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Activist arrested during Myrtle-Wyckoff sweep

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.”

Cellphone video of police apprehending Namuche

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.”

City agencies clear out homeless camp under BQE

As part of the mayor’s clampdown on homeless encampments, one under the BQE was recently cleared

First, it was the subway. Now, it’s the encampments.

A homeless encampment under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Williamsburg was cleared out on Monday March 29 as part of the mayor’s new enforcement policy. Mayor Adams previously told The New York Times on March 25 that he was looking to rid encampments over a two-week period.

A 2021 report from the city found that there were more than 2,000 homeless people in the city but advocates have said that the number is undercounted and doesn’t reveal the full complexities of homelessness in New York. Advocates have also heavily criticized the mayor’s recent subway safety plan and his new encampment policy and lacks the investments in housing and resources to seriously tackle the issue.

According to a January report from the Department of Homeless Services, there are currently 1,208 stabilization beds and 687 stabilization beds throughout the city.

“If the Mayor is serious about helping homeless people, he needs to open thousands of New Safe Haven and stabilization rooms and offer them to those in need, not take away what little protection they have from the elements and other dangers on the street,” Jacquelyn Simone, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless, said via a statement, regarding the encampment policy announcement.

Homeless outreach teams, the Department of Sanitation, and NYPD officials showed up to the north Brooklyn encampment in 20-degree weather, telling homeless individuals’ to pack up their stuff or risk it being thrown away. Signage was posted on March 25 that the Meeker Avenue area would be cleared out on Monday.

Benjamin Adam, an organizer with North Brooklyn Essentials—a wing of North Brooklyn Mutual Aid that specifically tries to provide harm reduction and goods for homeless people—said that up until the recent announcement his group and the Department of Sanitation had a cooperative relationship. While sweeps are nothing new, Adam says he has been able to have a lot of “positive negotiations” in the past that would prevent mass displacement and damage as opposed to what has happened since the mayor’s announced crackdown.

“It just feels like with the weekend there’s an escalation in terms of what was happening and why it was kind of an all hands on deck this morning,” Thomas Moore, a volunteer with North Brooklyn Essentials, said. Around two dozen other volunteers and community members showed up to help the homeless with the sweep and document the cities’ actions.

A week prior to the latest raid, two long-standing encampments under the BQE were destroyed without notice. Adam said that one of the encampments was over a year old hosting multi-generations of Spanish-speaking day laborers and that the other encampment used a bunch of found materials in order to make a handwashing station and different sleeping areas.

“What’s inhumane is destroying people’s homes,” Adam said, referring to Mayor Adams’s statement that the living conditions on encampments are inhumane. “And if there is any inhumanity in the conditions in which homeless folks live, it is a result of the inaccessibility and dangerousness of the shelter system itself, that forces them to live there. So calling someone’s home, and the condition that they live in inhumane is an absurd idea, because, in fact, these folks would much rather like most people would have healthy environments to eat in and have safe and warm homes. And they’re here because they have nowhere else to go.”

Mike Rodriguez has been homeless for around two years but has never been in a shelter because it would mean he would have to separate from his partner Parker Wolf. He’s not sure where he going to go next since he can no longer pitch his green tent under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

“So everybody thinks of us as a danger. But we’re in danger out here,” Rodriguez said, before describing different times he’s been harassed and one time when someone tried sexual assault him and his partner. “It’s not our choice to be out here.Homeless people are just trying to live. Nobody understands how were just as good as the next person.”

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