(en) NYC squat

Wed, 12 Feb 1997 20:18:40 GMT

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>From tao Wed Feb 12 20:18:34 1997
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New York City Demolishes Building with Squatter Still Inside! [updated by a resident 13:30, Wed 12 Feb]

At 3:30 on Sunday February 9, 1997 a fire broke out in a second floor apartment at 5th Street Squat. No people were injured, although 2 dogs died in the fire. Damage to the building was limited to an area of less than 20% of the building and didn't affect the structural integrity of the building. The Department of Housing Preservation (HA!) and Development issued an emergency demolition order that night without doing a thorough inspection. That night, the police department cordoned off the block with a "small army" of officers, lights & vehicles.

Despite assurances from HPD, fire officials & Major Guilliani's special "Office of Emergency Management" (OEM) that we would be allowed to reenter the building with escorts to retrieve belongings with the light of morning, the city began demolishing the building as soon as they had assembled the massive crane that arrived on the scene--hours before the fire department had even shown up. Apparently, the decision was taken out of the fire officials hands--the order to demolish came directly from the mayor's office. Less than half of the residents of the squat were given a few token possessions on Monday morning, brought out in garbage bags. There was no damage whatsoever to the rest of the building. The fire department escorted one resident all the way up to the fifth floor (of the 6 story building) to get one dog that the firefighters were afraid to approach. He was able to look in every apartment as he went by & saw that only the first 25 feet of the apartment stack on the SW corner had been burned. There wasn't even smoke or water damage to the rest of the building. The stairs were intact. Later, the OEM officials stated that there were no stairs remaining beyond the 3rd floor. However, witnesses in a building next door saw police officers using our sledgehammer to try to smash stairs (between the 3rd & 4th floors) that they had earlier said did not exist. They were also seen COUNTING MONEY in the stairwells (the windows had all been knocked out, giving a clear view across the garden between the buildings). All told, many residents lost thousands in cash that was in the building. One resident was returned her purse--empty.

As demolition began at approximately 1:00 pm police were notified that people were still inside the building. A call was received at Blackout Books from a building resident saying he was hiding inside the building. The noise of the demolition equipment could be heard in the background. Police refused to stop the demolition equipment which had already began tearing of portions of the 6th floor until one squatter emerged on the roof. Police Emergency squads entered the building but could not locate the squatter hiding inside. Demolition was resumed after a couple hours, and once again the squatter appeared on the roof. Soon after, he was apprehended & the demolition continued unabated. Two other residents were also arrested on the roof of the building Mon morning while trying to recover the bodies of the two dogs killed by smoke. They used the stairs all the way up & down the building after the fire & during the demolition.

Just before demolition, when my cat was spotted on the fire escape, a roommate excitedly pointed him out to emergency workers. She offered no help, & said, "Oh, he'll get out." Boris is still missing.

Monday morning, lawyers representing the residents went to court to ask for an order to halt the demolition in order to allow residents to (at least) collect some belongings, and a hearing was scheduled for 3:00 pm. Representatives of the city took two hours to show up in court--apparently getting lost during the 5 minute walk--while the building was being demolished. The stay was granted, in order to immediately halt the destruction, but the court order was blatantly ignored, and demolition continued throughout the night, 24 hours, sending thick clouds of dust (no doubt containing lead paint & asbestos) into the whole block. Neighbors were not given any advance notice of the demolition, and suffered the noise, lights, dust & police occupation all night long. Tuesday morning, the hearing continued, & the judge was clearly disturbed at the city's disgusting disregard for both human life & personal possessions. After hearing testimony from architects & residents who had been in the building after the fire, she set another date for a hearing (24 February--until then, she ordered the city to not only cease with the demolition, but also blocked them from removing rubble from the site.) 48 hours later, they haven't paused with the demo or cartage for even a minute. The destruction has been so wantonly aggressive that a building next door was even damaged--a hole knocked in the wall!!! Neighbors are outraged by the city's actions and the police department's defense of these illegal actions. Residents essentially lost everything. Not only is our home reduced to rubble trucked out to Queens, but the city is hell-bent on ruining our lives by needlessly burying our things in the debris. I have lost all my art, books, records, personal papers, musical equipment, tools, etc etc. This continued relentless aggression on the part of the city to demolish & remove this building from the block has raised suspicion that they are trying to cover evidence of a possible arson. (The mayor's special OEM team does not swoop down on the site of every fire in NYC ready to demolish the building on the spot--esp. on a Sunday night...)

Call NYC Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) to complain. ---->Assistant to the Director, Vito Mustaciuolo.......(212) 386-8594 ---->Department Director, Demolition office, Gwendolyn Morris (212) 386-8683 Call Mayor Guilliani's office (212) 643-5510 Call the EPA (718) 699-9811

......updates to follow.......

-->Kurt Allerslev kzrt@bway.net


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