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Neighboring Small-Business Owners Split on Occupy Wall Street


NEW YORK ― As demonstrators took to Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park for 60 days to protest economic injustice in the Occupy Wall Street movement, many business owners in the surrounding area had their own reason to protest. With access to their stores limited, and many customers unwilling to venture into the area, small-business owners in the immediate vicinity of  Zuccotti Park say they felt the sting of the two-month occupation.

"We have been suffering a lot," the owner of a nearby deli, who identified himself only as Mayor, said today (Nov. 15), shortly after police cleared and barricaded the park on the orders of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "We are in bad shape right now. After two months of this, I hope things get back to normal. If you miss one day you cannot make it up, and it has been two months like this."

Several other business owners in the vicinity of the park, speaking anonymously, stated they, too, had experienced a downturn in business during the round-the-clock protest movement.

In particular, businesses became caught up in logistical problems.

Jose Medina, whose 99 Percent Vegetarian food cart has been parked directly across the street from Zuccotti Park for the past year, said his business hasn't suffered, but "other vendors have been having problems. They haven't been getting customers because they don't want to come over here. They say it smells bad and there is a lot of garbage. There are a ton of police all around and sometimes they won’t let people pass. The police presence affects us because sometimes there is no parking.

"Business has stayed the same for us, though ― and we have even gotten some customers from across the street, as some of the protesters are vegans."

The increased police presence and numerous street closings have been perhaps the biggest challenges to businesses.

Customers simply have chosen to go to stores in other parts of the city, leaving the stores near Zuccotti Park to suffer. Emblematic of them was a Brooks Brothers store that had metal barricades surrounding its entrances.

At Mohan Jewelers, located less than two blocks from the protests, a worker who asked to be identified only as Raymond  said: "People haven't had proper access to our store, and some people have found it very hard to get to the store as a result.  Since they have removed the barricades, things have come back to normal. I expect business to return back to normal now that the barricades are gone."

Besides suffering on the bottom line, Mayor the deli owner said he has had unhappy experiences with Occupy Wall Street protesters .

"I had a lady come into my store and use the bathroom for over a half hour," he said. "I don't know what she was doing, but when we tried to get her to leave she resisted."

Other businesses, however, have actually been able to take advantage of the opportunity the protests have presented them.

"We have been getting a lot of business from the protesters," said Angelo Lopez, a worker at Cortlandt News, a corner news store located two blocks from the park. "A lot of protesters come and buy cigarettes from us. A lot of small businesses around the area are complaining about the protesters keeping away a lot of potential customers, but I don't think businesses will be affected too much once the people clear out."

Photo above right: Food cart owner, Jose Medina and his employee, Sergio Susano, inside their food cart near Zuccotti Park. Photo credit: Dave Mielach.