Anarchy Row: NYC’s Management of the Unhoused

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In early April 2022, NYC’s administration engaged in a series of sweeps on unhoused encampments in the city in an effort to reduce homelessness in the city. The sweeps consist in dismantling the camps, dislodging people, and discarding their belongings and redirecting them in safe havens or stabilization beds.

One sweep on Ninth Street between Avenue B and Avenue C -in the corridor which was nicknamed “Arnarchy Row” where the Tompkins Square riots happened 30 years ago-, led to stand-off between activists and the NYPD, the sanitation services, and social workers who came to remove the encampment and the unhoused citizens who refused to leave. For 8 hours, the citizens held their ground and advocates tried shielding them to avoid arrests and detainment.

People refused to be displaced and be redirected to safe havens or stabilized bed. In response, the protesters demanded community-controlled housing that would insure dignified dwelling.

Especially in the current pandemic context, the form of transitional housing apparatus is deemed dangerous by the people who compare their conditions to the ones of congregate housing. For example, the newly inaugurated safe haven in the Bronx has 16 beds per room, and three feet apart from one another. The proximity heightening the risk of conflicts, violence and COVID transmission between the resident and are detrimental to their mental and physical health.

In a press conference previously held on March 30th, mixing the word “mess”, “clean-up”, “most vulnerable populations”, Mayor Eric Adams considered that living on the street in New York City is inhumane and said that even if people “have a right to sleep on the street”, they “don’t have the right to build a miniature house”

By the end of March 2022, the city was scanned and over 240 camps were found and dismantled. The sweeps still occur regularly.

—Yan Grenier

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