With the Washington Post running an article on the "do-it-yourself urbanism" of Occupy D.C.'s encampment, and Steve Stofka observing the emergent patterns evident in Occupy Philadelphia, I decided yesterday to hop on the Lexington Avenue Line down to the Fulton Street stop, just a block or so away from Zuccotti Park, the site of Occupy Wall Street, to see this nearly two-month old settlement up close. I wasn't alone: a number of foreign tourists, maps and cameras in hand, were also gathered around what has apparently become a major attraction of Lower Manhattan.
Although some earlier photos I'd seen gave the impression of a scattering of tents, tables and ad-hoc meeting places, the park has evolved quickly into a very dense settlement with almost every square foot put to use, a consequence, in part, of the limited space within the granite-walled boundaries of the park, an infill process mimicking the growth of cities within medieval fortifications:
The path at right is the "Main Street" of the settlement, now lined with a mix of the tables of various groups and organizations, from anarchists to pacifists, as well as a large cafeteria, a library, and even some retailers with large, walk-in tents:
The path is generally six feet wide, broadening to eight or so in places. No one brings in so much as a bike. The "residential" streets, running off this central way, are even narrower, some a couple feet wide, others leaving just enough space to step between the tents:
This assumes that the settlement has no capacity to adapt or improve from the current mish-mash of tarps and L.L. Bean summer camping tents – but is this place more analogous to a Soweto or a Rocinha? I didn't distinctly notice it during my walkthrough, but the photos show the evidence: look closely at the top left of the first photo and you'll notice a pair of large green tents, the first of many scheduled to arrive shortly, and which have been cleared with the city:
"[The OWS members'] newest plan to install 27 military-grade tents designed to stave off freezing temperatures and precipitation, which they began to bring to reality Tuesday, is kosher with the city, Bloomberg said during a Q&A session after an unrelated press conference in Hell's Kitchen Monday."For a supposedly rudderless movement, "OWS" seems to have set things in rapid motion at Zuccotti Park, although there would be some irony in the settlement coming to outwardly resemble a military barracks. I'll need to check back in a week or two to see how things have changed, but by the looks of things no one's going anywhere anytime soon.
One last thing: population density. As best I can tell, for this settlement, it is approximately 150,000 per square mile.