Posted by TenantNet on February 22, 1997 at 15:38:47:
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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