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Occupy Wall Street’s Battle for a New Home, Will It be Duarte Square?

Since the raid on Occupy Wall Street at Zuccotti Park last month, the movement and related working groups have been searching for a new space to call home. Many have had their eye on Duarte Square, a vacant lot on 6th Avenue and Canal Street that is comprised of both public and private land. While Duarte Park is owned by the city, the larger enclosed portion of the square belongs to Trinity Real Estate, a commercial realty business that holds six million square feet in the Hudson Square neighborhood of Lower Manhattan. Trinity Real Estate is under the umbrella organization of Trinity Church, which also owns the Episcopal parish on Wall Street and runs a grant-making organization.

Occupy Wall Street's poster for the #D17 Occupation 2.0 event (via occupywallstreet.org)

Occupiers attempted to take Duarte Square (located about a mile northwest of Zuccotti Park) after the raid on November 15, but were soon busted for trespassing onto private property. On December 3rd several protesters launched a hunger strike to pressure Trinity Wall Street into allowing the movement to congregate in the square, but received a resounding “No” from the organization. Yet, OWS is not giving up. On December 17, the three month anniversary of the movement, OWS is planning #D17 Occupation 2.0, an all-day performance event in which protesters will return to Duarte Square to reclaim the space.

From the press release for the event:

On Saturday, December 17th — the 3 month anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, the birthday of Bradley Manning, and the 1 year anniversary of the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, the act that sparked the Arab Spring — Occupy Wall Street will liberate another space.

In addition to establishing a new base for the movement, OWS also hopes to revive the People’s Library at Duarte Square and is asking for $800 from the General Assembly to purchase tarps, dollies and plastic bins, and to transport the books to the occupation of Duarte Square on December 17.

Occupy Art NYC, a spin-off group of OWS also has plans for Duarte Square and is rallying the artistic community to fight for the space. The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council has been using the lot as a site for free outdoor arts programming called LentSpace, but now that the project is dormant for the winter season, Occupy Art NYC is looking to move in. The group sent a petition to LMCC earlier this week to gain access to the space that includes the following statement:

Our colleagues at Occupy Wall Street have the urgent need to use the now vacant LentSpace (Duarte Square), at Canal Street & Sixth Avenue, on loan to LMCC by Trinity Real Estate, for the duration of LentSpace’s dormant winter season. Use of this outdoor common space is vital for the expansion of the movement’s creative and transformative work for positive social change, which we believe brilliantly aligns with LMCC’s stated mission for LentSpace as “a free outdoor cultural space open to the public … a model for land use citywide.”

Some heavy hitters in the art world have signed the petition, including artists Paul Chan and Kara Walker, performer Laurie Anderson, musician Lou Reed, art critic Hal Foster and E-flux founder Anton Vidokle. Occupy Art NYC has set today as the deadline for an answer from LMCC, but you can still add your name to the list by visiting the petition’s webpage.

While we will have to wait for LMCC’s response, Trinity Wall Street has already stated their opposition to the movement occupying Duarte Square in a statement posted on their website on December 9:

From time to time people of goodwill may disagree. We disagree with those who argue that Trinity should — indeed, must as a matter of conscience —allow Occupy Wall Street to liberate its Duarte Square lot at Avenue of the Americas and Canal Street for an open encampment and large scale assemblies. In all good conscience and faith, we strongly believe to do so would be wrong, unsafe, unhealthy and potentially injurious.

While Trinity Church has been continuously supportive of the movement, offering protesters refuge and supplies, the organization insists that there are not enough facilities at the lot to sustain a prolonged encampment. Considering that most of Duarte Square is privately owned, the odds of Occupy Wall Street obtaining the space may be stacked against them.

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