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NYC sanitation worker picks up syringe as East Village homeless encampment is cleared out

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A New York City sanitation worker was seen picking up a syringe as he and others worked to clean out a homeless camp in the Big Apple’s East Village on Wednesday.

City officials had already cleared out the camp on East 9th Street last Thursday, Gothamist reports, but within a matter of hours, the group reestablished their camp in the same location with the help of local activists and mutual aid groups – who donated four blue tents and blankets to their cause.

They also put up flyers claiming it would be cheaper to house them than to move them into shelters, as well as signs saying ‘Housing solves homelessness.’ 

By Tuesday, the NYPD gave the homeless individuals 24 hours to pack up their belongings and dismantle the camp themselves, ABC 7 reports, and at around 9am on Wednesday sanitation workers returned to the scene.

They were soon trailed by several police cars and around 15 officers who blocked off the street and pressed into the camp trying to negotiate with the homeless people to pack up their belongings and move into shelters.

But by 11am, ABC 7 reports, nearly two dozen homeless rights activists showed up at the scene and blocked off sanitation crews’ access to the camp as the homeless men and women once again refused to leave their tents and demanded they be placed in actual apartments rather than a shelter or transitional beds.

What ensued was a more than seven hour standoff culminating in the arrest of six activists as well as homeless man John Grima, 37, who led the protest.

DailyMail.com has reached out to the NYPD for more information, with the department ordered to crack down on homeless encampments by Mayor Eric Adams as he deals with soaring crime across the Big Apple. 

A New York Sanitation worker was pictured safely disposing of a syringe at the site of a former homeless camp

A New York Sanitation worker was pictured safely disposing of a syringe at the site of a former homeless camp

Following a more than seven-hour standoff between the police and homeless protesters, sanitation workers were seen throwing one of the four blue tents the homeless people resided in into the back of a garbage truck

Following a more than seven-hour standoff between the police and homeless protesters, sanitation workers were seen throwing one of the four blue tents the homeless people resided in into the back of a garbage truck

The camp on East 9th Street in the East Village was previously cleared out on March 31, but within a few hours, the homeless individuals returned to the site with tents donated by activists

The camp on East 9th Street in the East Village was previously cleared out on March 31, but within a few hours, the homeless individuals returned to the site with tents donated by activists

Sinthia See, one of the homeless women who resided at the site, held up a sign as she protested for her and others to be given housing rather than be put in a shelter

Sinthia See, one of the homeless women who resided at the site, held up a sign as she protested for her and others to be given housing rather than be put in a shelter

See sat by her tent, on which she wrote'This is a shelter' before the NYPD and other governmental services cleared it out

See sat by her tent, on which she wrote ‘This is a shelter’ before the NYPD and other governmental services cleared it out

John Grima, 37, led the protest on Wednesday and refused to leave his tent, saying he has had too many bad experiences in shelters and safe havens

John Grima, 37, led the protest on Wednesday and refused to leave his tent, saying he has had too many bad experiences in shelters and safe havens

Grima was pictured arguing with police before he was ultimately arrested on Wednesday evening

Grima was pictured arguing with police before he was ultimately arrested on Wednesday evening

Police spent hours Wednesday trying to get the homeless men and women who inhabited the site to leave voluntarily before they eventually called in reinforcements from the Strategic Response Group and around a dozen more community affairs officers, who worked to clear the sidewalks and threatened anyone who remained with arrest.

One by one, the homeless individuals at the site – which they dubbed Anarchy Row- began to leave voluntarily, Gothamist reports, until it came down to Grima, who refused to leave his tent.

Grima said he has been homeless for years and has been in and out of the shelters and safe havens, where he has had too many bad experiences.

‘Homeless shelters and safe havens are abusive environments,’ he told Gothamist. ‘How do you expect people to get help for their mental health issues and their substance abuse issues in an abusive and toxic environment?’ 

Police eventually collapsed Grima’s tent around him, and several officers piled on top of him, placing him in zip ties, Gothamist reports. All the while, he chanted: ‘I want apartments for all my homeless people.’

Sinthia Vee, a homeless woman who also set up camp at the site, also said: ‘This is where we make our stand. We’re tired of this crap.

‘I’m not spending three years getting staph infections in another shelter, waiting while everyone says they won’t rent to me.

‘It’s not going to happen.’ 

A female activist was one of six arrested on Wednesday after trying to prevent sanitation workers from getting to the camp

A female activist was one of six arrested on Wednesday after trying to prevent sanitation workers from getting to the camp

Jose Hernandez, 71, kept warm near his tent before the authorities arrived on Wednesday

Jose Hernandez, 71, kept warm near his tent before the authorities arrived on Wednesday

Some of the homeless individuals at the site were seen arguing with outreach workers before the camp was cleared

Some of the homeless individuals at the site were seen arguing with outreach workers before the camp was cleared

Protesters tried to prevent the sanitation workers from getting to the homeless camp, and sat with Grima

Protesters tried to prevent the sanitation workers from getting to the homeless camp, and sat with Grima

Police closed off East 9th Street in the East Village as they worked to clear the homeless camp

Police closed off East 9th Street in the East Village as they worked to clear the homeless camp

Homeless individuals at the site under a covered sidewalk dubbed it'Anarchy Row' as they protested against their removal

Homeless individuals at the site under a covered sidewalk dubbed it ‘Anarchy Row’ as they protested against their removal

The homeless protesters also put up signs following their first ouster last week claiming it would be cheaper for the city to provide them with housing

The homeless protesters also put up signs following their first ouster last week claiming it would be cheaper for the city to provide them with housing

Wednesday’s effort comes as Mayor Eric Adams push to clear the streets of homeless individuals continues.

The mayor announced last week that he would tackle street homelessness by clearing 150 encampments across the city over a two-week period, after he already announced a plan to remove homeless people from the city subways. 

Fabien Levy, a spokesperson for the mayor, said the first warnings to the homeless went up on March 17 and the following day the encampments were cleared in what he said was a collaboration between NYPD and the Departments of Social Services, Sanitation and Parks.

‘This effort is about taking care of our people and our public spaces because no New Yorker deserves to live on the street,’ said Adams in a statement.

He also blamed homelessness for a rise in crime throughout the city, saying at the annual NYPD Holy Name Society communion Mass and breakfast on March 27, ‘Anything goes in the City of New York.

‘The most important city on the globe has become the laughingstock of the globe. And the dysfunctionality of our city has cascaded throughout the entire country.’ 

Eric Adams, who took over as mayor of New York on January 1, has vowed to crack down on homelessness, but has been vague about what will happen to those moved from camps

Eric Adams, who took over as mayor of New York on January 1, has vowed to crack down on homelessness, but has been vague about what will happen to those moved from camps

By last Wednesday, the mayor’s office announced that sanitation workers in partnership with the police cleared 239 encampments in less than two weeks – but only five people at those sites agreed to go to homeless shelters.

And in the first four weeks of the push to clear subways, the New York Times reports, nearly 80 people each week accepted placement in shelters, a jump from 22 per week in January, before Adams put his subway safety plan into effect.

But city statistics for January showed that more than two-thirds of the people who agreed to go to the shelters had already left them by the end of the month. 

An estimated 2,400 people live on city streets and in subways, according to an annual tally taken in January 2021.

Adams cautioned in his speech last week that his plan to eliminate homeless camps in New York City streets will take time.

‘This is the first inning of a nine-inning game,’ he said last Wednesday. ‘I’m not concerned about striking out. I’m not concerned about someone hitting our pitches. I’m concerned about the end of this game.

‘And when the game is over, we’re going to have a city far better than the dysfunctional city that we’ve witnessed for far too long.’  

He also defended his encampment sweeps to CBS News on Wednesday morning, saying: ‘We’re going to continue to lean into making sure that we remove the encampments off our streets, but at the same time, make sure that we give people proper services.’

Adams emphasized that the city is in the process of opening 500 beds in specialized shelters that have fewer restrictions, more on-site services and in some cases more privacy than traditional dorm-like shelters. 

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