IT’S JUST A FACT: Last year, only five out of every hundred trades made on the New York Stock Exchange actually happened in downtown New York City, on the floor of the NYSE, right on the corner of Wall Street near State. Gone are the days when the NYSE necessitated brokerages “clustered around” Wall Street in order to hand-deliver paper copies of stocks every week. Most of the action now takes place not just outside of the exchange but often nowhere near the Financial District. Could be in Midtown Manhattan, or Midtown Dhaka, but location really isn’t the factor it used to be in making money move.
Yet, with its cobbled, narrow streets, suited workers bustling around and Gilded Age architecture, Wall Street looks like more of an old studio backlot take on New York City than what the city actually looks like these days. In other words, Wall Street is a perfect set, for anyone looking to make a scene. Which might have something to do with why the recent protesters chose it.
Occupy Wall Street has—against many odds—gained quite a bit of momentum over the last three weeks, even if the “they” who organized it are still as loosely defined as the “demands” they have. We know that they’re indignantly pissed off at a financial system that failed to hold anybody in a position of power accountable for some of the current economic problems its titans helped to create, and then, profit from. And we know that “Wall Street” is, yes, a location, but moreover, meant to symbolize the entire financial system…even if its most reviled villains are, say, closer to the Staten Island Ferry or up on Park Avenue near 47th (“OCCUPY TWO BLOCKS FROM THE WALDORF” just doesn’t have the same ring to it).
What we don’t know is what they plan on doing to further their cause, beyond raising awareness and ire for an issue most of the world is already well-aware of and irate about. Or how long they’ll last. Or what the long-term effects of any of this might actually be. The protests’ effectiveness as anything other than a Liberal Arts-educated encampment that’s provided NYPD with overtime hours and many lower-to-mid-level workers serious transit consternation is, well, debatable.
We do know, though, that there are ways of making a difference in the day-in/day-out of that nebulous entity known as Wall Street that take a little more chutzpah than sitting around a drum circle and earning your cuff marks to share on Twitter. If Occupy Wall Street really has ambitions of changing the way our world deals with commerce, trade and free markets, well, we have a few propositions for them, to see if they’ll leave their urban encampment-cum-Shakedown Street, get off of their Carhart-covered asses, and show the world what a real disruptor is. And they don’t even involve violence!
That said, we obviously don’t endorse doing any of these ourselves. They are, after all, just ideas, but ones worth considering. After all, change requires more than a few days in the park, no?
Occupy Metro North!
According to MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan, the rule of thumb is that a Metro-North train can hold 100 people per car and a typical train has 5-12 cars. A well-planned early morning flashmob joyride from Connecticut or Westchester could easily disrupt the working days of some high-up finance professionals. (The 7:38AM from Greenwich to Grand Central, anyone?) Round up a few hundred protesters, head up to the Nutmeg state, and don't come back until you've spent the commute protesting in front of your captive audience of financiers. Maybe by the time you hit Grand Central you will have gotten through to at least 1% of the 1%.
Nowadays, most corporations—like those evil ones Occupy Wall Street rails against—are ostensibly based in tiny Delaware, a business-friendly enclave that looks the other way when your credit card company flirts with usury. The Delaware Court of Chancery decides all business cases in the state, and by default, makes case law that affects how business is handled nationwide. The interesting thing is that it's presided over without juries five appointed-for-life judges basically decide the course of corporate law by themselves. If the Wall Street protesters took their sit-in to the courthouse steps and aimed at getting the attention of these five men (with names like Sam Glasscock, III, naturally), that would be far more effective than yelling at the low-level suits on Cedar Street.
Occupy Gramercy Park!
After all, if you're going to occupy a private park, why not make it a nice one? Since this whole 99% thing is becoming a game of class warfare, a battle somewhere actually on a front line is inevitable, and the Gramercy Park—with its manicured lawns and wrought-iron fence of privilege-could serve as an even more symbolic space than Zuccotti Park. There's a simple trick to get the gate unlocked, though you'll have to pretend to believe in capitalism to use it: The Gramercy Park Hotel, with its sandalwood-scented lobby, Basquiat paintings and $600/night rooms, has a key that unlocks the gate. Pool your cash, rent a room, get the key, then let 600 of your closest, smelliest friends join you. You'll be getting in the way of many a celebrity and well-heeled tourist, and sticking the battle to those with fat pockets far more than you ever actually would in the desolate Financial District (which happens to be one of the few places in New York a bunch of dirty kids could set up camp, besides Bushwick).
Occupy the Meatpacking District!
Your best bet to get the attention of the 1% is to hit them in their downtime. So, head over to the Meatpacking and occupy away. Make lots of fake reservations for Pastis, disrupt the bottle service at STK, camp out in the line for the Boom Boom Room. The gluttonous nightlife you disturb might earn you the enmity of traders, but it will also earn you their attention. == PHOTO - BILLY FARRELL/PatrickMcMullan.com== ==
Occupy Hot Wives!
Surely, Occupy Wall Street has their fair share of strapping young lookers for the cause, no? When all the grunting and puffing of Wall Street's still male-dominated trading floors is done for the day, they often retire to their homes, where a Wall Street Wife—very often, with a "job" in "philanthropy"—will await. So why not wedge yourself into their marriage? Because, if successful, it will drive the executive said Wall Street Wife is attached to moderately insane, to the point of making needlessly bad and irrational trades at work that result in inherently disruptive outliers which change the face of the daily capitalism game? Exactly.
Occupy The Tombs!
The turning point for the coverage of the protests was the videotape of two young women hit by pepper spray from an overzealous police officer. Prior to Officer Bologna's itchy trigger finger, the conventional wisdom held that the protesters were a bunch of loudmouth malcontents with no cohesion or clear purpose. Once they became victims of police brutality (and once it was caught on tape) press attention became more sympathetic. If last Saturday's march across the Brooklyn Bridge had stayed on the pedestrian walkway, there's no way the Post would have splashed their cause on their front page. We're not suggesting that the protesters should provoke the authorities, but, you know, if a sweep of the street resulted in mass arrests, then more sympathy—and, more importantly, attention—would flow the protesters' way.
More than one person pictured in our portraits of the protesters were students, and many of them blamed student loan debt as their reason for participating. Leave Lower Manhattan and take this to the quad. Occupy the cafeteria and, if you really want to give the academic world a kick, organize a campus-wide tuition strike until your overpriced institution makes enough changes to justify its ever-rising price point. Pull it off, and you can double your output and use the experience as the thesis for your Economics major. We think some liberal-yet-established school like Oberlin, Brown, Wesleyan, or any other place that serves as the halfway houses of the "artistic" children of the 1% would be a great place to experiment.
Occupy The Administrators!
The secret of the top 1% is their dependence on employees to get done the mundane tasks of everyday life, be them administrative, legal, logistical, janitorial, etc. Tie up their time, and watch the lives of the super rich grind to a halt. Send a bunch of glowing resumes to the HR department of Goldman Sachs and they'll be spending too much time trying to separate the fake Patrick Batemans from the real Aleksey Vayners.
Occupy Back Office Jobs!
This year, Kweku Adoboli, a guy with a job at UBS in London lost UBS $2.3B—yes, billion—making trades he wasn't entirely well-versed in. It took one person—and only one person—to send this bank to its knees for a day. Best of all? He started out in the "back office." This isn't an L.S.E.-trained dynamo gone rogue; he was just some guy UBS gave a little too much leeway. And if he could do that, well, surely, somebody trying to lose on Wall Street money could do far, far better.
Occupy Penny Stocks!
Earlier this year, rapper 50 Cent was momentarily suspected of committing what's known as a pump-and-dump scheme— which is rapidly pumping up the news of how great an investment is through a bullhorn of sorts (his celebrity), riding out the gains in the investment and dumping them before the losses begin. Fitty was not, as it turns out, pulling a pump-and-dump, but the idea could serve for inspiration given Occupy Wall Street's decent level of media profile: begin choosing one penny stock a day to invest in all at once, and then, use those gains to invest in another one, and another one. It won't be expensive, and in the process, protesters could expose the ease with which markets can be manipulated, which is kind of part of their whole Capitalism On The Whole Sucks dogma, correct? Only problem with this is watching certain people default to capitalism. And they will. Trust us.