In court battles, there are the legal skirmishes, and then there are the somewhat extra-judicial appeals to emotion and senses of fair play. Lawyers for New Haven — headed to court tomorrow for Round 2 in their efforts to boot the Occupy New Haven protesters off the Green — are trying both approaches.
In more than 100 pages of freshly filed court papers, the city makes it case that it has the legal authority to shut down the tent city and that its regulations are narrowly tailored and content-neutral. But beyond the legalese, the filings also includes affidavits from city employees bemoaning the environmental damage they say Occupy New Haven has caused.
Christy Haas, the city’s deputy parks director, wrote that The Green wasn’t designed for continuous camping and can’t handle the environmental impact of the occupation.
“As a result of the conditions and use of The Green, I have observed that the grass has become compacted and is now destroyed to the point that all that remains is a large dirt area,” Haas wrote. “In addition to damage to the grass, the soil under the trees has been compacted, which reduces the air space between the soil and destroys the tree’s roots. Further, the ropes that are being tied to the trees and the items that are being hung or are leaning on the trees have further damaged the trees.”
Repair bill for the dead grass and wounded trees? “Approximately $20,000 to $25,000,” Haas wrote.
But it’s not just the money. “Trees are of particular importance to the City and its citizens,” Haas wrote. “New Haven is home to America’s first public tree planting program, which means that today the city is alive with trees and is called the ‘Elm City.’ ”
Message to environmentalists: It’s not easy being The Green.
In the court papers, police and fire officials also weighed in on what they say is a public safety threat represented by the encampment. Fire Chief Michael Grant declared that conditions on The Green “pose serious fire safety hazards,” including the clustering of non-fire-retardent tents and the collection of “highly flammable materials.”
The city also tallied up police calls to The Green for the period the protesters have occupied the space, and compared the numbers to the same time period one and two years earlier. Dispatches during the protest were two to three times more common than in past years, the city reported. Click here for the rundown.
And in perhaps the most curious of the affidavits, the city’s registrar of vital statistics related an episode in which a man named Joshua Heltke requested an Elm City Resident Identification Card, “claiming that his residential address was ‘The Green.’ ”
The battle resumes in U.S. District Court in New Haven Wednesday at 2 pm.