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Occupy Buffalo fighting winter with geodesic dome

To ward off eviction threats from city officials, Occupy Buffalo members have constructed a geodesic dome at their camp in Niagara Square.

Occupiers say the structure will nip health and safety issues in the bud. The city is anticipating that weather-related problems will plague the camp as winter kicks into full gear.  

"As you can see it's already a little bit warmer than outside," says occupier John Rossman, as he walks under the dome's thick nylon exterior.

The sturdy metal structure is bolted onto a wooden foundation, which is firmly staked into Niagara Square to withstand winter winds.

Body heat

"The source of the heat is the people inside of it," Rossman says. "So the temperature will [always] go above freezing."

Rossman later indicated that space heaters will ramp up the temperature, if necessary.

The dome will be used for meetings and can sleep 10 or 15 comfortably. But with such limited space between an occupation of sometimes 50-plus people, Rossman says campers must make compromises.

"A lot of people of have different sleep schedules," Rossman says. "Some are night owls. Some are early-to-bed, early-to-risers. So we'll make it work somehow."

Occupy Buffalo has actually had the dome for weeks, but protestors debated whether to construct it because of questions surrounding who donated the structure anonymously. Similar domes cost thousands of dollars.

Permitting problems? Igloos?

The dome is by far the most intricate structure at the camp and it's unclear whether occupiers will need permits for it to be legal.

So far relations between the city and the encampment have been cordial. In fact, many signs at Occupy Buffalo celebrate police and local officials for their acceptance of the ongoing demonstration.

But eviction threats from the city have loomed for weeks because of a late-arriving winter. Yet because of the dome's ability to keep folks warm, Occupiers see the structure as an antidote to the city's concerns about allowing protestors to freeze and become sick on public lands.

Mayor Byron Brown has also insisted that Niagara Square should be used to pile up snow during the months ahead, like in years past. This would usurp the encampment, Rossman says, and should take a back seat the protestor's Constitutional rights.

"We're exercising our First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble and file grievances with our government," he says.

Previously, Occupy Buffalo had promised to construct igloos from the 80 inches or so that annually falls in Buffalo.

While the snow piles in Niagara Square would be seemingly perfect for the exercise, occupiers are still waiting for the season's first measurable snowfall. The city has also yet to comment on the encampment's igloo-building intentions.

WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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