Monday, September 12, 2011


At 92 Bird Avenue exists a three-story pseudo-mansion which has gained notice through a squatter initiative several years ago. Taking claim of the abandoned property, a small group of youthful "freeganists" began fixing it up and quickly won over their community members. When finally discovered and prosecuted, Judge Henry Nowak received a flurry of complaints and pleadings to let them stay. What had replaced an empty nest of crime and visual blight was renewed energy and hope. The squatters had essentially stabilized the neighborhood. While we continue the search for our home, we begin a series of experiments involving squatting; We are, after all, homeless.

Arriving to the Bird house via bicycle, we find lights on and music blaring from the second floor. On the front porch are four of the house's residents and at least as many dogs. Briefly explaining our situation to them, we're met with hesitation; "Who do you know here? Where did you hear about this place?" And we're left to play with the dogs while we await a decision from a higher authority within the house. Ultimately, it's explained to us that 92 Bird Avenue is no longer a squatter house but an owned home. While it presents an admirable example of demolition-doomed property turned beautiful affordable housing, we do not find the warmth and wisdom we seek. So we take our mission to the street.

The night is warm, so we opt to spend it outdoors. Retreating to an abandoned mini-golf course on the Upper West side, we find plenty of privacy and a few good patches of grass to call bed. But soon the evening dew starts to set in and mosquitoes buzz. Surely we can at least scavenge some material to sleep on top of, and luckily enough, it's the night before garbage day in the surrounding neighborhood. Within the first minute we find a rolled up runner rug, perfectly scaled for human use. Among other things found are: a large (12'+) inflatable swimming pool, a mop, blocks of syrofoam, three mattresses and bed frames, two very vocal dogs, one suspicious police officer, and more cardboard than we can possibly find use for. The real prize, however, is an outdoor umbrella about 8' in diameter, all of which is in tact except the vertical shaft which has snapped to produce a sharp point.

Taking the few things we're able to carry back to our camp on foot, we drive the umbrella into the ground with a small log, place our bedding materials beneath, and enjoy a peaceful rest.

Camp #1
We now foresee ourselves setting up a number of these small experimental squatter camps, as research into survival priorities and practice in material resourcefulness. The exact locations will be hard to pinpoint until we happen upon them, but will likely be guided by the schedule of neighborhood garbage collection in the future.

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