Don’t expect the New York Times and other sympathetic media outlets to follow up on a mess like this.
For those sympathetic to the Occupy movement, it was a brilliant strategy. Foreclosures touched almost every neighborhood in America; an estimated 1.2 million homes were repossessed in 2011. In East New York, the hardest hit in the city, the foreclosure crisis struck 16.8 homes per thousand. Occupy Our Homes would alleviate neighborhood blight, provide shelter to the poor — and put banks on the defensive.
The atmosphere was giddy that overcast December day. A swell of people hung banners (“Foreclose on Banks, Not People”) and chanted on Vermont Street, waiting to welcome new neighbors to 702, the two-story rowhouse Occupy had taken over.
The excitement reached a crescendo when Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) knocked on the door, decorated with a pine wreath for Christmas, and out came the homeless man who was moving in with his family, Alfredo Carrasquillo.
Barron raised Carrasquillo’s arm in victory.
Last week, Wise Ahadzi opened the door to the house he still owns, 702 Vermont Street in East New York.
Inside is a war zone. The walls are torn down, the plumbing is ripped out and the carpeting has been plucked from the floor. It’s like walking through a ribcage.
Garbage, open food containers and Ahadzi’s possessions are tossed haphazardly around the house.
“This is where my kitchen was,” Ahadzi says. There is no sink, no refrigerator and no counter space. Instead there are dirty dishes piled high waiting for a dip in three large buckets of putrid water that serve as the dishwashing system.
Ahadzi thought about calling the police, until the embarrassed Occupy movement promised him that they’d repair the house and leave.
Two weeks have already gone by since without any progress. Occupy hasn’t even offered to pay him for the damages.
They tore down many interior walls but did not put them back up. A neighbor said that mold corroded one wall, but a complete gutting of the house was unnecessary.
Even in this condition, protesters are still squatting on the floors, cooking using a bunsen burner and walking around guided by candlelight when a generator is not up and running.
Their efforts have actually made the neighborhood worse — because what used to be an empty house is now a hovel of squatters and probably should be condemned.
Things have gotten so bad that Barron,who once praised the movement, said that Occupy has worn out its welcome.
“The bottom line is that they have to leave,” he said.
Neighbors, who initially welcomed the ragtag bunch into the area, now stay away. Local Doyle Coleman tried to get other homeowners on the street to participate in a street cleanup with the Occupiers, but they all just said, “I don’t want to get involved.”
Another neighbor stood across the street from the house and shook his head, imagining how extensive the damages were inside considering the revolving cast of characters living inside. “It must be in shambles,” he said.