NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — They are being evicted from the streets.
The city’s homeless crisis is apparently so bad that officials are now serving eviction notices before tearing down homeless encampments.
CBS2’s Marcia Kramer was there Wednesday when a man living in the plaza near a Flatbush subway station got the heave ho.
The subway plaza is not your home. That was the message sent to Thomas Harris as an army of cops and city workers began carting away a massive homeless encampment he built — and lived in — at Parkside and Ocean avenues.
He did not go quietly.
“Leave me alone!” Harris said. “I don’t bother nobody!”
Actually, Harris’ jaw-dropping collection of drums, clothes, food and garbage bothered a lot of people, which is why the city served him with a formal eviction notice last week and then showed up Wednesday to enforce it.
“I’m in a wheelchair with one leg!” Harris said.
Harris lost most of his left leg when he was hit by a subway six years ago, and this is not the first time he has been evicted.
“I don’t want to be touched,” Harris said.
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The city cannot force someone to go into a shelter, but it can stop people from obstructing public spaces. But still, it was unusual to see an army of cops and other officials on hand. A homeless outreach worker offered him shelter. Paramedics offered to take him to a hospital.
“I don’t need no ambulance!” Harris said.
But in the end, the encampment had to go.
“We don’t allow obstructions in our city and address them quickly whenever we find them,” a spokesman for the Department of Homeless Services said.
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Area residents were relieved to see Harris go.
“We opened the plaza for the public, not for the homeless,” Flatbush’s Cesar Cruz said.
“It was about time that he was placed somewhere else. He’s been here for quite a log time — winter, summer, spring, fall,” Ashel Leopold added. “It serves as a breeding ground for rats, which is not good for the area.”
“He should be inside. It’s cold out here. A whole lot of junk people ca’t hardly walk by. It’s an eyesore,” Larry Williams said.
“The subway station is right here. We can’t have this garbage here. No, get rid of him,” Lainey Hallal added.
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Police didn’t confiscate Harris’ goods permanently. They gave him a receipt and said he could get them back at the 71st Precinct.
There are currently nearly 61,000 homeless people in the city. It is making slow progress in building permanent housing. On Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is moving to acquire 17 buildings it hopes to turn into 500 apartments for the homeless in 2019.