate
Three World Financial Center
New York, NY 10281-1021
Re: Liberty Park
Dear Mr. Clark:
Attorneys associated with the National Lawyers Guild-New York City Chapter have been asked to represent the Sanitation Working Group, one of the several autonomous working groups formed and operated by people who have been occupying Liberty Park. We are in receipt of a copy of your letter to New York City Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly requesting police intervention and outlining your concerns about cleaning and maintenance of Liberty Park.
The enforcement action you are requesting raises serious First Amendment and other legal concerns. Under the guise of cleaning the Park you are threatening fundamental constitutional rights. There is no basis in the law for your request for police intervention, nor have you cited any. Such police action without a prior court order would be unconstitutional.
The Sanitation Working Group has been addressing the concerns in your letter all along. Beyond that, it has committed itself to carrying out a thorough and complete cleaning and to addressing all the issues related to sanitation raised in your letter. The Working Group welcomes representatives of Brookfield to view the cleaning process and its results.
Our investigation has revealed that no permanent structures have been erected within the Park, nor have any actions been taken to damage the Park, its plantings or other amenities. Your letter raises concerns about potential water infiltration of the Park’s underground lighting and electrical hazards. However, based on a visual inspection recently conducted by our clients, there has been no damage to the lenses covering the underground lighting and thus there is no risk of water infiltration. Additionally, it is our understanding that there has been no electricity running in said fixtures for weeks now. Therefore, there is no risk of electrical hazard.
The Working Group will continue to bag and haul trash on a tight schedule. Trash has consistently been bagged and hauled to established collection points and recycling rules have been strictly adhered to. The Working Group has been using primarily 50 gallon, 3mil. thickness contactor bags. Additionally, the Working Group typically has had between one and fifteen people sweeping the Park with brooms at any given time.
The Sanitation Working Group has informed us that the following activities are being carried out to further address these issues:
1. All hard surfaces within the Park, are being scrubbed and/or polished;
2. Garbage removal will be stepped up;
3. Every item resting on the ground will be removed to allow for thorough cleaning; and
4. Power washing will be employed where appropriate or possible
Our clients are willing to sit down with you to resolve any of your concerns. They want to negotiate in good faith. Our clients agree to address any reasonable issues of sanitation safety and access and would like to prevent these issues from creating a pretext for police action in violation of our client’s First Amendment rights to utilize the Park. If you nonetheless decide to proceed with your request for police action, prior court approval is required.
Please feel free to call Ms. Ratner Kunstler at 917-331-8012 or Mr. Oliver at 646-263-3495 to discuss these matters. We look forward to hearing from you this evening.
Very truly yours,
Margaret Ratner Kunstler
Gideon Orion Oliver
Yetta G. Kurland
Martin R. Stolar
Bruce K. Bentley
cc: Mayor Michael Bloomberg
NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly
Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, Esq
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.