Rain did not deter 500 “Occupy Our Homes” protesters who marched the streets of East New York on Tuesday. The group took a tour of foreclosed homes in the area and supported one family who “liberated” a foreclosed home on Vermont Avenue. Chants ranged from, “All day, all week, Occupy East New York,” “We are the 99%,” “the people united will never be defeated,” “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” “get up, get down, there’s revolution in this town.”
The crowd flowed from the sidewalks to the streets, at times blocking traffic. As the drivers drove by, they honked in solidarity. Inspector Jeffrey Maddrey, commanding officer of the 75th Precinct, was there to supervise his officers who were patient and respectful throughout the entire peaceful march.
Organizers distributed copies of Occupy Wall Street’s official newspaper, and hand-outs that allege NYC is warehousing property. One flyer depicted a section of 11207 between New Lots, Warwick, Linden Boulevard, and Van Sinderen pinpointing 45 pre-foreclosed homes.
Kendall Jackman said she is a victim of foreclosure. Her landlady took out two subprime mortgages totaling $775,000, more than 2 ½ times the value of the home. In January 2009, her neighbor and her were served with local foreclosure papers. For two years she did not pay the mortgage. Her home was an ATM for her and her family and their new home. September 21, 2009, Jackman had to enter a homeless shelter, where she remains. “I am stuck in the system along with 47,000 other people, including 19,000 children.”
One homeless man said there are more abandoned buildings than homeless people in New York City. He said he is here to deliver a message to the banks, our governor, and our mayor that we are taking back our houses. “We are not going to stop until we occupy every home in New York City.”
Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez said, “I heard today that Mayor Bloomberg has a headache because he doesn’t know what to do about this movement. The eviction from (Zuccotti) Park was the best thing because now the movement is getting more color. I am so proud of the organizers who started occupying on September 17. White, Black, Asian, Latino, workingclass and middleclass are all sending a message to the 1%. We are fed up. We will take no more.” Councilmember Barron declared, “Evict Bloomberg. Evict Cuomo. We are today here in East New York declaring East New York a liberation zone.”
“It is no mistake that we are here East New York. ENY has become ground zero for every predatory lender and criminal offender. Not one has gone to jail; not one has been arrested,” said Bertha Lewis. “Guess what? We are the people who are taking back East New York.”
One young person said, “We are the youth of this movement. We are here in East New York with 1,000 people taking back homes. We are not the only ones. This is happening across the country. Occupations across the nation are taking back homes for the people that deserve them. We will not stop. This fight has just begun.”
A protester said, “We are here to show the bankers we care about our community.” Yet another said, “We are grassroots. Bottom up, not top down.”
Ryan Gibbs from Picture the Homeless said he is formerly street homeless. “One of the many difficulties of street homelessness is while being out there, you are constantly being harassed by the police. You are not able to just sit and have a rest from daily stresses of homelessness,” said Gibbs. “The problem with homelessness is people get so desperate they are willing to risk arrest in order to get off the streets. What we need is real affordable housing now.”
One member of New York Communities for Change said she was among 6,000 people who wrote J.P. Morgan asking that her loan be restructured. She said both she and her husband lost their incomes because the banks ruined the housing and construction markets.
Quincy, a young man who was being foreclosed on the day of the march, broke down in tears as he told of being deceived into signing away his deed, while still owing $475,000 on his mortgage.
Another woman was moved to join the protest and tell her story. She bought her house in 1997 in Queens Village, with an $80,000 down payment. She worked two jobs all her life. She said she would pay 2 to 3 months mortgage when she went on vacation. She paid for her son’s private school education, and then he joined the military. He spent four years in Kuwait, and another four years in Iraq where he died during a special assignment. Her mortgage was originally $1500 a month. It was switched from bank to bank. Now her mortgage is $3800. “How am I going to do it?” she asked. “How many families are suffering like me?”
Alfredo Carrasquillo moved his wife and young children into a foreclosed home on Vermont Street. “There are countless homeless people in the streets including myself and my family. We are here to fight back and let the government and the big banks know they are not going to take advantage of our communities anymore.
Carrasquillo’s wife said they have been moving their children from place to place. “I just want a place for my children,” she said.
“The real criminals are the banks and Wall Street who are foreclosing these homes and leaving people homeless. We have had a lot of support from Occupy Wall Street,” said Carrasquillo. “Why is it that communities have to suffer while the rich get richer? Ultimately, when we start that dialogue within our communities then we can start addressing it.”