What to Know
- 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 several homeless advocates who for hours had shielded a handful of homeless people from being removed from a street in the Lower Eastside, amid the cold and rain.
- Police have already cleared more than 250 such encampments, more than half of them in Manhattan.
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 several homeless advocates who for hours had shielded a handful of homeless people from being removed from East 9th Street and Avenue B in the East Village, amid the cold and rain.
Police have already cleared more than 250 such encampments, more than half of them in Manhattan.
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“I don’t need a safe haven or a shelter. I need a home,” said a homeless woman who identified her “professional name” as Cynthia Vee. She said that Adams' "heavy-handed tactics are not the answer to homelessness."
For hours, she and at least a dozen other homeless people resisted leaving their patch of Ninth Street, where they have been squatting for days. They had been notified to leave earlier in the day, told that the city was clearing out the space.
Vee and another man, Johnny Grima, were two of the people living inside tents on a block that had become known as "Anarchy Row." Both said that they were avoiding the shelter system in place, saying it is too dangerous.
"There's more vacant apartments in New York City than there are homeless people in the state," said Grima.
“I have something to say to Mayor Adams. Shelters — no. Safe havens — not quite. Apartments — that’s the one,” Vee said. “He’s the new guy. We’ll see. He’s a Democrat, but he’s also a cop."
The mayor has continued to defend his plan, while asking critics join him going to homeless sites in-person before judging the city's effort.
"Cruel is having people live in cardboard boxes and tents. Human waste, drug paraphernalia, no bathrooms, no showers, no place to put your clothing — that's cruel," Adams said. "And so I want to work with my councilmembers, and I would like to see them with me at 2 in the morning when I'm at the train stations, when I'm talking to people who are homeless. I want to see them at 4 a.m. when I'm going to encampment sites."
He has previously said that he wants to clean up parts of the city that are “dirty” and “unsafe.”
“I made a commitment that we were going to zero in on encampments so that people who are homeless can live with dignity,” Adams said last week on CNN. “There’s nothing dignified about living on the streets.”
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.
“I’m so disappointed that the mayor believes that tearing down these encampments without offering any long-term individualized action plan that includes safe havens, hotel beds, single room occupancy facilities and supportive housing,” said Josiah Haken, the chief executive officer of City Relief, one of dozens of agencies providing support services to the unhoused.
“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.
The NYPD said that they have identified 339 homeless encampment sites, of which 318 had already been cleared. Police were scheduled to remove the final encampments on Wednesday.