Brooklyn, NY — In a bold new phase for the 99% movement, a vacant home in the center of New York City’s foreclosure crisis is presently being reclaimed today for a local homeless family. Occupy Wall Street, along with local neighbors and community groups, has pledged to stay with the family and defend them from eviction.
Hundreds of neighborhood residents and citywide supporters are gathering after a real estate tour of vacant bank-owned homes available for occupation in the neighborhood — signaling that community activists will remain vigilant about the theft and abandonment of these homes by big banks. Black and Latino communities like those in East New York were targeted by predatory subprime lenders and have suffered disproportionately during the foreclosure crisis.
The tour ended at an empty home foreclosed on by Bank of America that is being liberated for the homeless family after being abandoned for three years. The father, Alfredo Carrasquillo, and a clean-up crew have begun occupying it. They are presently making renovations that will allow the mother and her two children to move in. Neighbors and community members are delivering housewarming gifts and holding a spirited block party with food and live music to welcome the new family.
“There are homeless families across this city like mine who feel like they should just give up because they’ve run out of options,” said Ms. Glasgow. “I’m angry that the shelters are filling up with families while big banks sit on vacant homes.”
Mr. Carrasquillo, a community organizer at VOCAL-NY, added, “It’s criminal that Wall Street got bailed out and then turned around and foreclosed on millions of homes and refused to pay their fair share in taxes that could fund essential services like housing assistance.”
After spending much of the past decade in and out of the NYC shelter system, Tasha Glasgow and her two children, an eight-year old daughter with autism and five-year old son, became the victims of billionaire Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s austerity measures. After receiving a housing voucher through the NYC "Advantage" program in spring 2011 that would have allowed her move out of the shelter system, it was withdrawn due to Mayor Bloomberg's budget cuts this year.
Today’s events are being organized as part of a national day of action to “Occupy Our Homes.” In recent days and weeks, there has been successful occupation move-ins of homeless families and eviction defense for homeowners facing foreclosure in Atlanta, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Rochester, and over a dozen other cities and towns across the country. Local communities and 99% movement participants have committed to escalating this occupation movement to support the human right to housing — and to push back against the bailed-out and fraudulent big banks that are stealing our homes.
Over a thousand local neighbors and supporters have turned out. A block party with a decorated Christmas tree, housewarming gifts and live music will continue into the evening. A candlelight celebration and nighttime video projections are planned for later.
“We'll be here all night and all week to defend this family's home — they deserve it more than Bank of America," said Eliot Tarver from the Occupy Wall Street eviction defense team. "It's criminal for big banks to sit on vacant homes when there are so many homeless families who need them."
East New York is full of foreclosed and empty bank-owned homes. This Brooklyn neighborhood topped the city’s list of highest foreclosure filing rates last year, with a rate of 16.8 per 1,000 households — three times greater than Brooklyn overall, and five times greater than New York State. Across the city and country, families who face the theft of their homes through mortgage fraud are organizing to reclaim their homes from the bailed-out mega-banks.
"As a resident of East New York, I've seen firsthand both the devastation vacant properties can inflict on our community, and the rejuvenating effect of people standing up and taking back our neighborhood, one home at a time," said NY Communities for Change member Pat Boone. "My neighbors and I welcome Tasha as the newest member of the East New York community, and until banks start doing more to keep families in their homes and reducing principal, we encourage more families to clean up the mess the banks created on our streets."
Homelessness in New York City is at a record high, with more people living in the shelter system than ever before and a 45% jump in family homelessness under Bloomberg. At the same time, the city has more vacant homes than homeless people, and activists argued that foreclosed and abandoned properties should be turned over to families and community organizations that will ensure long-term affordability.
Neighbors from the East New York community, along with New York Communities for Change (NYCC), Organizing for Occupation, Picture the Homeless and VOCAL-NY joined the Occupy Wall Street movement in organizing this action.