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word has it, he got a deal for only $2350/month
April 17, 2014 1:12 PM   Subscribe

An army of NYPD cops on Thursday evicted a homeless man from his Manhattan Bridge "home" — which was complete with a gas heater, hot sauce and beer.
posted by and they trembled before her fury (59 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
The photo of his home is incredible.
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 1:13 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


As someone who runs over that bridge every weekend, I am surprised that he was living there, just because it's so cold and windy up there, and small.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:15 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I hope he got his stuff back - usually the cops take it and throw it away.
posted by Frowner at 1:16 PM on April 17


They said they're going to "voucher" his stuff and help him get back on his feet. I would truly like to see that.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 1:17 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Frowner:
“We’ll voucher all of his property. We’d like to help him get back on his feet. We are here to do anything we can to help a man down on his luck get back on his feet. It’s a sad story,” one cop said.
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 1:17 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


What does that mean, "voucher?"
posted by merelyglib at 1:19 PM on April 17


The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under inside bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. /obligatory
posted by kewb at 1:19 PM on April 17 [26 favorites]


There was a case like this in Chicago in 2004. I remember it especially because the guy had a microwave, heater and radio inside a drawbridge. The quote at the time was that he had adjusted to periodic ferris wheel rides. Most of the new stories from then are lost but this blog entry remains up
posted by readery at 1:21 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


Gives a new meaning to DUMBO
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:22 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Glad they didn't cut him in half, and he only lost his home. Welcome to America, Joe.
posted by jetsetsc at 1:22 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


What does that mean, "voucher?"

In theory, it means they will inventory his belongings, put them in secure storage, and give him a receipt that he can use to claim his stuff when he has a place to go.
posted by rtha at 1:23 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


I wonder who was the rat-fink who turned him in?
posted by edgeways at 1:23 PM on April 17 [6 favorites]


So we are living in a Gibson future.

Bugger.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:23 PM on April 17 [14 favorites]


I feel sorry for all that beer. I hope they left him that, at least.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:23 PM on April 17


In theory, it means they will inventory his belongings, put them in secure storage, and give him a receipt that he can use to claim his stuff when he has a place to go.

Indeed. In theory they do this; in actual fact, it can be difficult to get stuff back.

The cops have to say that it's a "sad story" and they'll "do anything" to help him get back on his feet because the cameras are rolling. These are the same cops that rousted the dude five times (during which he probably lost his stuff, probably five times) and drove him to live under the bridge. I am sorry, but having known people who are actual street-living homeless people - and having known two of them pretty well to the point of staying with me sometimes - I am deeply skeptical of cops on this point.
posted by Frowner at 1:26 PM on April 17 [29 favorites]


These are the same cops

[citation needed]
posted by sparklemotion at 1:27 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Just like people!
posted by shakespeherian at 1:27 PM on April 17


Yeah, if you want rational, truthful, dependable, empathetic people, you pass by the "New York Police Department" aisle in the supermarket.
posted by jscott at 1:27 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


It looks like a cyclist spotted him (this sunday? last sunday?), and called the cops thinking he was a jumper. After a little investigation, the cops figured out he was just living there.
"He unlocks the red bike lock with a key, slides a plank of wood back like a door and crawls in," the Post reports.
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 1:29 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Looking at the picture it looks like he was using styrofoam to provide at least a modicum of sound insulation from the roadbed? above. Still with the metal girders must of been loud as hell. Ingenuity and desperation will find a way I guess although it would be much better if our society was structured so this wouldn't be necessary.
posted by vuron at 1:35 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


So we are living in a Gibson future.
I didn't expect this future to be so evenly distributed between the coasts.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:36 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


I wonder who was the rat-fink who turned him in?

Snitches get stitches evictions.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:43 PM on April 17


Where did he put his feces and urine?
posted by ChuckRamone at 1:44 PM on April 17


One of the residents — a 40-something Chinese immigrant, who would only identify himself as “Joe” — said he used to live in encampments that he built on a grassy patch, just off the bike on-ramp to the Manhattan Bridge.

But over the past 13 years of homelessness in New York, cops have always torn down those quarters, he said.

“Five times they take down. Five times!” Joe said of what had been his more stable shanties.
Of course they tore them down. There are good reasons for doing so. It's dangerous for him. It's dangerous for other people. And leaving it up sets a precedent which can lead to bigger problems. If it becomes known that the cops will let you build a shack in a particular area and more homeless people move in, it gets worse. Concentration of poverty is generally a bad thing.

I don't know what the solution is for this individual or at the societal level, but saying "The cops should leave illegal shantytowns alone out of compassion" is not it.

I wrestle a lot with such questions, wondering what a good answer is. I have been on the street for over two years. My last interaction with the cops went like this:

Bright light on my tent and loud voice waking me up, announcing I should come out with my hands up, this is the police. We open tent and the cop is visibly relieved at seeing us, clearly recognizes us and clearly believes us to be "decent" people. Promptly goes into social worker mode of asking do we need help, trying to refer us to a program, etc.

It turns out he was very stressed because they were looking for a homeless man who violently assaulted his girlfriend the night before, known to camp not far from there. I volunteered to walk them around, tell them what little I knew. I could not tell you what the man looks like, but their description matched the (behavioral) description of a man whom we knew from tone of voice and behavior had a nasty temper and likely a drug habit.

The cops mostly do not hassle me. Why? Because I am not a trouble maker. (Yes, some cops are simply assholes. Most of them have not been.)

So while I think we are in desperate need of solutions, I really can't say that I agree with the idea that "out of compassion" we need to just let homeless people do whatever the fuck. I don't know what laws and policies would help make it easier for people on the street to resolve their problems and get off the street. I don't have those answers. But, no, I don't think this works.
posted by Michele in California at 1:48 PM on April 17 [45 favorites]


Five bucks says that retrieving items on an NYPD voucher requires you to show them your ID.
posted by griphus at 1:50 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Five bucks says that retrieving items on an NYPD voucher requires you to show them your ID.

He could bring a newspaper clipping.
posted by ChuckRamone at 1:51 PM on April 17 [6 favorites]


Gives a new meaning to DUMBO

UOMBO?
posted by Sara C. at 1:54 PM on April 17


Highway overpass bridges used to (in the '60s and '70s) have a ledge underneath on either side of and parallel to the lower road. When they rebuild the bridges now, they eliminate that ledge. I assume it's so nobody can sleep there.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:11 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


So how much does a place with that much square footage and easy access to a major commuter thoroughfare usually rent for in The Big Apple?
posted by radwolf76 at 2:11 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Where did he put his feces and urine?

Starbucks
posted by cazoo at 2:23 PM on April 17 [6 favorites]


There was a case like this in Chicago in 2004. I remember it especially because the guy had a microwave, heater and radio inside a drawbridge.

Here's the This American Life transcript.
Authorities kicked him out from this space that Richard says was probably 14- or 18-feet long, and about as wide as two lanes of traffic, with the steel frame of the bridge for walls and a concrete floor. The ceiling was the roadway. Where, out of wood that Richard and his friend mostly took from a construction site, they built three rooms in the dank space, a supply room and two bedrooms. There was electricity from a long extension cord that they hid with piping, and plugged into a regular electric socket in the bridge down below.

"They made a big stink out of this when actually it hit the papers. I had like a 20 inch TV, which was a pain in the butt to get in, but I did it. And I had a little heater and various other things, like a PlayStation, video games, videotapes, VHS. And I'd come back towards the evening and sit back and play the PlayStation and, you know, maybe have some beer, drink some beer and see how far I can go in a driving game before I end up crashing."
posted by Iridic at 2:35 PM on April 17 [5 favorites]


Looking at the picture it looks like he was using styrofoam to provide at least a modicum of sound insulation from the roadbed? above. Still with the metal girders must of been loud as hell. Ingenuity and desperation will find a way I guess although it would be much better if our society was structured so this wouldn't be necessary.

For about half a million dollars you can buy a home in Lincoln Park, Chicago that backs right onto the L tracks.
posted by srboisvert at 2:52 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


There was a case like this in Chicago in 2004. I remember it especially because the guy had a microwave, heater and radio inside a drawbridge.

I remember in Osaka seeing cardboard box huts with extension cords running in, some guys even had TVs and stuff.
posted by Hoopo at 3:06 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


At least they didn't shoot him to death.
posted by gucci mane at 3:08 PM on April 17


There is no place like home.
posted by Cranberry at 3:14 PM on April 17


-Where did he put his feces and urine?

-Starbucks

"It's a bit nutty." /austinpowers
posted by Zack_Replica at 3:19 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


This guy sounds AWESOME. They should give him a medal for his ingenuity.
posted by Slinga at 4:06 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


What a troll!
posted by mudpuppie at 4:07 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


It's horrifying that the richest nation in the world not only leaves people to literally living inside bridges, but that their homes, such as they are, can be so arbitrarily taken away.

Stop punishing people for being poor.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:08 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


Stop punishing people for being poor.

But they're lazy and not sending out resumes to get a good paying $50K job. (Well, sounds like something everyone in my dad's generation would say).
posted by crapmatic at 9:02 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Scroll down to Get Your Very Own Blue Tent to see how this is done in Tokyo.
posted by Rash at 9:06 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


"I remember in Osaka seeing cardboard box huts with extension cords running in, some guys even had TVs and stuff."
posted by Hoopo

Wait till Rush Limbaugh hears about this. Jesus.
posted by marienbad at 11:41 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich ... to steal bread. /obligatory"
posted by kewb

Er, no it doesn't
posted by marienbad at 11:44 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I saw this guy pouring out two one gallon jugs at the foot of the manhattan bridge bio path just last week. He is a very intense man. I hope he finds comfort.
posted by n9 at 5:43 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Stop punishing people for being poor.

But they're lazy and not sending out resumes to get a good paying $50K job. (Well, sounds like something everyone in my dad's generation would say).


I don't want to get in the way of your righteous anger, but Joe tells the reporter that he had money and lost most of it gambling, so in this case there is actually an element of personal reponsibility for his current situation. No one forced him to gamble away his livelihood.

Also, I know Metafilter loves to get its hate on for the police, but in this case they were responding to a concerned citizen who worried Joe was suicidal. Would you like the police to ignore calls like that?

Having seen where, and more importantly how he was living, what should they have done? The man's teeth are rotting out of his mouth. He may have been ingenious, but he certainly wasn't healthy and living well, despite the romantic images this seems to be conjuring up.
posted by misha at 8:02 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Gambling is an addiction. Would you say there's personal responsibility in an alcogolic deinking their money away? It's a disease.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:14 AM on April 18


Oh, wow.

Yeah, I am not down with that "disease" model of addiction. I wish the world would come up with a more effective mental model for such problems (I think they do exist, they just are not "popular"). But, even with the broken definitions we currently have, let me say this: Even ill people can be held responsible within certain parameters.

I have a genetic disorder called Cystic Fibrosis. I am supposed to be sick all the time until it kills me. My ex is career military. He would have stood by me until I died, while also doing things that would have helped kill me -- like blaming my condition on my genes and agreeing with doctors that there wasn't really anything that could be done about it. I could get "free" medical care for life. It did not go over well with my ex that I was spending $300/month on supplements to treat my condition when I could have just gotten prescription drugs for free on the federal government's dime.

Boy, am I irked as hell that I am saving American tax payers tens of thousands of dollars a year and can't get anything remotely equivalent in support for doing the right thing. It sucks and it pisses me off. But even with the inherent injustice of the situation -- that other people would be happy to suck up the cost of keeping me ill and suffering and all I get is shit on socially for getting myself well for a fraction of the cost -- it is still in my best interest to take responsibility for my own life.

I am pretty fucking mad about a lot of this but the reality is that if I end up panhandling (something I have never actually done) for the rest of my life but my choices allow me to stay off the $100k+ worth of annual medical treatments that is the average for my condition, not only is it easier to cover the lower costs of being healthy but I get to not be in chronic excruciating pain, I get to sleep nights (something I couldn't do while on multiple prescription drugs), and I generally have a better quality of life because my own body no longer tortures the shit out of me every minute of every day. (It just craps on me intermittently now, not constantly.)

So, yeah, little ms homeless troll here is not down on the idea that "poor people are such losers that no one should expect them to have personal responsibility ever." Not my cup of tea. Sorry I probably can't convince you otherwise, but, no not even all homeless people feel like our sob story is justification for saying "Fuck all y'all. You can't hold me responsible for nothing." That's basically con artistry, not "man, life shit on me and it sucks to be me and I could really use a break."

FWIW: I quit my corporate job to go be homeless. I did it to get myself well after it became clear to me that my job would never let me get well. Plenty of people say "My job is killing me" and expect others to feel sorry for them. I said "My job is killing me -- fuck this." I spent a lot of years trying to figure out how to put an alternate income in place first and it did not pan out. At some point, I felt it was now or never and I left. I have been stuck on the street a lot longer than I thought I would be but I think I made the right choice.
posted by Michele in California at 12:32 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


So, yeah, little ms homeless troll here is not down on the idea that "poor people are such losers that no one should expect them to have personal responsibility ever." Not my cup of tea. Sorry I probably can't convince you otherwise, but, no not even all homeless people feel like our sob story is justification for saying "Fuck all y'all. You can't hold me responsible for nothing." That's basically con artistry, not "man, life shit on me and it sucks to be me and I could really use a break."


What a shame I never said that.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:12 PM on April 18


I really am not sure how people are suppose to respond to that Michele in California, I'm honestly sorry you went through what you did, but that's rather a lot of me me me to drive home your points of...? Vague sinister allusions to other cures for gambling? I can do it so everyone should be like me? A hot mess of passive aggressiveness? I honestly am having a hard time parsing your points beyond you're angry about .. not getting money to pay for supplements?
:/ Hope you feel better.
posted by edgeways at 1:37 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


No, I am not trying to say "I can do it, thus everyone should be like me." I am partly trying to say that part of the problem with the "disease" model of gambling, addiction, etc is that it is very disempowering. It actively keeps the problem alive by telling people they are powerless. Rewarding people for being addicts of one kind or another helps keep them entrenched.

Yes, people with big problems of the sort that land you on the street generally do need help of some sort. But the way it is framed is often a case of "the cure is worse than the problem."

And I am sorry I don't know how to express myself better. It has been largely verboten talk about my situation anywhere. So it's a lot for me to try to parse -- what am I allowed to say and what am I not allowed to say and so on. I have gotten attacked a lot and shut down a lot in one manner or another. So I struggle with what is socially acceptable to say and how it is socially acceptable to say it because it mostly has not been acceptable at all to talk about my experiences. Anywhere. I am still working on that but something like that is not just the issue of one person. It grows out of group dynamics.
posted by Michele in California at 2:30 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


[Gently, just to head off a derail here, let's not get too much into analysis of any one member's own personal situation; let's stick to the story in the links?]
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:59 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I am partly trying to say that part of the problem with the "disease" model of gambling, addiction, etc is that it is very disempowering. It actively keeps the problem alive by telling people they are powerless.

Quite the opposite, actually, and there's a lot of research to bear that out. Knowing you have a disease is the first step in combating it. Framing alcoholism/drug abuse/problem gambling as a moral failing, a failure of control, a matter of personal responsibility is what keeps the problem alive and growing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:06 PM on April 18


Framing alcoholism/drug abuse/problem gambling as a moral failing, a failure of control, a matter of personal responsibility is what keeps the problem alive and growing.

I realize a lot of people frame it that way and that is worse than the AA "disease" model, but I don't think this is an either/or situation. I don't think you have to choose between "I can't control it because of moral failing" and "I can't control it because it's a disease," which seems to be the dichotomy offered. Either way, the message seems to be "you can't control it, insert your preferred excuse here."

I have read research that conflicts with what you are saying and my experiences and observations suggest that neither of those is really a great model. From talking with people who have done the AA model, they are generally told they won't ever really be well, they will always have this "disease" and just have to cope as best they can. I think that's not a great answer. I believe there are better models.

When antibiotics were invented, thousands of people in mental hospitals were cured of the syphilis that caused their mental health issues and thus released back into the world. If it's a "disease," then we should have a real cure. If you touch the roots of the issue, the problem dies.

I think there is room for improvement in determining real causes here and finding effective solutions. I don't think you need to play the blame game to look for another answer besides "it's a disease."

I hope that makes my point of view more clear to others. I don't expect you to agree with me. I will bow out for now. I did just want to try to clarify.
posted by Michele in California at 3:17 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


If it's a "disease," then we should have a real cure. If you touch the roots of the issue, the problem dies.

There are a lot of diseases that we don't yet have cures for, but that doesn't make them not-diseases. Many diseases can't be straight-up cured, but can be managed effectively - they still remain diseases.
posted by rtha at 3:32 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


What she said.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:22 PM on April 18


Gambling is an addiction. Would you say there's personal responsibility in an alcogolic deinking their money away? It's a disease.

Yes, actually. I have worked in a substance abuse treatment center, and my father was an alcoholic who quit drinking cold turkey when I was quite young and never picked up a drink again. I choose not to drink because I recognize the potential for addiction is there. I believe that rather than alcoholism or other addiction being a disease, one can be physically predisposed to addiction. Additional pressure comes into play from outside influences like your social group, family life, etc. If you know you can't stop with just one drink, you can choose not to pick one up at all. You can choose not to associate with social drinkers, if that's what it takes, and avoid other addicts who will try to pull you into that culture of addiction. You do not have to hit rock bottom first, either. Any effective treatment for addiction begins with the central tenet of admitting you have a problem and that you need help. Some, like AA, also have the addict make amends to others his actions may have harmed. Isn't all that the same as accepting personal responsibility?

Even if you do believe addiction is a disease, why would that preclude personal responsibility? If you had a deadly contagious disease and you knew it and yet you chose to walk around infecting people, would that be okay? Where do you draw the line? In an AskMe thread right now, an anonymous poster, the child of an alcoholic and recovering alcoholic herself, has taken responsibility for herself and her life by choosing to be sober. Her sister, however, chooses to continue to drink and drive while drunk, endangering the lives of others through her actions. The anonymous poster asks what she should do. The overwhelming response in that thread is not, "Your sister's an addict, she can't help it, you can't hold her responsible for that!" No, it's to call the police if her sister gets behind the wheel drunk.
posted by misha at 10:51 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


But they're lazy and not sending out resumes to get a good paying $50K job. (Well, sounds like something everyone in my dad's generation would say).

If you believe that in this day and age (2014) $50k is a good paying job.....well, you have been bamboozled by the powers that be.........oops. I get it now. Sarcasm. My bad.
posted by notreally at 6:28 AM on April 19


I agree you need to feel you have power and control in order to not become depressed, and I agree that I don't feel like i have to blame people who're now homeless because they made some dumb mistake in the past (you should be able to pick yourself up again, what society truly works where the price of one mistake is lifelong? when it needn't be). And i think your own ability to be positive and to not get nervous and afraid, which just varies with people, contributes a lot. I used to be able to, but as i got older it became less and less possible until it became impossible, exhausted: youth is optimism. Stuff like serious health conditions and strong family support and so on all change and modify it - there's no point in being moralistic about it, i think. People who suffered themselves are always hard on others about the same things - i did it, why can't you? Which is fair, but in life that's how it is - one person suffers and doesn't complain, another complains and instantly gets help and a free ride, and it's not fair - it's something about how morality works: if we are forced or force ourselves to suffer, to pay a high price, for obeying a rule or doing something, we then think we have to enforce this on others, we feel strongly morally about it. Saying it like that makes it sound hypochritical but it's nature. I don't understand what morality is, descriptively, and i'm both for and against it (i feel it, but we do the worst things when we're convinced we're right, and feeling strong pain often makes us feel that: easy thought experiment by cliche: murdered child's parents shoot murderer: or same scenario, then find out they got the wrong guy). But i think this 'i pay a high price with pain' 'therefore everyone must' where we extend what we forced ourselves to do (without understanding, if we were a small child) is part of the mechanism. Samples: incontinent people feel huge shame, when it's nobody's fault their bladder sphincter isn't working; i thought, maybe because the first 'moral' we (West) learn is using the potty not peeing our nappies. (In my head, i call this 'the carpeted world' ie the price for living in a society where it's cold and you need carpets to stay warm, you don't just pee on the ground at random for years like in China or Gypsies); second sample: grammar Nazis - they always had it drilled into them as children and now it's compulsive and they can't bear it when it's wrong, theirs or anyone else's. It took twitter to break me of it.
posted by maiamaia at 1:59 PM on April 19


I don't think anyone should be punished here. I don't think anyone in this thread does?

I just think that reading this homeless man's dwelling being taken down as a case of corrupt cops trying to screw some poor person over is both overly simplistic and pretty damn cynical. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, sure. Sometimes good people make bad choices, too.

Maybe all cops aren't evil. Maybe the cyclist who made that call was well-intentioned and not a dirty rat fink. Maybe this poor homeless guy needs some help. Maybe, if he gets that help, he can rejoin society rather than just existing outside of it.

I would MUCH rather have that be the outcome than for him to keep doing what he is doing and die alone under that bridge. I'd hate to se him get back on his feet only to gamble everything all away again, too. I just don't see how he breaks that pattern without acknowledging the errors he made the first time around.
posted by misha at 12:12 PM on April 21


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