The winter rain soaked the crowd as they stepped off the L train
at Livonia Avenue with wrapped gifts and bright balloons tucked
under arms. Only a few miles from Wall Street the devastation of
poverty in East New York, Brooklyn,
one of the poorest neighborhoods in the state, is ubiquitous; foreclosed signs
and vacant houses litter block after block after block.
The 400-person march on foreclosed properties, led by homeless
families and neighborhood residents, began just after 1pm and included local
community groups like VOCAL-NY, Union Healthcare Workers East, Organizing
for Occupation, Picture the Homeless and Take Back
District 42 council member Charles Baron also joined the protesters, who
stopped first at a house on New Jersey Avenue where couches and tables and
toys, torn and crushed and rotting in the wet December air, were the only signs
of a family’s previous life there. Next to the house, an old Jamaican woman
with a cane stood in the rain with a grin that engulfed her round cheeks and a
sign that read “Foreclose on Banks Not People.”
Councilman Baron climbed the stairs of the home to speak. “Banks
take our homes, throw children and the elderly on the streets, then board up
vacant homes while people have nowhere to go,” he said. He motioned for the
crowd to turn around. Across the street, hundreds of little hands, some
clutching homemade signs, were waving from the windows of Thomas Jefferson High School.
As the crowd arrived at a second property, located on Alabama
Avenue, a woman shouted with rage: “I cannot take it anymore! I need to speak!”
The crowd fell silent as she was escorted up the stairs of the abandoned house.
The woman spoke of her inability to eat or sleep because
Deutsche Bank was about to evict her. She said she bought her home in 1997 with
a down payment of $80,000 and a monthly mortgage of $1,500. She worked hard to
raise her son and keep a roof over his head, putting him through Catholic
school and later college. Then he served in Iraq. He was killed there. Her
mortgage was sold and her monthly payment skyrocketed to $3,900.
“What did my son die for?” she yelled as tears streamed down her
face. “My son died for a country that does this to its people! How many
families suffer like me? Don’t give up, Occupy Wall Street! Don’t give up.”
The group’s final destination was a foreclosed property on
Vermont Street, left vacant for three years and now reoccupied by a homeless
family: Alfredo Carrasquillo, Tasha Glasgow and their nine-year-old daughter
and five-year-old son. The house was adorned with green and red holiday décor,
bright balloons and a huge sign that read “Occupied Real Estate.”
The crowd presented the family with gifts including a soccer
ball, a stuffed animal and a houseplant. Then Alfredo climbed a small ladder to
address the onlookers. “This moment is very special,” he said as his eyes
welled with tears and his voice crackled.
Unable to finish his thoughts, Alfredo climbed back down the
ladder and wrapped his arms around his children who would be sleeping, for the
first time in three years, in their own home.