Reporting from Inside 90 Fifth Ave., A Day Two Recap
Less than a day after student protesters stormed The New School’s University Study Center and claimed it as their own, the scene at 90 Fifth Ave. was calm and collected on Friday afternoon.
Some people held quiet discussions in small groups, while others put up posters and fliers with what you might call anti-establishment sentiments — such as “Fuck Capitalism.” As they gathered for an Occupy Wall Street-style general assembly at 2 p.m., around 60 students and faculty from The New School and universities across the city began to discuss how to build upon what they had achieved less than a day earlier. The group seemed remarkably calm considering they had just forcibly occupied university property.
Just the night before, students had broken off from a massive march heading south from Union Square to Foley Square and occupied a New School building for the third time in three years. Perhaps even more remarkable than the takeover itself was the university’s response. On orders from President David Van Zandt, the NYPD backed off and allowed the students into the building. The administration also let the building stay open all night, even leaving on the lights and heat.
While all appeared to be calm inside the occupation itself, Van Zandt told The Free Press on Friday that The New School had virtually no control over the fate of the situation. The space at 90 Fifth Ave., while used by The New School, is technically owned by the realty company RFR Holdings. They are the ones who ultimately decide how long the occupation can proceed.
“We have an issue in that we don’t have complete control of the situation,” Van Zandt said. “The landlord has been concerned about it, and has called both the fire department and the police department on us. At the end of the day, for example, if the occupancy was greater than the 140 legal maximum, there’s nothing we can do about the police or fire department coming in.”
When asked how long he thought occupiers would continue to hold the space, Van Zandt said that it was “really up in the air.”
“At some point, we’ll get the space back,” Van Zandt said. “Certainly I’ve already gotten student complaints about not being able to use the Study Center.”
But for the occupiers, Friday was about building on their momentum. The day was spent hashing out organizational structure for the occupation itself and how to reach out to other student protests around the city. The General Assembly also worked to assimilate new comers to the occupation. After the General Assembly, participants broke off into working groups focusing on issues from media outreach to maintaining healthy and safe living conditions while occupying 90 Fifth Ave.