Charges of criminal trespassing against ten housing and homeless activists were dropped this morning after a short hearing in the Manhattan Criminal Court building in lower Manhattan. The arrestees, known as the “Tent City Ten,” were apprehended by the New York Police Department after they, along with 100 allies, occupied a vacant lot and created a “tent city” for over six hours July 23 in East Harlem.
The occupation of the vacant lot, organized by the Housing Not Warehousing Coalition, was set up to pressure the city to develop warehoused property into low-income housing for poor and homeless people. Picture the Homeless, the leader of the coalition and a grassroots organization composed of the homeless and formerly homeless, conducted a survey of vacant buildings and lots in Manhattan in 2006. The survey (pdf) found that 24,000 apartments could come out of warehoused property, enough to house the city’s homeless population.
According to Rob Robinson, a housing organizer with Picture the Homeless who was one of the ten arrested, the activists didn’t even step foot into the courtroom before they were informed by their lawyer that they were free to go.
Robinson speculated that the reason for the quick hearing was that JP Morgan Chase, who is listed as one of two “parties” to the property by the New York City Department of Finance’s City Register, along with real estate entity Caparra La Nueva Associates, L.P, wanted the whole episode to go away.
“They just don’t want the publicity at this particular moment,” said Robinson. “Banks are being very cautious with their public relations and how they look to the public, and they’re not about to mix it up with a group like ours that is very vocal and who will put your laundry out in the streets.”
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