Update: Raquel Namuche’s case was dismissed and sealed in the interest of justice.
Ridgewood Tenants Union aimed to protect belongings of homeless
As Mayor Eric Adams’ citywide effort to clear homeless encampments continues, advocates in Queens have stepped up to support homeless neighbors in their communities.
This includes Raquel Namuche, founder of the Ridgewood Tenants Union, who was arrested by NYPD officers on the morning of April 9 during an encampment sweep on Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood.
Namuche said that at around 10:30 a.m., as members of RTU attempted to make sure no items of value were discarded, a DSNY worker began to pull away a shopping cart.
She requested a few more minutes to review the contents of the cart, but was instead arrested by two 83rd Precinct officers for disorderly conduct and obstruction of governmental administration.
Namuche was taken to the 83rd Precinct in Bushwick, where she was detained for four hours and then sent to Central Booking in Downtown Brooklyn where she spent 10 hours in a cell while waiting to see a judge.
“The commanding officer told me ‘no,’ that they had no time and other sweeps to do, and that they couldn’t give us one more minute. I assumed the cart belonged to Charlie, a homeless individual who stays at that encampment, but is currently at the hospital,” Namuche said.
“We just wanted to make sure that nothing of importance was thrown away, such as documents or ID,” she continued. “For that, I was arrested. This was not planned, and we believe that this was an unwarranted arrest.”
Namuche said that a notice of the sweep was posted a block and a half away from the encampment, and that none of the men who stayed there noticed it.
RTU members agreed to store the belongings in their basements temporarily, and communicated with the homeless individuals about how to support them during the sweep.
“In this instance, we weren’t really trying to block anything, because the men told us that they just wanted help with getting into safe shelters,” Namuche said.
She added that one of the men, Michael, was able to go to a shelter in the Bronx where he lives in a single room.
But another individual named Jo Jo lost all of his belongings as a result of the DSNY and NYPD’s sweep.
“They took all my stuff and threw it away. Now I don’t have nothing at all to live on—no clothes, no socks, they took everything,” he told RTU members during the sweep.
“It’s not fair to us.”
At a recent press conference, Eric Adams said that the ultimate goal of his revamped policy is to build trust by engaging with homeless folks and informing them of the alternatives to living on the street.
But Namuche emphasized that the majority of homeless people have the same fate as Jo Jo when it comes to these sweeps.
“It’s very rare that these individuals actually get placed somewhere that is adequate for them,” she said. “The mayor’s office said that in March, 312 individuals accepted shelter placements. That’s not enough.”
“But in the meantime, they also arrested 719 people and gave out over 6,000 tickets during the sweeps,” she continued. “That just shows how violent they are.”
Ridgewood Tenants Union is in favor of using the 2,000 vacant apartments in the city for housing, as opposed to transitional shelters or Safe Haven beds.
The group also actively advocates for issues such as the Good Cause Eviction Bill, healthy living conditions for tenants and safe working conditions.
Namuche assures homeless folks that tenants’ rights organizations, like RTU, will continue to stand with them and advocate for their rights.
“We need to work together to demand the city build and open up housing for every homeless individual,” she said. We have to keep pushing the city to actually do its job in providing the residents with the services, adequate housing, healthcare and work that they need to live fulfilled and dignified lives.”