April 10, 2013

City of New York settles with Occupy over destruction of the People’s Library


Damaged books from the OWS People’s Library.

The City of New York and Brookfield Properties has agreed to pay more than $233,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by Occupy Wall Street over the destruction of the People’s Library during the eviction of Zuccotti Park by the New York Police Department last fall. During the raid to clear the park in the early morning hours of November 15th 2011, the majority of the collection of more than 4,000 books donated by the public and organized by the Library Working Group was destroyed or damaged, an act roundly condemned by the  American Library Association, as did the New York Civil Liberties Union and the National Lawyers Guild.

The Occupy Wall Street vs. The City of New York settlement includes payment of $47,000 to the Occupy Wall Street Library Working Group and $186,350 to the Occupy Wall Street lawyers. Global Revolutions TV, a media company who was livestreaming activity in the park, will collect $75,000 for destroyed property and legal fees. Times Up New York, who created the bicycle generators that were lost in the raid will receive $8,500.

Norman Siegel, an Occupy Wall Street lawyer, told the Village Voice that the decision’s language was especially important.

“Our clients are pleased,” said Norman Siegel, who represented Occupy Wall Street in the suit. “We had asked for damages of $47,0000 for the books and the computers, and we got $47,000. More important—we would not have settled without this—is the language in the settlement. This was not just about money, it was about constitutional rights and the destruction of books.”

The settlement acknowledges the “Defendants’ seizure and destruction of Plaintiffs’ books and library furnishings and equipment at Zuccotti Park on November 15, 2011 violated Plaintiffs’ rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States” and sections of the New York State Constitution.

In August of last year, the Village Voice reported that the City of New York tried to blame Brookfield Properties, the company that owns Zuccotti Park, for the destruction of the books and property, claiming the private contractors Brookfield hired to evict Occupy Wall Street took everything straight to a landfill. This was a surprising turn of events because Brookfield and the City of New York planned the raid together, and city sanitation workers clearing the park in green uniforms appear in photographs from that night. According to the settlement, Brookfield will pay the city about $16,000.

The Occupy Wall Street Library Working Group will hold a press conference today at 11:00 AM in their lawyers’ office.


Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.