Showing posts with label homelessness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label homelessness. Show all posts

Monday, June 13, 2022

Remembering Jose Fernandez

Photos by Stacie Joy

Friends came out today to pay their respects to longtime LES resident Jose "Joe" Hernandez, who died late last week. He had been hospitalized with liver disease. Hernandez was 71.

In recent months, Hernandez was among the handful of unhoused residents living in tents along Ninth Street between Avenue B and Avenue C, a stretch of sidewalk that has been a frequent target of the Mayor's encampment sweeps. (This was at least the eighth time in recent months where the city conducted a sweep here.)
Hernandez, pictured above, told this to EVG contributor Stacie Joy in April:
I've been here for four months now. I am looking for a one-bedroom apartment for my wife and me. I'm retired now. I was a superintendent and building manager for buildings on the Lower East Side. When I was younger, I worked for the Board of Education on Eldridge Street and Forsyth. A friend of mine was sleeping here on Ninth Street, and he was leaving his tent, so I took it. I get a pension and Social Security. Being homeless is not easy, including with the police department. They are very rude. They want us out of here. My wife is Amalia Jordan; we're common law. She’s staying at Masaryk Towers. 

During the vigil today, the NYPD and other city agencies returned to this sidewalk space and tossed the belongings of the individuals here.

Here's more from 1010 WINS, in a bad-look story for the city administration, "Cops sweep East Village homeless encampment during vigil for dead resident."

Mourners, including residents, neighbors, activists and a reverend from the church across the street, were outraged that police had chosen to carry out the sweep during the vigil.


After police and sanitation workers had finished destroying the camp, the vigil continued as planned, though maybe tinged with more anger and bitterness than it otherwise would have been.

As 1010 WINS noted, "After getting robbed twice in city shelters, Hernandez decided he preferred to live on the streets — where he spent his final years as his health failed."

He lost all his clothes and stockpile of food during a sweep in March.

"The sanitation truck stands there, and they start throwing everything in the truck," he said. "I was living there… They throw all the stuff out, clothing. They were begging but they didn't care."
Hernandez's "loved ones remember him as a kind, gentle and loving person, who, despite having very little, took immense joy in giving."  

Monday, May 9, 2022

Councilmember Carlina Rivera calls for an immediate end to the city's encampment sweeps

Photo from 9th Street on April 6 by Stacie Joy 

Local City Councilmember Carlina Rivera is demanding an immediate end to "the dehumanizing homeless encampment sweeps" in the East Village and throughout New York City. 

The demands came in a letter that Rivera sent to Mayor Adams this past Thursday...

It reads in part: 
For over a month, my office, other local elected officials, and community leaders have conveyed to your office through meetings, phone calls, and emails that these sweeps represent an egregious misappropriation of resources with very few housing placements as outcomes and further deepen the mistrust between government and the public. The acts themselves also appear to be among the most tragic misfires in community engagement to have transpired in recent years. Despite our best efforts in seeking your attention to this urgent matter, yesterday afternoon the NYPD Strategic Response Group, an entity designated for counterterrorism efforts, aggressively executed multiple arrests, a continuation of the harmful behavior we have witnessed since the first confrontation at the intersection of East 9th Street and Avenue B in Manhattan on April 6, 2022

I both respect and commend your administration's commitment to ending homelessness in New York City. With that goal in mind, I urge you to put an end to the ineffective sweeps and instead commit to supporting and investing in the policies and programs our communities deserve. We must build more housing across the five boroughs and we should start now; we must legalize nontraditional uses for housing, like basements and vacant commercial properties; and we must fully staff the agency teams tasked with securing affordable housing for the New Yorkers who qualify. 
A Community Board 3 committee drafted a resolution in support of the asks of the letter, which will go to the full Board for a vote on May 24. 

The NYPD and other city agencies have continued with their sweeps, with at least seven on the group of several unhoused residents staying in tents on Ninth Street between Avenue B and Avenue C under the sidewalk bridge at the former P.S. 64. There was yet another one — unannounced — yesterday on Ninth Street that led to more arrests.

According to city stats cited by The New York Times, there have been more than 700 cleanups from March 18 to May 1 — many of them of the same site multiple times — and 39 people have accepted the placement into shelters.

"Our teams are working professionally and diligently every day to make sure that every New Yorker living on the street knows they have a better option while ensuring that everyone who lives in or visits our city can enjoy the clean public spaces we all deserve," Mayor Adams said in a statement last week.

And as the Times noted: "Several videos of officers roughly handling homeless people and their belongings have circulated widely on social media, complicating Mr. Adams's attempts to portray the dismantling of encampments as something being done for the good of the homeless people themselves."

Unhoused residents have said that the shelter system is not safe. Read our interviews with some of the Ninth Street residents here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Standoff on 9th Street

Photos by Stacie Joy

Today was a long, tense day on Ninth Street between Avenue B and Avenue C. The NYPD arrested seven people following a seven-hour standoff between a group of activists and unhoused residents and reps from several city agencies.
By late afternoon, the NYPD — who called in reinforcements from the Strategic Response Group and the Technical Assistance Response Unit — arrested six activists and one unhoused resident along a corridor dubbed "Anarchy Row."
As previously reported, about a half-dozen unhoused residents have been living in tents under the sidewalk bridge alongside the long-empty former P.S. 64 on Ninth Street. Previous attempts to move the residents into shelters had been unsuccessful.

After the arrests this afternoon, sanitation workers came in and swept the block ... tossing the tents and any belongings the residents didn't take with them. (It was not immediately known what happened to the other residents who were staying here.)

Law enforcement reps on the scene said that the architecture of the tents were illegal. So people could sleep on the street; they just couldn't have tents.
As Gothamist reported, today's sweep was "the latest flashpoint over Mayor Eric Adams' controversial push to clear the city of homeless encampments."

The actions, involving dozens of city employees over seven hours, drew criticism ... And the city's response... Here's a video showing part of what transpired today...


Anarchy Row

Photos and reporting by Stacie Joy

Updated 5 p.m. There have been multiple arrests during an hours-long standoff here today between activists and the NYPD and reps from other city services. Gothamist has a story here. We'll update later.

Several unhoused residents live under the sidewalk bridge alongside the long-empty former P.S. 64 on Ninth Street between Avenue B and Avenue C. 

This corridor has a variety of nicknames, including Anarchy Row.
Last Thursday, a sweep team with members of the NYPD, Department of Sanitation and social services reportedly arrived here without notice and “destroyed tents and bedding,” as 1010 WINS documented

The sweep was part of a renewed effort by Mayor Adams “to crack down on street homelessness,” as Gothamist put it. As The New York Times observed in an article from Sunday: “Thirty years after the Tompkins Square riots, the problems around homelessness remain the same.” 

On Monday, reps from the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) returned to Anarchy Row...
... and posted notices of another sweep today. [Updated 11 a.m.: Gothamist is live-tweeting from the scene.]

Ahead of this, EVG contributor Stacie Joy spoke with these residents. 

Here are their stories. 


 Derrick Parker, 67 years old
“Social Security is the issue. My Social Security debit card doesn’t work anymore. I have called several times to resolve the problem and fix my PIN number, but it’s never fixed. Pastor Will [of Trinity Lower East Side Lutheran Parish] has been assisting me. I see the government knocking people off SS. They pick certain cases, and they can’t get their funds, and they become homeless. My wife, Dale, died on August 11 of 2020. She had cirrhosis of the liver from drinking and had a heart attack. I’m a licensed private investigator and bounty hunter. I had a stroke and have diabetes. Everything hit at once. Now I have trouble walking. I hope the Social Security director will look at my case and help me fix it.” 


 Jose Hernandez, 71 years old
“I’ve been here for four months now. I am looking for a one-bedroom apartment for my wife and me. I’m retired now. I was a superintendent and building manager for buildings on the Lower East Side. When I was younger, I worked for the Board of Education on Eldridge Street and Forsyth. A friend of mine was sleeping here on Ninth Street, and he was leaving his tent, so I took it. I get a pension and Social Security. Being homeless is not easy, including with the police department. They are very rude. They want us out of here. My wife is Amalia Jordan; we’re common law. She’s staying at Masaryk Towers.” 


“I was in the 1989 Tompkins Square Park homeless evictions at that tent city. I have only been here, on Ninth Street, for a week. I was on the trains before that. I’ve been homeless for two years. Ten days before they stopped the evictions due to the pandemic, I was evicted. We were in hotels for a while with my teenage son, my husband and me. It all fell apart. Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve been homeless. I am selling my paintings. I’m an artist. I tried to rent a place with my stimulus check, but no one would rent to me. They wanted better credit than we have. They didn’t say why, just that we didn’t get the space. The bathroom had a separate key out in the hallway. Mayor Adams says he thinks we live in a pile of needles.” 


George the Third, aka Gee, 38 years old
“I’ve been here one week. I slept wherever it was warmest. I was looking for the warmest spot I could find. Cops would smack a stick down next to your head. Or hit you. I’ve been pepper-sprayed by cops; they threw water on me. I would stay on the trains, in Tompkins, wherever. In Tompkins, I always needed blankets; sometimes they had bugs. What I really need is an ID. I need a photo ID. I lost all my identity. I can’t get a Social Security card without, like, five points of identification. Identity theft is a major thing with the mafia, that and extortion. I need a birth certificate and paperwork. I need a P.O. box so I can get mail. Mail is important. I’ve been a Planet Fitness member for years, never late on my payment. Maybe they would let me get some mail there. I can work out, shower and use the massage chairs.” 


Thursday, November 11, 2021

City removes tent encampment from 7th Street outside Tompkins Square Park

Photos by Stacie Joy

Starting late yesterday morning, another agencywide city sweep took place on Seventh Street between Avenue A and Avenue B along Tompkins Square Park. 

This time, however, instead of allowing the dozen or so residents of the makeshift tent encampments to pack up their possessions and move along (and only to return to the same spots a few hours later), city workers either confiscated or discarded their belongings. 

A posted Department of Homeless Services flyer stated that a clean-up of this area would start on or after Nov. 9. As EVG contributor Stacie Joy documented in this post, a similar sweep took place this past Friday, though the people who were sheltering here returned after city workers left.

This particular action only targeted people who have been staying along Seventh Street in recent months. Authorities did not address the encampments inside Tompkins Square Park.
The sweep started at 11 a.m. with officers from the NYPD, Parks Enforcement Patrol and the Business District Recovery Initiative detail. They struck down tents of anyone not on-site to protect their belongings. 

We're told that there were several confrontations at the outset of the sweep. (Stacie didn't arrive at the scene until after this.) One resident of the encampment was arrested and placed in an ambulance.

In addition, police arrested a mutual aid worker for "obstructing governmental administration Class A misdemeanor" for standing with/protecting a resident's tent. This individual was arrested at around 1 p.m. after exchanging words with the NYPD and released with a desk appearance ticket at around 7:30 p.m. 

During the afternoon, the assembled officers bagged the belongings from the tents. 
Some property was bagged and tagged, likely being stored at the NYPD's Erie Basin evidence warehouse in Red Hook, where the owners will need clearance from a judge plus ID to reclaim. 

Most items, however, were just thrown in the trash. The items were bagged and tossed directly into a waiting sanitation truck. In one case, an entire tent with its belongings was rolled up and discarded...
Lt. Jermaine Oden of the 9th Precinct oversaw yesterday's sweep. He told Stacie that "due to the pandemic, items were contaminated and not able to be saved." They "had to be destroyed." 

The corridor along the Park on Seventh Street was clear by late afternoon...
Afterward, Stacie saw one of the officers crying. "I felt bad for him. I do not think anyone was unaffected by this."

Previously on EV Grieve:

Monday, November 8, 2021

Documenting the city's 'clean-up' along Tompkins Square Park on 7th Street

Photos by Stacie Joy (click on images for a larger view)

On Friday afternoon, a Department of Homeless Services-led entourage, featuring the Department of Sanitation, the Parks Enforcement Patrol and the NYPD, conducted a "clean-up" in and along Tompkins Square Park.

Several posted notices, dated in late October and early November, detailed what would be taking place, a process that most of the residents — a number ranging from 10 to 25 at any given time — have experienced while sheltering along Seventh Street between Avenue A and Avenue B late this summer and early fall. 

The flyers also offer information about DHS shelter services and how to apply online for various grants...
EVG contributor Stacie Joy was there to document the proceedings. There were two sweeps — one on Seventh Street where nearly a dozen makeshift tent encampments have arrived since the late summer ... and the other inside the Park, where the people who had been congregating at the now-closed chess tables have moved.
The people staying on Seventh Street did everything themselves with trash bags and other items provided by the city: They cleaned up their areas, threw out some garbage, struck their tents and waited it out across the street... all under the supervision of the various city agencies... 
The clean-up went on mostly without incident. One man, clearly agitated, hurled insults at the Parks Enforcement Patrol and NYPD while filming them. They did not respond to his tirade, and he eventually stopped.
Stacie spoke with several of the people who have been living along Seventh Street. (She also had their permission to take photos.) 

They reported the same problems that we've heard countless times: the shelters aren't safe, they can't be with their partners and their personal belongings get stolen or destroyed. 

The people Stacie talked with said they continue to feel safer on the street than inside a city-run shelter. According to an April report by Coalition for the Homeless titled "View From The Street:"
"Shelters are considered by many homeless individuals as providing an unacceptably low level of personal security. The incidence of theft, physical attack, or other types of violations in the shelters — whether experienced, witnessed, or simply rumored — clearly contributes to the perception of the shelter system as chaotic and unsafe."

This article at The City documents why some people would rather stay on the streets.

Several of the residents living on Seventh Street are also experiencing substance-dependency issues. (NARCAN kits were spotted in some of the tents.)

On Seventh Street Friday afternoon, Junior was protecting his friend JD's tent and belongings. JD has a 9 to 5 job in New Jersey and wasn't there for the sweep. Junior carefully cleaned everything up, sat with it all, and set it back up when the enforcement team left. 
There's Jonny and Slay, a queer couple who are fiercely protective of one another.
Benny, a leader of sorts along here, issued directions for the others. He's been through this many times before and seemed resigned to the situation. He gave guidance for the others about what can, might and should happen. He was essentially correct. 

Sapphire, the only woman on the block, asked for help finding feminine hygiene products. 

Meanwhile, the sanitation and parks crews were much less discriminating inside the Park, tossing everything they saw along the benches on the southern section ...
This is also where residents witness more frequent open-air drug use (heroin and K2) and dealing.

Back on Seventh Street, the tents returned to their previous locations by nightfall, with the residents wondering when the next sweep might occur.

"Most asked me why they have to play a game like this. The Parks Department sergeant says they have to move their stuff or it will get tossed. The 9th Precinct says the residents can't obstruct access on the sidewalk and their belongings must remain attended to," said Stacie. "So they ended up striking their homes, temporarily moving across the street, and then coming back a few hours later and setting up in the same spots."

As housing advocates told the Times over the summer, these citywide sweeps just move people from one place to another and fail to address the housing crisis and provide stability, recovery and treatment to those who need it.