Outta’ The Park

Protestors are no longer allowed to occupy Hasbrouck Park.

After missing several deadlines to submit required documentation, members of the Occupy New Paltz movement have been vacated from Hasbrouck Park.

Village Board members unanimously voted to require the protesters to submit a park use permit, giving the group a deadline of Friday, Feb. 10 to leave the park that straddles Tricor and Hasbrouck Avenues if the form was not filed.

“We told them they are no different than a little league [team] or Girl Scouts when they use the park,” New Paltz Village Mayor Jason West said. “If you’re there for an extended period of time, there are liability concerns.”

The decision to require a permit came weeks after the board allowed the group to occupy the park, originally under the impression that the protest was protected under the first amendment. West said the group’s occupation was allowed on a conditional basis, but community concerns forced the board to reconsider their stance.

West said the board received complaints about residents not feeling safe in the park, also citing concerns village residents had with the nature of the Occupy movement.

“What Occupy New Paltz has done has taken a public space like Hasbrouck Park and turned it into a private space,” West said. “I have mothers who are afraid to go to the corner of the park — that’s a problem for me. It’s more important than inexperienced protesters not knowing how to choose targets and how to organize.”

Occupy New Paltz member Amanda Sisenstein said the park was used as a base of operation for organization for the movement.

“[The park] is providing a place for the disenfranchised to come together with the community and work towards making this the world we need it to be,” Sisenstein said.

Over their time in the park, Sisenstein said the group would host speakers, members would research in the library, literature would be handed out and a free library was in the works.

The decision to not fill out the required paperwork stemmed from the group’s belief that they have the right to utilize the public park under the first amendment and a cost of $600 to cover an insurance policy, Sisenstein said.

“We believe this is an unreasonable financial restriction on the first amendment,” Sisenstein said. “The tactic of occupying public space to redress grievances to the government is not a new concept.”

On Friday, West and crews from the New Paltz Public Works Department disassembled tents and separated the contents inside between personal items and trash.

After some time, Occupy members questioned West and later four people were charged with trespassing and issued court summons by New Paltz Police. Sisenstein declined to comment on the details of their case.

Both West and Sisenstien outlined their hopes for the future of the Occupy movement.

Sisenstein said the group plans to reach out to the community and is currently planning an “Occupy Education March [and] Rally” happening sometime in the next month. It will “highlight one of the many ways that misuse and diversion of tax payer money by the Federal Government trickles down to the detriment of the 99 percent.”

West said he hopes the group focuses on targets other than the Village Board as the movement progresses.

“They need to do some thinking and serious soul searching to find out what they really want, and in the meantime, it’s not the Village Board’s job to hold their hand while they do that,” West said.