Update: The New York Observer received a correspondence from a spokesperson on behalf of Trinity Wall Street. The letter is posted below the original article.
While Midtown is teeming with jugglers and puppeteers for its Occupy Broadway debut, another, less festive demonstration is going on downtown. In an effort to convince Trinity Wall Street, an Episcopal church downtown, to let Occupy Wall Streeters use a vacant area of land it owns on Canal and Sixth Avenue, the protesters are going on a hunger strike.
From the OWS press release:
New York City—On Saturday, December 3, in Liberty Plaza, we—THE OWS HUNGER STRIKERS—will begin a hunger strike. We are striking to demand outdoor space for a new occupation. We will hold our strike, for its duration, outside at Duarte Square on Sixth Avenue and Canal Street in Manhattan as part of a continued effort seeking sanctuary on Trinity Wall Street’s unused and vacant lot of land. Should we be arrested, we will continue the strike in jail. We are calling on Occupiers across the nation to join us.
This is a call for escalation in response to the escalated levels of government-enacted violence and repression The Occupy Movement has endured over the last few weeks. In cities across the nation, Mayors chose to stifle freedom of speech and the right to assemble by evicting peaceful occupations using illegal and unconstitutional force. Here in NYC, in the middle of the night on November 14, billionaire Mayor Bloomberg used the NYPD to illicitly evict our community from Liberty Square.
This action could be seen as Occupiers biting the hand that’s fed them: Trinity Church has been letting OWS use its Charlotte’s Place property on Greenwich Street between Rector and Carlisle for WiFi and power sources for over two months. Charlotte’s Place has also held mediation meetings with titles such as “Unlikely Allies: How Can Occupy Wall Street and Wall Street Learn to Hear One Another?”
Laura Gottesdiener, one of the supporters of the hunger strike, clarifies that the strike is in no way to undermine the work Trinity Church has done by letting OWS use their space.
“They’ve allowed us to use facilities, to be part of their services, and have reached out to community to find places for Spokes Council,” said Ms. Gottesdiener by phone. “The hunger strike is an effort to reach out to Trinity Wall Street Church’s community, and especially Rector (Jim) Cooper, who has open say over all the church’s properties, including the open space on Duarte Street, and express the seriousness of OWS needing to have an outdoor occupation.”
The issue, Ms. Gottesdiener explained, was that Trinity Wall Street Church (whose commercial branch is Trinity Real Estate, one of the largest landowners in NYC and owner of Hudson Square Properties) had not protected the protesters when they were arrested on the vacant property on November 15th, a day after the raids on Zuccotti Park.
“That day, a delegation of OWS members and members from other clergies and religious groups sat down with (Rector) Cooper and the Trinity community and asked if we could use the space. They didn’t give us an answer – but when they allowed 25 members to be arrested on their property, we took that as an answer. They did not call off the police.”
Trinity’s website lists itself as:
“…an important player in the world of New York City commercial realty, and home to an award-winning preschool. It is the home to the committees, guilds, and task-forces of a congregation committed to bringing God’s Kingdom to this world….Trinity Real Estate operates commercial facilities in the Hudson Square neighborhood of New York. Funds for the parish’s religious and philanthropic work throughout New York and in communities throughout the world are generated in large part by the parish’s real-estate income.”
Trinity Wall Street’s vacant property is in the process of being rezoned as part of a 3,000 new residential unit high-rise neighborhood, though approval hasn’t been gone through Community Board 2. “In the interim, we would like to use the space as a sanctuary and a place of community,” Ms. Gottesdiener said.
So far only three members have gone on hunger strike outside the lot, where they will refuse to move or eat until the land is offered to them by the church. When we asked if the non-moving clause would include public urination, Ms. Gottesdiener said that use of indoor facilities would be the one exception the hunger strike members would make.
Update: This is the letter we received on behalf of Trinity Wall Street:
Trinity’s position has been consistent and clear. Trinity has provided meeting and gathering spaces as well as a tranquil place at church facilities in and around Wall Street. Thousands of protesters use these facilities every week. However, the enclosed lot at Duarte Square is not available nor is it suitable for large-scale assemblies or encampments. It has no facilities and is licensed to the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council for interim outdoor art exhibits which will resume in the spring.
Trinity supports the vigorous engagement of the issues which Occupy Wall Street has raised. We will continue to extend our hospitality to protestors and all who come to our church properties during open hours. We strive to be responsive and responsible and appreciate the many expressions of support we have received during these times.