Friday, November 17, 2023

The unhoused residents living on 9th Street and 1st Avenue

Photos and interviews by Stacie Joy

In recent months, the NE corner of Ninth Street and First Avenue has been the focal point of ongoing sweeps by multiple city agencies, including members of the NYPD, the Department of Sanitation and the Department of Homeless Services.

I spoke with three of the regulars here (there are often others staying on the sidewalk as well) to learn more about them and why they continue to stay on this corner.
My name is Eduardo Luis Ventura and I am 36, no, 37 years old. This is my second time being homeless. I was trying to see if I could change a little bit of the system about homelessness. Because we struggle too much. When we get homeless, we don’t get no help that we need and we don’t get support. 

So it’s bullshit that we paying taxes and we don’t get the support we need. Before coming here I was in a relationship with my baby mother. So after that, we split. We had a problem and a situation in the relationship. She stayed with my son in the apartment, so I had to go. 

So for a while, I was staying in a little car that I bought. The solution is affordable housing. Like for everybody, you know. Me? I will ask for the same thing for the whole world. It’s gonna take time. But, if we start at least taking the homeless from the city — from Ninth Street, no, not just from Ninth Street — from all over, like Tompkins Square Park, we could start cleaning the city, not just putting it like the dust, the dirt, under the rock. 

Because that’s what they’ve been doing for years. And we got the biggest problem. Oh no, we try to fix it? You’re not trying to fix nothing. They just throw us like we are garbage, like, under the rocks. 
My name is Manasseh Wiley and I am 27 years old. This is my cat, Nimbus. 

It’s not really safe and I have no apartment to stay at, so I was wandering around and I would probably end up traveling, but I saw Eduardo and he told me what was going on, so I stuck around. 

Before this, I was in Queens, like saying with friends. And family. I had traveled before that and then it was at this point, I was going to start traveling again. I was going to get on a Greyhound to Nevada. Or I was also looking at CSX schedules. And things like that as well. To kind of just like, find any way out of the city. 

I really just don’t want people to get to keep getting hurt and disrespected. I want people’s human rights to be respected. I don’t want to be treated like livestock anymore. 

And during a sweep? I’m not saying they should bring animal services and take my cat, but sometimes they don’t let us come back and forth for ourselves [during or after a sweep] and if I can’t immediately pick up my cat, what does that mean for my cat? It’s hurtful. 

If I can’t pick up all my stuff, then they’re going to throw it out. They say they’re gonna voucher it, but a lot of the time it just gets lost in the system. I usually try to grab the cat first. But then everything else gets lost and I have no clothes. It’s just a rabbit hole.
My name is Johnny Grima and I am 39 years old now, I think. 

This is kind of the sequel to Anarchy Row last year [at Ninth Street between Avenue B and C]  to what happened there. This camp was a little bigger, but some of its members got inside somewhere for a few days. You know, I don’t blame them. 

People that are still here have been trying to fight for justice. Trying to force people into these shelters and safe havens that are dangerous and aren’t helping anybody, just hurting people more. They are designed to be like jails. You know, to have that jail feeling to it? 

I have a studio of supportive living. There’s a caseworker in the building. I have some issues with it, but I don’t complain too much. I joke a bit that it’s the best shelter I’ve ever been in. And what I mean by that is that’s where they should have put me and everybody else right from the beginning. 

There are a lot of people out here that should have been helped 10 years ago. They are in really bad shape mentally, physically — really bad. The solution? Yeah, yeah, the solution is the hundreds of thousands of empty apartments. We make them available to the people who don’t have a place to live. And then to stop evicting people into homelessness from there. 

There’s enough empty apartments to house all the homeless people in the city and that includes the people that society labels as “migrant people.” There’s enough empty apartments to do that three times over.


none_to_remain said...

You can check out Johnny Grima's Instagram at

2ndAvenueSilverPanther said...

Call me confused. However these people lived there lives to get where they are, they now get to take over a tight, public, highly-trafficked space, and paint there opinions all over the street and sidewalk? Making the area small of urine or worse is ok? Having a home doesn't mean we have no rights.

An EVer said...

I appreciate that EV Grieve is trying to add another point of view and humanize the situation. And yet it is still hard to feel the type of kindness for them that I do for other homeless people in the neighborhood. There are also people in this building Performance Space 122 at 150 1st Avenue.

Outside RAPIST is screamed over and over again. Yelling so much. Music on top of it. I’ve walked by and heard screaming, looking more closely,Johnny Grima, whose name I now know, is standing very close to a police car that is not at the encampment and the officers are sitting in the car. Someone else is doing the same. This is no sweep. No one is approaching the encampment at all. It’s like they want the police to start a fight with them. Seriously bizarre.

When possible I walk the long route from 10th street so as not to walk through what is sometimes a hostile environment.
I’ve read the comment above and yes, I agree, I also don’t want to have the RAPIST & KILLERS graffiti spray painted on the sidewalks and roadways.

I am happy to hear that Johnny has a place to stay. It sounds extraordinarily fortunate to have a studio of supportive living and an in-house caseworker. It is confusing then why he seems to always be here. I hope that he starts to do something to move forward now that he has this supportive base. I’m sure many homeless people would be so grateful for that studio and it’s a shame that we have so few places like this to refer more people to.

But turning this area into a loud hostile environment (I have read the previous article where neighbors share threats and harassment they have received) —towards neighbors living and working nearby isn’t going to move the needle, nor is it making friends of neighbors.

chris flash said...

I have a lot of respect for Johnny. And for those who are forced to live at that corner. I pass there almost every single day and have had not one negative interaction. (The one guy who was verbally yelling at passersby was removed by those living there - they did not need to get cops involved.)

Those who seem to be repulsed by a physical reminder that the system is BROKEN ought to try TALKING with the homeless men there. Maybe then they will see the commonality that we all share. Maybe then they will realize that they too could be in a situation like that. In such case, would THEY want to be removed as if THEY were garbage?

There are, of course, NO easy solutions to this or any of the many problems in our fair city, but, as Johnny points out, let's start with using the apartments and buildings that the city keeps EMPTY.

Let's continue by offering tax abatements/reductions and other financial incentives to employers who provide jobs for those who are homeless (fast food joints and grocery chains already get subsidies and money from the state for hiring "persons of color")

Let's expand FREE FOOD programs by buying excess food from farmers, like those who sell at Farmers Markets in NYC and from grocery chains like Trader Joes and Whole Foods, who, according those we know who work there, throw literally TONS of perfectly edible food in the trash EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Let's also recreate bath houses like those the city built around the 1900s that provided hot showers for those who had no facilities to stay clean.

A city administration that gave a SHIT about New Yorkers would, at the very least, take these steps toward improving the lives of the less fortunate, but that is not their plan.

The city, with its CORRUPT career politicians, controlled by and working for banksters and real estate vultures, turns a blind eye to those who cannot afford to live here, while those who are fortunate are programmed to look down on the less fortunate and demand their removal.

As I say, look again and consider the fact that YOU may one day find YOURSELF in their situation. If and when that happened, how would YOU want to be treated?

Chris Flash

Unknown said...

A tiny number of anti-social vagrants are allowed to submerge a busy corner in squalor. That is messed up. Like it or not, the city needs law and order to thrive, and needs to come down hard on junkies who would colonize and trash public spaces.