Wednesday, September 1, 2021

City clears and closes the area around the chess tables in Tompkins Square Park

Photos by Steven

Yesterday afternoon, the NYPD, Department of Sanitation and reps from other city agencies cleared out the encampment that had grown in recent weeks around the chess tables in Tompkins Square Park. 

After clearing out the people living here, the city blocked off the area at the Park entrance at Seventh Street and Avenue A with barricades and police tape... 
There's also signage that now notes "NYC Parks Personnel Only."
Some residents complained about the activity around the chess tables, including drug use, stolen goods and knife fights. 

The city had cleared out this space several times this summer, starting back in June. The people staying here return fairly quickly. Last evening, several people who were here moved to park benches a short distance away.

In an article from The New York Times on Aug. 2, the city's homeless services department claimed that the cleanup crews do not throw away people's belongings.
Rather, they "carefully assess" a site while noting the "number and type of possessions," remove items to protect "valuable property" and "quality-of-life for the client," and provide "details about how they can obtain the property."
Witnesses to yesterday's action said workers tossed everything into a garbage truck.

Max Goren, who has been living in Tompkins Square Park, said the same thing in the article in the Times
"At least once a week, a sanitation truck rolls up," Mr. Goren, 34, said in July. "If you're not there to say, 'Hey, that's mine,' everything goes in the back."

He said his possessions had been trashed three times — each time because he left them to go to a methadone clinic. 

"Do I want to risk losing all of my clothes and all my bedding, or do I miss my clinic appointment?" he said. "I think it's an effort to get us to leave," he said. 

"But where are we going to go? If I had some place to go, I wouldn't be here."
The city posted at least one notice about the Aug. 31 clean-up, as seen here on Seventh Street... 
... near the encampment featuring a variety of umbrellas, grocery carts, bicycles and a TV with an extension cord running to the nearby light pole... (the below photo is from Sunday) ... 
Yesterday, this group moved about 30 yards to the east.

Advocates told the Times that these citywide sweeps just move people from one place to another and fail to address the housing crisis.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hallelujah...while I feel bad for people who live like this, it isn't a good scene for the reasons mentioned in the post. I saw workers weld a light post shut because the "shanty town" on 7th Street had multiple items charging at it. After a few days the squatters managed to break it open again. The smell coming from this area is shocking, and its inhabitants frequently make it uncomfortable to walk by (at least for me). It sounds like they only moved down the block, unfortunately. I hope the city can find an alternative place for them.

Anonymous said...

Good riddance!
That place has became ridiculous this whole year.

Anonymous said...

The City did the same thing at the Sara D. Roosevelt park down by Delancey Street. Because of the drug dealings and stabbings the City shut the whole park area by the pit down and posted two police officers there to keep people out. Now no one can use the park which is a shame.

Anonymous said...

When you consider homelessness and the lack of effort to deal with the issue, it's so much cheaper for the city bean counters to keep these people on the streets rather than find housing, drug rehab and mental health issue support which could cost several billion dollars. It's never about humanity, always about the fiscal bottom line.

Anonymous said...

I say let these humans stay but give them a mop and broom so they can contribute to the maintenance of the park. This way, we all win!

Anonymous said...

they had quite the citibike collection going

noble neolani said...

This is not a situation to make light of, these are people who are destitute. Most of the comments here lack and compassion or understanding of how this is a failure of our societal values. When a pet goes missing or a stray animal is hungry people are generous and sound the alarms. When its humans, fellow citizens we only see filth and something to be annoyed by. Pushing the problem under the rug resolves nothing and to the person who claims housing the homeless would cost the city "billions" you should be ashamed of yourself.

I admit to not knowing how to solve the problem of homelessness, especially in regards to the mentally ill homeless but what I do know is the city, Mayor down, has not done enough and considering all the money generated in this town yet people are still forced to live like this, it is a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

Now if the wealthy would get their armed force to clean all the brunchers off the lawn so we can have nice grassy area. What? Too extreme for people with homes?

Anonymous said...

Good. We are not San Francisco and can't become it with overly tolerant attitudes on destroying our city and neighborhood. Of course continue supporting institutions to help, but tolerating shanty towns is not okay.

Jose Garcia said...



As Blogger noble neolani said the lack of compassion here is galling. I don't know that any of us enjoy the sight and smell of unwashed and unhoused people nor do I have the answers but if we could somehow harness a fraction of the energy and money we devote to our beloved pets or a shrivel of the anti-automobile rage so prevalent in our neighborhood to address the very real and dire needs of these folks who knows what could be possible. sorry for the very long sentence. xo, jg

Anonymous said...

Breaking this down, and from personal observations, I'd say about 50% of all street people are mentally ill to one degree or another. They are unable to, or unwilling to help themselves, or accept help, for a variety of reasons. I have yet to see a successful program/project/anything, that can help all of these folks. So what do you do with them? They cannot be left out on the streets. That's plainly evident.

The other 15% are grifters and vagrants who, probably belong in jail.

The last 35% are truly homeless and destitute. Those who, through no fault of their own, are swept away in the floodwaters of economic downturns and rising rents.

It seems that attempting a "one size fits all" approach will always fail.

Society seems to be breaking down under the pressures of Covid, rampant economic inequality, monumental cultural change, the effects of climate change, willful stupidity and an endless 24/7 news cycle of doom and gloom.

It always make me harken back to the old saying, " We can put a man on the moon but we can't [fill in your response]".

It's up to us to do something. But what?





Anonymous said...

NYC spends Billions every year on homeless services. Please do some research. Where is the money going is a better qiestion

Anonymous said...

NYC spends more on homeless services than it does on the FDNY and EMS . Over 2 billion a year No one is forced to live like this. There are many private shelters and programs available It's not a money issue. It's amazing how uninformed people are . Help is available. It requires one to be proactive and actually do some work. Go to the Bowery Mission and get some help and guidance. Go visit the Coalition for the homeless. There are many organizations that can get someone started. Did you know if you get public assistance they will help yet you a storage locker?

Anonymous said...

Um, they'll just move to a different area. How you gonna just close a section of the park? That's public space.

Anonymous said...

I walk by this on a daily basis as I live on C and 7. It is appalling considering what many of us pay to live here. I've seen people whom reside in that encampment shoot up and pass out. They fight and smell too. I even saw a man defecate in a bucket. It's beyond gross. There has to be better accommodations for them. Although I often wonder if they would accept help if offered. While it is a horrible situation altogether, at least some action is being taken to clean up our beloved park. Often times, I just don't feel safe entering Tompkins depending on the entrance and time of day. I can't wait until our new mayor is in office and ushers in new leadership. I certainly didn't vote for him. I am not a fan of his, but anyone is better than what we currently have. As a city, we need to address the homeless epidemic among other pressing issues. Shelters are dangerous and breeding grounds for crime and sexual assault. Boy. I wish there were more answers to this growing problem.

Anonymous said...

"Boy. I wish there were more answers to this growing problem."

IMO, part of the problem is that institutionalization must be brought back as part of the options needed for this issue. Yes, affordable housing, drug rehab, outreach, mental therapy, etc. are also part of many pronged approaches needed for this issue. If you have been around, the horror of such institutions as Willowbrook, Bellevue, Pilgrim State Hospital (still open but much reduced), etc., are not that long ago. Will NYS and NYC put real resources behind to fund this essential option that will in the long term, pay for itself?

Ian said...

For anybody interested in learning or doing more to help houseless people and keeping people from experiencing the horrors of losing their homes, give a look at Housing Justice for All who have been doing great work all over the state: https://housingjusticeforall.org/

Anonymous said...

That organization isnt housing homeless people. Go visit the Bowery Mission or the Coalition for the Homeless. Lobbying doesn't get someone into a bad today does it? These groups help rent stabilized tenants. Good for them.

Sarah said...

"It is appalling considering what many of us pay to live here."

This is a shameful comment. Homeless is a complicated problem, but the size of your rent or your mortgage payment doesn't entitle you MORE than other residents not to have your eyes offended by the sight of the poor. Completely antithetical to the spirit of the EV. If you want to spend a lot of money to buy your way out of the common struggles of life, Westchester is right there.

As for getting help requiring initiative, initiative is exactly what mental illness and/or substance abuse robs you of.

Ian said...

True, they're not constructing buildings, but while missions and shelters are great in the short term, they're not focused on eliminating the problems that create the issue such as treating housing as a commodity rather than a basic human need/right. Housing Justice for All doesn't only work as a lobbying organization, but also organizes tenant associations and mass actions in support of the goal of housing everyone. There is no (humane) short term solution to the humanitarian crises we face here and it is important to couple short term support and aid with long term organization towards better conditions. Not having a place to live is not some endemic issue to mankind, it's a condition created by the system we all exist within.

Anonymous said...

As noted, there are programs available and offered, but the mentally ill most likely refuse them. This is a real safety issue that destroys the enjoyment of the park for many.

Anonymous said...

Praise the lord! Not safe ! Not sanitary! They are stealing all our deliveries .. so much crime again.
I have lived on 6th / B …25 years never saw it so bad as it is now with junkies!

They need help but cannot take over entire blocks .. and 1/10 of a huge park .

Had 3 men shooting up daily and living under scaffolding for MONTHS across from me right across from a middle school! Peeing/ pooping on street ! NOT ACCEPTABLE!

Never seen it so bad in my 25 years on ave B . Like 1987 again.

Anonymous said...

Not everyone in this world gets the opportunity and insight it takes to establish themselves in a socially acceptable way. Not everyone has been afforded the same advantages.

Anonymous said...

Why is what you pay in rent relevant to your point? What do you feel entitled to exactly?

Anonymous said...

This is unfortunately the pendulum swinging back against the crowd who insist upon 1000% empathy for anyone who lives on the street, and 0% empathy for anyone else.

This isn’t a “homeless” issue as much as an issue with a small subset of the homeless, sometimes referred to as the street homeless, many of whom suffer from addiction and mental health issues, and have no interest in detoxing or receiving treatment. They don’t like shelters because there is a curfew and you can’t show back up at the shelter high out of your mind on K2. The folks who become homeless due to losing a job, rent getting raised etc often live out of their cars, shacked up with relatives/friends, in a family/women’s shelter etc…not always, but the street homeless are still only something like 10% of the homeless population.

What’s missing from the “these poor souls, anything they do is permissible” viewpoint is any acknowledgement of the BEHAVIOR of the folks who have made that corner of the park their personal junkie shantytown. You can be an addict or mentally ill AND a selfish asshole, which is what folks who shoot up in broad daylight and then shit on the benches and steal packages from neighboring buildings are. There are plenty of heroin addicts who shoot up in bathrooms instead of the chess tables and throw their needles in the garbage or needle disposal instead of on the lawn. I have little empathy for the latter, who often wore out their welcome with family and friends, which is why they are on the street.

That being said, I’m all for raising taxes to build free (not “affordable”) housing for these folks, but it would make absolutely no sense to build that housing on the most expensive real estate in the country. Homeless folks have an equal right to sit on a bench and read a book or take a nap, not to use public space in a way that makes it unusable for the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

And yet your morally superior vantage point in the end is still just another advantage they do not possess.

Damos21 said...

Why don’t they just remove the table permanently it has always been an area for drug dealing and use the general public never get to sit over there any way just remove them problems solved

Anonymous said...

Good vibes being sent to you all.

Anonymous said...

How things change! The TSP I remember was the epicenter for counter culture, social chage, diy,equality, and living life on your own terms. These ideals were lit surounded by abandonment. Ethic neighborhoods emptying, cumbling buildings, neglectful landlords, drugs, and crime, This went on for decades, if you wanted clean living you went elsewhere. Cheap rents, cheap food and living on the edge than LES was for you. Remember this is a city with real city problems. LES has a long history of people living by their wits.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is an underlying lack of empathy or understanding for those of whom that are living with mental illness and/or addiction. I've casually known a few in this area who are battling their own personal demons and they are perfectly content with the status quo. They have been offered help from HRA, but refuse it. All they have to do is show up, get paperwork field, and begin the process of public assistance. Depending on your situation, one can receive cash and rental assistance, EBT (Food Stamps) and Medicaid. They refuse to seek rehabilitation, counseling, and/or city assistance to receive a voucher for affordable housing, job training and so forth. Unless there is a court junction or a custodian who facilitates their health and life decisions, there is nothing anyone can do to enforce them to make informed choices. And yes. Neighbors are entitled to become angry and disappointed when their safety is at risk. It's not about tossing them out in an heartless, inhumane manner or dismissing their plight, but all of us have to co-exist. Most of us don't take for granted where and how we live. Most of us hope we never have to be in that position. However, when people are relieving themselves, watching TV, clipping toe nails, shaving, shooting up, passing out with needles still dangling in their bodies, sometimes screaming, attacking strangers for merely walking by their make shift homes, especially when you live across from them in your own apartment on the other side of the street, it can be a jarring experience. I, for one, am happy the parks department took action regarding the encampment and other activity around the chess tables. I agree. Get rid of them. No good can come of it. Just trouble. I have friends who have young children who won't access that area of the park because of the drug selling and activity. Something has to give. And in this case, this was it. My best to everyone.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @10:30AM said: "I've casually known a few in this area who are battling their own personal demons and they are perfectly content with the status quo. They have been offered help from HRA, but refuse it. All they have to do is show up, get paperwork field, and begin the process of public assistance. Depending on your situation, one can receive cash and rental assistance, EBT (Food Stamps) and Medicaid. They refuse to seek rehabilitation, counseling, and/or city assistance to receive a voucher for affordable housing, job training and so forth. Unless there is a court junction or a custodian who facilitates their health and life decisions, there is nothing anyone can do to enforce them to make informed choices."

THIS. THIS. THIS a MILLION TIMES OVER.

If people cannot be forced to make use of the many & varied kinds of help available to them, does that mean the rest of us are then FORCED to live with people shitting on the streets or in buckets, and with druggies shooting up everywhere?

Somebody please tell me when the mentally-ill, the druggies, and all the lowest-common-denominator-behavior people got the power to decide what kind of society we live in. As things now stand, WE are at THEIR mercy, and they don't actually give a shit about themselves or about us.

Anonymous said...

9:09 got it right. USA and its market-driven rents don't help but an asshole is an asshole whether they're rich or down and out.

James said...

This area has been a problem for decades there are no Bobby Fisher Chess Tournaments occurring here. The trees directly outside the area have over grown hanging branches in need of pruning. This area is more than an eyesore it is dangerous. Junkies shooting up going into nearby lobbies to be parcel pirates stealing bikes in neighborhood. They engage in criminal behavior that impacts us all. The park belongs to those engaged in civil behavior to enjoy it is not a shanty town for misbegotten Riff Raff and Drug addicts