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This week, climate protesters are targeting spots along New York City’s glitzy Park Avenue to protest what they say is the role of the ultra-wealthy in the climate crisis.

On Thursday, the protests — led by activist groups like New York Communities for Change (NYCC) and the New York chapters of the Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion — demonstrated outside the Upper East Side home of Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of investment firm Blackstone.

The protest involved an elaborate replica of an oil well and a zombie-themed mock meal with a banner that read “If we tax the rich, maybe we won’t have to eat them.” And passers-by, residents and workers in the traditionally upscale but left-leaning neighbourhood had a variety of reactions to the spectacle.

One New Yorker, Dan, who asked not to use his last name, said that the climate crisis was “a huge problem” but didn’t know if targeting individuals was helpful.

“Sometimes, some of these protests, they feel they need to harm people in order to fix global issues,” he told The Independent.

Tommy Fiore of Staten Island, who works as a doorman at a neighbouring building, told The Independent that he believes the climate crisis is “all bulls***.”

“They need to get jobs,” he said of the protesters.

But other people were more supportive. “I just can’t believe they’re allowed to do this, it’s kind of fantastic,” Diana, another passer-by who asked not to use her last name, told The Independent. “It’s one of the richest buildings in New York City.”

Protestors at a climate protest in New York’s Upper East Side on Thursday

(Ethan Freedman/The Independent)

Park Avenue is famously home to many of the city’s most affluent residents, and other protests this week have targeted sites like the headquarters of BlackRock, one of the world’s largest investment firms.

Activists on Thursday held banners with slogans like “Your investments are killing us” and “Climate chaos continues 10 years after Sandy,” in reference to Superstorm Sandy, which barrelled into the New York region almost exactly 10 years ago.

The storm, one of the worst hurricanes to hit the northeast US in recent history, left dozens of people dead in New York and New Jersey and years of rebuilding. Many of the New Yorkers who spoke with The Independent around Thursday’s protest had also lived in the city during the storm.

“It was very scary, and we have friends that live way downtown that got flooded out,” said Diana.

One of the protesters, Laura Beckman of Brooklyn, told The Independent that some of the people in her activist cohort are from the Rockaways neighbourhood in Queens, which got hit with some of the worst damage from the storm.

Some of these people “still have trauma from what happened 10 years ago and always have go-bags prepared in case of a flood,” Ms Beckman said.

“There’s still not enough that has changed in terms of climate resilience and justice for frontline communities,” she added.

A replica oil tower put up by the protestors at Thursday’s demonstration

(Ethan Freedman/The Independent)

In addition to targeting Mr Schwarzman, the protest leaders also had a message for New York Governor Kathy Hochul.

“We’re also here with our platform to call on Governor Kathy Hochul, who has the power to tax the rich here to pay for green housing for all,” Alice Hu, a climate campaigner with NYCC, told The Independent.

“Green housing” refers to the concept of homes and apartments that limit their impact on the climate crisis, such as by installing solar panels for energy or eschewing fossil fuel heating for electric heat pumps.

In addition to facing down the effects of the climate crisis with storms like Sandy — or Ida, which flooded much of the city last summer and killed more than 40 people in New York and New Jersey — the area is in a serious housing crunch. Rents in New York City this summer hit all-time highs, the Wall Street Journal reported, with little relief in sight.

Tomato soup was thrown onto the building in protest

(Ethan Freedman/The Independent)

After setting up their oil tower and the zombie-themed table, some of the protesters briefly blockaded the southbound lanes of Park Avenue as police were gathering. Two of the protesters also threw a can of tomato soup at the building, which splattered on the stone wall and part of the awning.

By shortly after noon, eight people had been arrested and the protest had dispersed.

“We believe that now is the moment, I mean — in fact, yesterday was the moment — to have direct action around the world to really create a spectacle and have people wake up to the true extent of the climate crisis,” Ms Hu said.

She added that the protest in London a few weeks ago where protesters threw soup at a glass-covered Van Gogh painting sparked international conversation around climate in a way that other protests haven’t.

Police arrested eight activists during Thursday’s protest

(Ethan Freedman/The Independent)

“For anybody who thinks, ‘I agreed with their message, but you know, what did Van Gogh have to do with it?’ — well, we’re here throwing tomato soup at Stephen Schwarzman’s house because he, more so than most of the other people in the world is responsible for the climate crisis,” Ms Hu said.

The Independent has contacted a representative from Blackstone for comment.

While many New Yorkers in the area understood the challenges of the climate crisis, some challenged the method of protesting outside Mr Schwarzman’s home.

“I don’t buy oil companies because I don’t want to favour them, but I would not boycott them,” one resident, Jean-Noel, told The Independent. “If Schwarzman thinks it’s a good investment for his fund, that’s his problem.”

But mostly, denizens of the country’s largest city are used to the spectacle of protests like this.

“It’s normal,” Kimberly Holliday, one local who was passing by the demonstration told The Independent. “Normal New York things going on.”

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