BY: Amy Schiller and Lori Gross
Kings Building Supply, a brickyard that says that they have the lease for the Bushwick Trailer Park – an expanse that inhabits a collective of young artists and stretches to almost a full city block – ousted the semi-secret living situation under legal pressure from the NY & Atlantic railways for permitting the trailers to reside on the lot. Though due process of 30 days notice was not observed, residents say, police participated in the eviction, rejecting documented proof from the tenants that they were legally allowed to be on the property. NYPD did not respond for comment when asked why they executed an eviction to residents given less than one week’s notice to leave.
Similarly, they did not respond when asked how they typically confirm that due process has been observed, or why, according to residents were given tickets for trespassing at the very same moment they were notified that they were to be evicted.
Their trailers, which were rebuilt and recycled from across the country–and the belongings in them, including the residents solar panels— were pushed onto the street with forklifts after being removed with bulldozers. Documentation proving the year-long residency of the residents, as well as a legal cease-and-desist, were tossed aside, according to the group, on the basis of a surveyor’s report dated less than a week ago.
No word at present on the whereabouts of the community’s three chickens, and the recently rescued dog. The members claim that at least three trailers are missing and and 10 are damaged beyond repair.
Since February, 2010, twenty-two trailers, housing a multidisciplinary group of artists, inhabited a plot of land between Kings Building Supply on Johnson street and the Bushwick Project for the Arts at 304 Meserole Street. Though Kings Building Supply says they hold the lease to the land, they allowed the trailers to enter to the disputed property through the brickyard. Until this incident, they peacefully coexisted with the artists on the other side of the tracks. In fact, according to sources, Kings Building Supply sold the trailer park residents the gravel they used to grade out the formerly abandoned lot. The group believes that Kings was reacting to pressure from New York and Atlantic Railways, who themselves are bound by law to reserve land for freight train access.
Diamond emphasized that the relationship between the collective and the company that now claims title of the lot, King’s Building Supply, was “great” and emphasized “[they’re] not the bad guy. There’s really actually not a bad guy in this situation. The issue is that the MTA owns hundreds of acres of land in Brooklyn reserved for freight passage, and preserves [the exclusive right] to sit on it, rather than let people try and use it for a common good.”
The displaced residents of the trailer park contend that several freights a year must pass through the tracks crossing the lot to be eligible for that designation, a requirement with the contractor has reportedly not met. T. Joe Diamond, a leader of the collective, said, “New York and Atlantic has no problem with us. It’s been over 20 years since anybody’s done anything with the land that the trailers were on. We asked them if we could rent the lot, from them, but they responded with bulldozers, evicting without following procedure.”
It is a strong possibility that all of the trailers will be impounded, as NYC parking laws prohibit trailers. A forklift operator who said he was hired by Kings to move the caravan, told Heeb, “the MTA will take care of them.”
If the inhabitants were in fact squatting or trespassing, they may rank among the most conscientious squatters in history. The members of the BPA team, as they call themselves, had re-purposed the land for artistic collaboration and sustainable living, including a warehouse converted into an artistic flux space and an aquaponic garden. A source close to the collective said there was “not a bad apple in the bunch.” They were widely considered to be hospitable and community oriented, even serving as hosts for Traif Bike Gesheft owner [and Heeb friend] Baruch Herzfeld’s birthday party earlier this month. Neighbors similarly testified that the group wasn’t a bother.
“We’re shocked. We’ve never seen anything,” said Beatrice Rivera, who lives with her husband and two kids behind the King’s yard on Bushwick Ave.