What's Being Occupied Where Again?

We got to spend some time with my cousin's husband this weekend, and in the course of chatting about this and that, Goober asked the financial services employee what he thought of the Occupy Wall Street protests. He hadn't heard about them. Come on, really? we asked. You didn't hear about the people hanging out in Zuccotti Park down in Lower Manhattan? His face was blank.

"What are they protesting?" he asked.

"I don't know," I admitted, "Corporate greed and, uh, stuff like that."

"No," he clarified, "What are they protesting?"

I repeated something I thought I heard some newscast report.

"No," he said again, "I mean what are they protesting on Wall Street? There's nothing on Wall Street. All the financial firms are elsewhere."

Sure, Zuccotti Park itself isn't on Wall Street, but the protesters need some place to set up, so that's understandable. But looking at the 2009 TARP bailout recipients, he's right — it looks like few of them are actually on Wall Street. Wells Fargo ($25 billion) has its corporate headquarters in San Francisco; its New York offices are at Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building, at 52nd Street and Park. Citigroup's ($45 billion) headquarters are just down the street at 399 Park Avenue in Midtown. JPMorgan Chase ($25 billion) is headquartered at 270 Park Avenue (at 48th Street). Bank of America ($45 billion) has a large tower in Charlotte, NC. The closest seems to be Goldman Sachs ($10 billion), but even they are up at 200 West Street, and a half a mile away from Zuccotti Park.

I guess AIG ($40 billion) is technically still on Wall Street, but the insurance firm sold its iconic building in 2009, and I gather that whatever employees are left are supposed to move at some point.

So what's actually on Wall Street? Of course the New York Stock Exchange is there — just off Wall Street at the corner of Broad Street — but isn't that like going to a newsstand to protest something Graydon Carter printed in Vanity Fair? There's an Equinox gym at the corner of Wall and Nassau. The Museum of American Finance is at 48 Wall Street. There's a Cipriani at 55 Wall Street. I guess Deutsche Bank has offices at 60 Wall Street, but I don't think they received bailout funds.

We've been hearing that Wall Street/Main Street dichotomy on TV for years now. Obviously "Main Street" is a metaphor for whatever it's supposed to be a metaphor, but I don't think I really appreciated just how much "Wall Street" is also a convenient stand in until this weekend.

Someone should do something "fun" (well, "fun" in the way crap on the six o'clock news is fun) and protest on one of the five Main Streets in New York City. Maybe some of those Billionaires for Bush people can dust off those smart-looking 1930s costumes and occupy the 7 train station out in Flushing . . .

Posted: October 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Shiftless When Idle | Tags: , ,

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