To the surprise of many, the Episcopal diocese of New York owns a lot of real estate going back to land grants given by the Stuarts more than 300 years ago. Since then its property portfolio has grown fatted like the biblical calf.
During the two months Occupy Wall Street squatted at Liberty or Zucotti Park within a stone’s throw from Trinity Church on Wall Street, the Episcopal church allowed occupiers bathroom privileges and bestowed upon them the mansuetude of its Christian calling.
Once OWS was chased out of Zuccotti park by Herr Bloomberg’s storm troopers in November 2011, occupiers have been looking for a spot to regroup, gird battle scarred wounds from New York police, and a piece of land to carry out its campaign to stigmatise and bring the one percent of the US population who feast royally on the body of the 99 percent. In plain English, make the rich and the superrich who own in wealth as much as 140 million Americans pay their fair share and end feeding off the middle and working classes and the poor.
OWS found such a haven at Duarte Park on the edge of sprawling Chinatown and the rim of the posh Tribeca, on the junction of Canal Street and the Avenue of the Americas, also known as Sixth Avenue. The land is owned by the Episcopal diocese of New York; it is prettified with shrubbery and some benches. To OWS petition to use this minuscule pinch of land of one of New York City’s largest landowners, the Church came down on the side of Mammon and refused permission that was backed up by New York’s police ever itching to crack OWS heads.
Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu as well as other bishops and Episcopal clergy sided with OWS, but the Church firmly held to its firm refusal. And thus, opened marches, civil disobedience, and unwanted publicity on the Church’s vast real estate holdings in New York City.
On one hand, had the Church authorities negotiated with OWS on the dos and don’ts if it allowed protesters to squat at Duarte Square, confrontation and bad publicity could have been avoided. On the other, for the Church thinking in dollars and cents and not Christian charity and as Christmas tide approaches in the message of its founder Jesus Christ, it put out a sign ‘No room at the inn’. More practically speaking, such things as lawsuits, assurance, legal responsibilities and the like do come into play, yet good lawyers on both sides could have come to a reasonable understanding. The Episcopal diocese thought otherwise, placing its chips on the side of the true string pullers and power elite of New York–the real estate mafia and the banks who got away with plummeting the world in 2008 in a global recession that has not ended yet.
OWS does recognise that Duarte Park could never replicate Zuccotti Park but at least it would have a presence and a visibility the plutocracy and Herr Bloomberg and his storm troopers headed by Raymond Kelly want to deny it. The powers that be think ‘out of sight, out of mind’ would do quick work of OWS. How wrong they are!
As for the Episcopal church, money means more than the Christian message of charity. How easily is it for these good, fat cat clergy to forget: ‘though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal…and without
charity I am nothing’. To OWS, at Christmas time, the Church has answered resoundingly with a ‘bah, humbug!’