HOMELESS PEOPLE TAKE OVER VACANT BUILDING IN EAST HARLEM/EL BARRIO
Claim property for low-income neighbors, demand action from city government
El Barrio/East Harlem, NYC. —Homeless people have taken over an empty building in East Harlem, as part of a coordinated push-back against city policies that let buildings stay empty. The building, which is owned by the city, has been completely vacant for decades.
Deborah Dickerson, a homeless woman who is one of the organizers of the takeover, says “This building is dead. The city killed it. We're going in there to revive this building, and there are many more. We're not going to stop until all of these buildings have people in them. Let these buildings go!”
A massive banner hanging from the roof says THEY SAY GENTRIFY/ WE SAY OCCUPY. Community support for the takeover is high, with neighbors rallying on the sidewalk in support of the event. Neighborhood resident and community leader Gloria Quiñones says, “In my forty years of community activism on this issue, I have never seen things get so desperate. Families are doubled and tripled up while there are vacant city-owned properties and no plans to use them to house low-income folks. This is disgraceful! We know the Mayor is a great businessman and he's one of the richest people in the world, he can do much better than having poor people living on the streets.”
Local elected officials are also signaling their support for the takeover. East Harlem City Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito stated “Today's action is an exciting development and should send a message that the situation has grown too serious to ignore; that low-income New Yorkers are becoming more frustrated as they wait for the city to solve the housing crisis and that we must not hesitate in our search for creative solutions to our most pressing housing challenges.”
Organizers of the building takeover are demanding that the City Council pass new legislation to turn vacant city-owned buildings into housing for the homeless, and a commitment from city officials to conduct an annual citywide count of all vacant buildings and lots.
Dickerson adds, “Being homeless is one of the most degrading things that can happen to any human being. And for too long, people have presumed to speak for the homeless. We have a voice, we are human beings, and we deserve to live. It's too long that the warehousing has gone on. We want housing. Let the warehousing stop. We want to live in a home like everybody else. The city has made enough money on us. We want our legislation to go through. We want the city to count up all these empty buildings and lots. And we want truly-affordable housing for low-income and homeless people.”
Press Rendezvous: Meet at the corner of 116th & Lexington at 12:45PM, Thursday March 19th
For interviews with homeless people and neighborhood residents on the inside of the building, call 718-593-1979. In addition, leaders of the building takeover will be Twittering from the inside. Follow http://twitter.com/pthny and hashtag #bldgtakeover.