“The movants have not demonstrated that they have a First Amendment right to remain in Zuccotti Park along with their tents, structures, generators and other installations to the exclusion of the owners' reasonable rights and duties to maintain Zuccotti Park,” New York State Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman wrote in a ruling issued today.
“The court recognized the importance of balancing public safety with the protesters’ claim that building tents constitutes speech,” said Sheryl Neufeld, senior counsel with the New York City Law Department, in an e-mailed statement. “Conditions at the park had deteriorated to the point that serious concerns about crime, fire hazards and public health needed to be addressed.”
Neufeld said protesters will be allowed to return without tents, tarps and sleeping bags. The park was reopened late this afternoon.
The judge ruled that the owner of the park has the “right to adopt reasonable rules that permit it to maintain a clean, safe, publicly accessible space.” He added that “even protected speech isn’t equally permissible in all places and at all times.”
“The unsafe and unsanitary conditions and the substantial threat to public safety as determined by the police and fire departments” will return if the protesters take over the park as before, Cas Holloway, the city’s deputy mayor for operations, said in court papers.
“The whole purpose of the plaza is for it to be available to the general public for their use,” Spinola said. “If a park is no longer available because of one particular group, then there would be a violation taking place.”