Hundreds of metal barriers placed on Wall Street by the NYPD were removed this afternoon after at least one small business owner went to the media complaining about how the protests have hurt his sales. The owner of Milk Street Cafe, which is located a few block away from Zuccotti Park, told DNA Info that he had to fire 21 of his 100 or so employees because business has fallen about 30 percent since Occupy Wall Street started. "What are [the protesters] trying to accomplish here?" said Mark Epstein, who opened the café in June. "The end result is that I and all the wonderful people who work for me are collateral damage," he said, calling Wall Street "deserted" now. "It's transformed from a beautiful pedestrian mall to a police siege," he said. Epstein didn't account for his own bad reviews, but at least the barriers are gone.
Today Mayor Bloomberg echoed Epstein's complaint: "This isn't an occupation of Wall Street, it's an occupation of a growing, vibrant residential neighborhood in lower Manhattan, and it's really hurting small businesses and families," he said. "I don't think there's anybody in the city that has been a stronger defendant of the First Amendment than this administration and I have been. We worked hard to protect the demonstrators' First Amendment rights, but other people have rights too. And I am very concerned about the other people's rights, as well as those of the protesters."
Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson had a salad at the Milk Street Cafe this afternoon and said, "We're going to have to assess on an ongoing basis based on a host of factors. But the fact that they are down today has been received very positively here."
Now that Epstein has both increased visibility for his food spot and a barrier-less street, let's hope he gets to hiring again soon.