Yesterday I took a walk down to the oldest part of New York City, where the Dutch landed and planted their flag near the current location of the Staten Island Ferry, where George Washington stood his officers rounds at Fraunces Tavern, now filled with Wall Street types, and where a bunch of smelly hippies stirred by an Anti-Semitic Canadian magazine decided to squat a public park in order to make a statement about their own need for attention.
Zuccotti Park has returned to its original function as a place where secretaries, construction workers and off-duty cops go to eat quick lunches bought from local fast food places or disease-ridden Halal Mafia food carts. The few plants wave in a breeze that blows between the narrow lanes of the financial district, which has some of the oldest and narrowest streets in the city. An information desk for OWS is the only sign of the occupation, with taped-together cardboard signs denouncing the NYPD and sarcastically informing the Indian and Russian tourists taking snapshots of the under-construction Freedom Tower; “And to think these ‘People’ are the ‘Heroes’ of ‘911’… Right.”
Occupy Wall Street has gone east, one block east. It no longer occupies Wall Street, instead it has transformed into Occupy Trinity Church. The media, which served as the unofficial PR corps for OWS, is not too enthusiastic about reporting that a movement which they hailed is busy trying to seize land from a historic Episcopalian church that dates back to 1697, in whose cemetery lie several signers of the Declaration of Independence and several delegates to the Continental Congress, not to mention several Revolutionary War generals and a fellow by the name of Alexander Hamilton.
Trinity was also an enthusiastic supporter of Occupy Wall Street, providing them with bathrooms and private conference rooms, but turning over Duarte Square was asking too much. After being evicted from Zuccotti Park, the OWS crowd assumed that they could bully Trinity into giving them the land with the “fact of their occupation”. Instead Duarte Square, named after Juan Pablo Duarte, a founder of the Dominican Republic, has become OWS’ Waterloo.
Despite several attempts to occupy Duarte Square, Trinity Church has held firm. After half a year, OWS has made less impact fighting Trinity than it has fighting Wall Street.
When I passed by, the sad remnant of Occupy Trinity Church was down to three people, one of them sitting with a plastic bucket designated for the “OWS Laundry Fund” and another with a sleeping bag marked “Occupied”. There were the usual cardboard signs about Jesus being an OWS member, rants about the police and a claim that Trinity Church had been stolen from the Indians and should be given back to them to their representatives at OWS.
One sign accused Trinity Church of greedily sitting on 200 million dollars (the actual figure is around 1 billion) while refusing the homeless trustafarians of Occupy Wall Street a small measly strip of land (probably worth nearly 50 million dollars alone) for their campsite.
OWS has blasted Trinity for being aligned with the “1 percent” and spun conspiracy theories about its parish vestry with over 10 billion in real estate assets. The claims are no doubt true and unsurprising, given the location. The neighborhood is not much of a residential area and those who do live there tend to have money. The proposed Ground Zero Mosque was never going to cater to locals, as I conclusively demonstrated at the time. Trinity does.
Class warfare attacks on an Episcopalian church never got much traction. Like the attacks on Wall Street, the attacks on Trinity are mostly liberal-on-liberal violence. Trinity opened its doors to OWS, it just refused to lose control over its own property, with all the accompanying problems with legal squatting, insurance rates and lawsuits that would follow.
But Trinity’s 1 percenters had no one to blame for their troubles but themselves. They had given OWS members every reason to think that they had a blank check.
This was a church where at its “May Day Teach-In”, the Rev. Dr. James Forbes suggested that OWS was divinely inspired. “The Occupy Movement is a light from above through the people from below.”
The Reverend Mark Bozzuti-Jones, a priest for pastoral care at Trinity, spoke on “The Gospel of Occupy Wall Street” and also used occupation as a metaphor for divinity.
“Recently, I completed a book, The Gospel of Barack Hussein Obama According to Mark. It is not a political manifesto or propaganda, but a lens for us to see how God occupies humanity in new ways,” the Reverend Bozzuti-Jones preached.
“In the book, Barack says, ‘Blessed are those who live a preferential love for the poor…. Blessed are those who die before their time because they are poor. Woe to those who advocate solving the economic woes [by putting burdens] on the backs of the poor. They advocate balancing the debt by cutting the social programs and refusing to tax the richest in the country.’”
When you elevate a social protest movement as divinely inspired and endorse occupation as a heavenly tactic, it becomes awkward when you then have to tell the occupiers that they can’t have your land because it belongs to you and not to them. Trinity had been willing to associate with OWS to give it an air of spiritual activism. In return for all the positive publicity about its clergy grappling with social issues, it would give OWS leaders access to its meeting rooms and a shot at the toilets. It wouldn’t however give them Duarte Square.
Occupy Wall Street has never gotten over the betrayal, but it’s more likely that OWS just smelled an easier target. Willie Sutton said he robbed banks because that’s where the money is. Trinity has lots of money and was a lot more willing to cater to the community organizers of Zuccotti Park than their neighbors in the financial district were. Left-wing groups are expert shakedown artists, and the hunger strikes and assaults on Duarte Square were intended to shake down some of that billion dollars under the threat of negative publicity. But if Trinity sent along any money, it wasn’t visible in the OWS laundry bucket, which seemed to have just about enough money to run a few dirty OWS t-shirts through the wash.
OWS may have also been looking to the future. Wall Street is slowly dribbling out of New York City. What September 11 couldn’t do, the Obama economy has. The Gospel of Barack Hussein Obama means massive unemployment and low confidence in the economy, but the Gospel of Michael Bloomberg means more regulations and higher taxes to pay for art displays, such as the giant ketchup bottle parked in City Hall Park, and funds the massive bureaucracy that takes care of half the city.
There’s a crunch coming and, when it comes, Trinity’s real estate holdings will be worth a lot less and Wall Street will have a choice between paying more taxes to “invest in public schools”, not to mention the rest of the public sector unions, or heading somewhere else. So will the fading publishing industry and the remnants of the fashion world, who have drawn most of the bright young things who buy up million-dollar condos and pride themselves on experiencing a diversity that is only livable thanks to the “stop-and-frisk pigs” of the NYPD.
Despite his antics, Bloomberg has been a moderately competent steward of Giuliani’s legacy. When he leaves office, the odds are good that he will be replaced by another Decline Democrat. And then it’s only a matter of time before the NYPD is in handcuffs, the businesses are gone and the bright young things are fleeing their newly gentrified neighborhoods while relearning why their grandpas and grandmas fled the Bronx and East New York like it was the Pale of Settlement or the Great Famine.
Continuing down, past the sad tattered remnants of Occupy Trinity, Broadway unwinds itself down to the river where the Dutch once planted their flag for a while, where the gun batteries of Fort Amsterdam tried and failed to hold off the English, and down to Bowling Green Park, the first official park in the city, dating back to 1686, where the rebellious colonists pulled down a statue of King George and melted him down for ammunition.
Tourists pose for photos with the Wall Street Bull, which was featured in one of OWS’s earliest ads, and has been for sale by the sculptor without anyone to buy it for a quarter of a century. A man with a giant snake draped around him offers them a chance to get a photo taken with the snake. Another man dressed as a giant Statue of Liberty parades around also offering his own 8-foot-tall photo op.
At the edge of the water, you can see Newark, once a powerhouse city, now a local version of Detroit. What separates Newark from New York, besides the Hudson River and several letters, is Wall Street and a handful of relic industries, like magazine publishing, with a limited future.
The lavish redesign of the western riverfront of Manhattan island, a golf course with a waterfall and a volleyball court alongside a pier offering free kayak lessons, under the shadow of the sparkling new condos of Battery Park, constructed on land excavated from the World Trade Center construction and thrown into the river, all depends on keeping the brokers and traders, the publishers and designers, the future titans of some e-industry and the fashion models who will one day snort coke in Parisian fitting rooms, in the city.
These lavish playgrounds, not far from OWS’ stomping grounds or from the meatpacking district where beefy men in bloodstained aprons used to lug entire cows across sawdust strewn streets that have been turned into upscale boutiques depend on a fragile mirage of New York City as a place with a future. An exciting place where something is always happening.
That illusion was crafted by Hollywood movies, which turned every block into a crime scene or an alien invasion and it’s sustained by events, whether it’s planting a giant ketchup bottle on the City Hall Park lawn or occupying a public park for an indefinite period.
All of New York City is street theater, in one form or another, but if the industries that actually pay into the economy, that makes the public sector union infrastructure possible, leave, then the illusion will vanish, the bright young things will flee and one day Carnegie Hall and Rockefeller Center will look like the sad photos of neglected landmarks in Newark.
New York City’s ruling elite is liberal, but it is a liberalism that is sharply divided between the Trinity pastors, who know just how far the city can dip to the left before it crashes and Occupy Wall Street, who don’t care for those distinctions. Bloomberg’s reign depends on that balance, maintaining quality of life while paying fealty to liberal pieties.
On the river, which flows both ways, a dirty barge spewing fumes tows a load of garbage marked for recycling. In the distance, the Statue of Liberty, a faint green stick figure, stretches out her hand with the once-golden lamp. And a few miles away, on top of an artsy building in the Village, a statue of Vladimir Lenin stands on the roof. The statue was imported after the fall of the USSR by a radical professor, who was also one of the building’s investors. The bank has since foreclosed on the building, but Vladimir still stands there, one hand raised ominously toward Wall Street and the Statue of Liberty.
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