The cleanup action of Zuccotti Park from Lower Manhattan, that has been occupied by Wall Street protesters for nearly a month, was canceled Friday minutes before it was supposed to begin.
Bloomberg administration made the announcement around 6:20 a.m., about 40 minutes before workers were scheduled to enter Zuccotti Park, which has been the encampment for the Occupy Wall Street protesters.
Deputy Mayor Caswell F. Holloway said in a Friday morning statement:
“Late last night, we received notice from the owners of Zuccotti Park – Brookfield Properties – that they are postponing their scheduled cleaning of the park, and for the time being withdrawing their request from earlier in the week for police assistance during their cleaning operation.
Our position has been consistent throughout: The City’s role is to protect public health and safety, to enforce the law, and guarantee the rights of all New Yorkers. Brookfield believes they can work out an arrangement with the protesters that will ensure the park remains clean, safe, available for public use and that the situation is respectful of residents and businesses downtown, and we will continue to monitor the situation.”
As news that the cleanup of Zuccotti Park has been canceled, cheers erupted among demonstrators who had been preparing for a possible confrontation.
Hundreds of Occupy demonstrators had gathered overnight in anticipation of what might happen on Friday morning, while others continued cleaning the park, which Brookfield Properties complained had become filthy and a potential health threat.
Early in the morning on Friday, at around 5 o’clock, a collection of mops and brooms had stood in a plastic bin on Liberty Street along with 27 buckets of soapy water.
A woman handed out white rubber gloves to more than a dozen people. They walked to the west end of the park, at Trinity Place, and announced they were going to begin a sweep, picking up and discarding objects that did not belong to anyone.
According to Patrick Bruner, a spokesman for Occupy Wall Street, on Thursday night protesters tried to deliver a petition with more than 100,000 signatures to City Hall,calling upon Mayor Michael Bloomberg to allow the Zuccotti Park occupation to continue.
Bruner also sent a message to supporters asking them to show up at Zuccotti Park early Friday morning to “to defend the occupation from eviction.”
On Friday morning, at 6 o’clock, the crowd had swelled to more than a thousand. NYPD officers stood behind metal barricades that lined Zuccotti Park.
Two days ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that Zuccotti Park would be cleaned.
On Tuesday, Richard B. Clark, Brookfield’s chief executive officer, sent a letter to the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, in which he wrote that conditions in Zuccotti Park had reached “unsafe” levels, and he reiterated his complaint that the encampment violated the law.
“Overflowing garbage cans attracted rodents, gas-fired generators posed a fire hazard, bad smells abounded, the lack of toilets made things worse and complaints were mounting from disgruntled people who live and work nearby.”
“In light of this and the ongoing trespassing of the protesters, we are again requesting the assistance of the New York City Police Department to help clear the park.”
Occupy Wall Street protesters feared that Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement that the park would be cleaned was a prelude to their being permanently banned from Zuccotti Park. An appeal quickly went out on Facebook and other sites calling for brooms, mops and various cleaning supplies as well as volunteers willing to donate elbow grease. After cleaning the place themselves, the demonstrators planned to form a human chain around the park to try to keep police officers from entering.