When Occupy Wall street was rousted from Zucotti Park, they had an idea. Instead of camping out in public spaces, they would occupy homes on behalf of the homeless, thereby highlighting not only the evils of capitalism, but demonstrating the positive good of hope and change. The initiative was called “Occupy Homes”. Their first attempt was at 702 Vermont Street.
It had been the home of one Mr. Wise Ahadzi, who “was forced to leave in 2009 when he couldn’t make the mortgage payments to Bank of America.” But for some reason, he didn’t present well, so Occupy cast Alfredo Carrasquillo “as the man to move in, because he was a homeless advocate some of the members knew.”
Any misgivings Ahadzi felt were allayed by Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) who would inaugurate the Occupy project. Ahadzi was assured that he would be taken care of. What could go wrong?
The atmosphere was giddy that overcast December day. A swell of people hung banners (“Foreclose on Banks, Not People”) and chanted on Vermont Street, waiting to welcome new neighbors to 702, the two-story rowhouse Occupy had taken over.The excitement reached a crescendo when Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn) knocked on the door, decorated with a pine wreath for Christmas, and out came the homeless man who was moving in with his family, Alfredo Carrasquillo.
Barron raised Carrasquillo’s arm in victory.
What could ever possibly go wrong?
Last week,Wise Ahadzi opened the door to the house he still owns, 702 Vermont Street in East New York.
Inside is a war zone. The walls are torn down, the plumbing is ripped out and the carpeting has been plucked from the floor. It’s like walking through a ribcage.
Garbage, open food containers and Ahadzi’s possessions are tossed haphazardly around the house.
“This is where my kitchen was,” Ahadzi says. There is no sink, no refrigerator and no counter space. Instead there are dirty dishes piled high waiting for a dip in three large buckets of putrid water that serve as the dishwashing system …
The first definite sign of trouble came when journalists from the New York Post made a follow up visit to the house two months later.
In January, The Post found squatters in the house instead of the family.
“They only stay here sometimes,” a protester explained. “There’s not enough room for the kids.”
Ahadzi thought about calling the police, until the embarrassed Occupy movement promised him that they’d repair the house and leave.
And perhaps they did repair it, according to the continental aesthetic of the Occupy crowd. Not as per Bauhaus perhaps, but certainly in the fashion of Berlin, 1945, after the 8th Airforce and the Red Army got through redecorating it.
They tore down many interior walls but did not put them back up. A neighbor said that mold corroded one wall, but a complete gutting of the house was unnecessary.
Even in this condition, protesters are still squatting on the floors, cooking using a bunsen burner and walking around guided by candlelight when a generator is not up and running.
Their efforts have actually made the neighborhood worse — because what used to be an empty house is now a hovel of squatters and probably should be condemned.
Neighbors, who initially welcomed the ragtag bunch into the area, now stay away. Local Doyle Coleman tried to get other homeowners on the street to participate in a street cleanup with the Occupiers, but they all just said, “I don’t want to get involved.”
Another neighbor stood across the street from the house and shook his head, imagining how extensive the damages were inside considering the revolving cast of characters living inside. “It must be in shambles,” he said.
Everyone wanted to help Wise Ahadzi , everybody wanted to be socially enlightened, community spirited and unselfish. So why did things turn out so badly for everyone? The answer may lie in a question. Who owns the house? Put another way, who had the incentive to maintain the property and increase its value? Was it Alfredo Carrasquillo, homeless advocate? Was it Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn)? Was it Wise Ahadzi? Was it the Bank of America?
No one owns the house.
Except possibly the taxpayer. Everbody else got something for nothing from 702 Rue Vermont and didn’t have to pay for it. If Ahadzi’s home was part of the subprime bubble, maybe he got it for a price he could not ultimately afford. To Carrasquillo it was just another flophouse and he got his. To Councilor Barron, it was a free PR prop. To Occupy it was free PR symbol and a flophouse. To the Bank of America it was a transaction on which they probably made money. The only entity that lost its shirt in the whole deal was the taxpayer.
Ultimately 702 Vermont Street was in the “Commons”. Nobody in particular owned it, excepting the ‘public’ and everybody used it. And therefore it was trashed, suffering the Tragedy of the Commons so familiar to every student of economics. It an example of pure socialism at work and a lesson in why socialism has problems.
When everybody owns something nobody owns it. When everyone is in charge, no one in charge. When everyone is looking into the far distant worker’s paradise, then nobody’s looking.
Adbusters Media Foundation, a Canadian group known for an anti-consumerism magazine, is credited with coining the term “occupy” last summer, but no group wholly dictates what happens.
Instead, Occupy gathers for General Assembly meetings held twice a week in a corner of Zuccotti Park. Members sign up to speak or pitch proposals. The crowd “twinkles their fingers” to support things or wriggles them pointing down to stand against them. Consensus is reached by a sea of dancing fingers.
Those dancing fingers were given hundreds of thousands of dollars, but nobody knows where the money went. Why should anyone care? It all belongs to the Man anyway, right? Responsibility was in the Commons too.
The group would debate endlessly how to use the $700,000 it raised, and even when it would spend some of that money — on bail or food — it would be accused by some members of misappropriation.
A group of 20 actually controls the money but were constantly saying they weren’t the “leaders”.
And yet the public is told that more of the same will improve the state of the nation. That more Occupy means more for the 99%. Why? Because they mean well. Because their moral compass will allow the poor and downtrodden to navigate the arc of history. That is probably true, but to what end? Where does their arc, their Rainbow Bridge lead? Does it connect Asgaard and Earth, like the White House to 702 Rue Vermont? Or is it a bridge to nowhere that is nobody’s home and nobody home.