NYC Squatters Face Imminent Eviction

August 12, 1996


The tension is so thick can be cut with a knife on East 13th street in NYC's Lower East Side. It's possible that in the early morning hours of Monday an evicition could take place of dozens of squatters who've lived in a row of five buildings on the block for the past 12 years.

Last years hundreds of cops armed with machine guns and supported by an armored perssonel carrier (that looked more like a tank) evicted two of the buildings and part of a third.

On Friday the appellate division of the NY State Supreme Court overturned justice Elliot Wilks' order staying the eviction of the remaining buildings. While all is not hopeless this is a very dangerous time for the people of the Lower East Side since the cops are more than capable of violating their own laws and court procedures.

At this hour people are moving their more important belongings out of the buildings in preperation for a seige that may begin as early as dawn tomorrow or later tis week. In past eviciton belongings have been seized by the police and trashed or "lost" in the system.

The court's decision left an out for the squatters. One of the five judges dissented from the majority leaving open the possibility of an other stay pending the next level of appeals with the State Court of Appeals in Albany. Also the decision was made based on the facts (the court says the squatter didn't prove they had lived in the buildings for an uninterrupted ten years, the minimum time limit to gain "adverse possesion") and not on the law. Leaving open the possibility that other squats can use the "adverse possession" argument in court. That could be a major squatters victory.

"Adverse possession" is an age old common law provision goving title to squatters who "openly and notoriously" live in abandoned property while making significant improvements to that property. All the squats have been protected and significantly upgraded by the squatters, a fact admitted in court by the city.

You can support the squatters with phone calls in support of the squatters to the Mayor's Action Center at 212-788-7585.

For more information call Blackout books at 212-777-1967.

The squatter's underground radio station, Steal This Radio, is on the air 24 hours a day with updates. Their frequency is 88.7 FM.

Paul DeRienzo

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