Occupy Wall Street occupies an odd park

'Occupy Wall Street' demonstrators rest in Zuccotti Park after marching in the financial district on October 14, 2011 in New York City.

Kai Ryssdal: Wall Street is, as of this hour, still occupied. After what you can only describe as a game of chicken early this morning at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, the four-week-old protest that sits on some of the most expensive price-per-square-foot land in the world has been allowed to continue. City Hall backed down on its promise to close the park for cleaning.

Marketplace's Stacey Vanek Smith explains, like everything else in real estate, what's going on boils down to location, location, location.


Protesters: All day, all week, occupy Wall Street.

Stacey Vanek Smith: Hundreds of people packed into Zuccotti Park this morning. Many of them live there, including 22-year-old Poncho Guthrie.

Poncho Guthrie: Most of the people realize this is their home, they're keeping it very clean.

Guthrie has been able to stay here because Zuccotti Park is what's called a publicly owned private space. Since the '60s, New York has let developers exceed certain zoning limits, in exchange for creating public plazas.

Amanda Burden is the city's planning commissioner.

Amanda Burden: It gives an opportunity for a little green space in this very dense city.

There are more than 500 such spaces in New York and it's a little unclear who calls the shots in them.

Jerold Kayden: This is a legal gray area.

Jerold Kayden is a professor of urban planning at Harvard. He says the city can't oust the protesters unless they break the law. Brookfield, the company that owns Zuccotti, has its hands tied a bit too, because the space is public domain.

Kayden: Ironically, Occupy Wall Street has greater rights in this privately owned public space than it would in a public park.

Which, among other things, would close at night.

I'm Stacey Vanek Smith for Marketplace.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.

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