NEW YORK (AP) — A small encampment of homeless people defiantly stood its ground against New York City police and sanitation workers before authorities moved in Wednesday afternoon to clear tents, blankets and other belongings as part of a crackdown launched by Mayor Eric Adams to rid his city of people living in the streets.
Police arrested two homeless people and several of their advocates who for hours had shielded a handful of homeless people from being removed from a street in the Lower East Side, amid the cold and rain.
As of last week, police have visited more than 250 such encampments and cleared most of them, more than half in Manhattan. The mayor’s office said it didn’t have updated statistics readily available.
“I don’t need a safe haven or a shelter. I need a home,” said a homeless woman who identified her “professional name” as Synthia Vee, hours before she was taken into custody with another homeless person. For much of the day, she and a handful of other homeless people resisted leaving their patch of Ninth Street, where they have been squatting for days.
“I have something to say to Mayor Adams. Shelters — no. Safe havens — not quite. Apartments — that’s the one,” she said. “He’s the new guy. We’ll see. He’s a Democrat, but he’s also a cop.”
A spokesperson for Adams said the mayor has sought to provide dignity to every New Yorker.
“There is no dignity in living on the street. We have been engaged at this site for weeks, and our teams then and today were respectful and made repeated offers of shelter and wraparound services to provide these individuals with clean, safe places to sleep tonight,” said the spokesman, Charles Lutvak.
“We will not be dissuaded from offering those on the streets the support they deserve, while ensuring that our public spaces remain clean for all New Yorkers,” he said.
Advocates for the homeless have denounced the mayor’s move as heartless and were frustrated that Adams has taken action without releasing a comprehensive — and compassionate — plan to tackle the issues contributing to homelessness.
Josiah Haken, the chief executive officer of City Relief, one of dozens of agencies providing support services to the unhoused, said he was “so disappointed” the mayor would tear down encampments without an individualized action plan for the people being displaced.
“This approach will only increase distrust between the housed and the unhoused communities, and it will only push homeless New Yorkers into hiding instead of into housing,” Haken said.