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.
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.
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.
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.