Thursday, July 23, 2009

Busy at Last in NYC

HOMELESS TENT CITY! One Hundred Homeless and Allies Grilling Food, Playing Music, Taking Back The Land at 115TH AND Madison Avenue in New York City. Call for all to come out and show your support. Bring food, hang out, share company...
At 11am EST, July 23 Picture The Homeless and allies installed a tent city in a vacant bank-owned lot at 115th and Madison Ave. 100 people are in the lot, enjoying corn, beans, bread, fruit, and music by the Welfare Poets. Police are on the scene, but everything's calm. We have a casita, a stage, barbeque grills, banners, signs, cardboard shovels and pick-axes, and tent structures!
As the foreclosure crisis festers, Bloomberg and the banks fail us. Across the street from the tent city is public housing, where families are doubled and tripled up. Over-crowded apartments, the shelter industrial complex, or sleep on the streets - we need better options. From Miami to Sacramento to now here in NYC homeless people aren't waiting around. Come show your support! 115th and Madison, we'll be here as long as we can. (They're bloggin' it; for Twitterers, it's pthny; and Facebook
Yes, that's the press release. And I've just left the lot. This is a great project, a long time planning, and they have generated a very friendly atmosphere. The set is by the Not An Alternative crew from Brooklyn, and it looks both festive and homey. Frank Morales is the lead organizer; an Episcopal priest and a long-time eloquent squatter, he is wearing his clerical collar. I found a little poison ivy in the lot, but we took it out pretty much before anyone got bit. Oh, and twenty plus cops and plainclothes are standing by in a line just outside the lot. I met up with the gang at Union Square Park and we headed uptown on the subway, trailed by police. Experienced activists chatted with the cops -- Ben of ACT-UP, and Chris of the Shadow newspaper. Legal observers in their green hats rode along with us, just as they did during the RNC 2004 protests. Most of this activist crew is young, however, and I'm happy to see it. When we got to East Harlem, we were split into groups. Our group, me and the Japanese writer and journalist Sabu, were followed by five cops. We went around in circles and finally hailed a black car. Where but in America can you ask a cab driver to take us somewhere because we're being followed by cops? He was like, "Okay, where to?" Some congeros showed up and beat drums, played guitar; one guy danced very nice. Then lunch was dished out, and everyone relaxed under the tall trees in the shady grove and chatted. I'm back at work on my writing here in the library -- hope it's gonna last up there! (BTW: "House Magic: Bureau of Foreign Correspondence" zine is ready to ship, and it looks real slick. It costs $8 to make and post in the USA.) Wow, only a couple hours, and the cops are massing. It looks like everyone still there is going to jail. It's raining in New York. At least they made the New York Times. This is one inventive group of creactivists.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Stalled construction in NYC: My first reblog...

Hi folks -- first some project news.... I cannot post the 'zine catalogue to the web. It is too big, even compressed. If you want me to sent it to you via FTP, please contact me at awm13579 [at] with subject line "send me the HMBFC zine, please!", and I will get it to you.
There is some serious business in the air here -- I'll report it when it goes down. In the meantime, the glossy bourgie magazine New York has started paying attention to the scuttlebutt about squatting in Brooklyn with the following article on what they are calling "the Billyburg [as in Brooklyn's Williamsburg] Bust"....
[This blog post is here, along with many snarky comments, and another article on "heroin-addicted hobo invasion" of squatters to Williamsburg. Repression, anyone?]
Oh pity the poor denizens of Williamsburg. The erosion of hipster trust funds is leading their greasy little utopia to slowly devolve into some sort of Mad Max-esque, post-apocalyptic real estate wasteland, just like Miami! So says New York Magazine. Anyone who's walked around Williamsburg lately can see the painful signs of a busted bubble. New developments sit virtually vacant. New building constructions have stopped cold with the landscape of the area littered with semi-constructed buildings. We already knew things were bad, but we had no idea that things were this bad.
With sales across Brooklyn down a staggering 57 percent from a year ago, Williamsburg, with its high density of new construction, has taken on an ominous disposition. Walk down virtually any block and you'll come across an amenity-laden building that sits nearly empty: relics of a moment in history that seems, increasingly, like a fever dream.
Most unsettling are the cases of the developers who seem to have vanished, leaving behind so many vacant lots and half-completed buildings-eighteen, to be precise, more than can be found in all of the Bronx-that large swaths of the neighborhood have come to resemble a city after an air raid.
All over the city, overleveraged developers have seen their projects stymied by the recession, but the highly speculative nature of what's happened in Williamsburg stands out as exceptionally dramatic and misguided-New York's version of the collapsing exurban "boomburgs" in Florida and Arizona.
Oh but wait—This is only the beginning!
Part of what makes the present situation so dire is that it is still in the early stages of unfolding. There are already about 400 new apartments on the market in Williamsburg, and additional condos are completing construction every month. According to a study (Real estate broker David) Maundrell released last month, 2,818 new apartments will have hit the market by the end of this year, with another 2,766 projected by the end of 2010. On top of this, Fannie Mae, the country's most dominant home-mortgage lender, recently implemented a policy requiring that buildings be 70 percent in contract before guaranteeing mortgages, thus delaying the moment when a developer can stop covering the taxes and common charges on a finished project.
The writer of New York's massive piece, David Amsden, took some time to visit a few of the new developments in the neighborhood.
I made my way to a building called Warehouse 11, on the corner of Roebling and North 11th Streets. Marketed by David Maundrell, the building has 120 total units (plus the requisite yoga center, playroom, parking garage, 24-hour concierge, gym, and communal sundeck). While the model apartment seemed an appealing enough place to live, there was something generally off about the building as a whole: Despite having been on the market since early 2008, only 30 percent of the units were in contract, and it was clear that construction wasn't complete. The list prices, too, were significantly higher than comparable products, as if the developer had not been informed about the current state of the economy. A few weeks later, I noticed the front doors of the lobby had been padlocked shut. The process of foreclosure had begun.
Looking at the bright side, we suppose all of these vacant new developments will lead to some awesome squatting opportunities for the hipster looking to enhance his or her hardcore street cred. We look forward to having our tips line flooded with ridiculous Williamsburg hipster squatting stories for years to come!