BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | The leader of an East Village homeless encampment has done his own spin on the Israeli “KIDNAPPED” posters.
Dubbed Anarchy Row, the East Village encampment is currently located beneath a scaffolding at the northeast corner of Ninth Street and First Avenue, outside Performance Space New York. Johnny Grima, an outspoken member of the group, recently posted his own version of the Israeli hostages posters on the venue’s fence and on a traffic control box on the corner.
One of the fliers, with the headline “KIDNAPPED,” refers to more than 88,000 rent-regulated apartments that landlords are currently keeping vacant and off the market. There are also two versions of “WANTED” posters featuring a pair of Ninth Precinct police officers. The homeless men say the officers have unfairly harassed them, making at least one unjustified arrest.
Grima and another member of the encampment, Eduardo, said that cops from the East Village precinct recently cuffed Eduardo — but that he merely had been trying to break up a fight between two other homeless guys.
Anarchy Row was previously located at other locations around the neighborhood, including under a scaffolding outside of the old P.S. 64, the former CHARAS/El Bohio, at 605 E. Ninth St., just east of Tompkins Square Park.
The Village Sun recently dropped by the encampment to deliver some copies of its new November print issue. The newspaper includes a piece by Reverend Billy contrasting Anarchy Row with what the eco-preacher deems the cold, Brutalist architecture of Performance Space New York. The Earthalujah! activist’s column relates how he took Grima to see a show inside the place.
Speaking to the Sun, Grima shared that Anarchy Row has gotten some blowback at its new digs. Basically, they have been periodically pelted with a series of stuff from across the street — thrown from a building, he believes.
“It was eggs,” he said. “Then ice…onions. They stopped for a while. Then eggs again. … Maybe it’s the cops,” he quipped.
This encampment is relatively small, he noted, saying, “We’re holding it down with five people.”
As he spoke, he reclined with bare feet on a cot as a steady stream of pedestrians passed by along the narrow sidewalk. Although he has a strong voice, he would occasionally pause when emergency vehicles with blaring sirens passed by, their flashing lights flickering across his face.
The encampment sports some decorative touches, including a giant marijuana joint stuck in the fence and a pair of boxing gloves propped on its finials. There’s a “Cease Fire” sign, referring to the fraught Middle East conflict triggered by the horrifying Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack and kidnappings, which the original “KIDNAPPING” signs refer to — except the E. Ninth Street sign refers to not just IDF (the Israel Defense Forces) but also NYPD.
As Eduardo read the print version of the Sun with his phone flashlight, Grima held forth about the state of the city’s homeless shelter system. The activist slammed one local place where he stayed, The Andrews, a 146-unit Safe Haven transitional-housing facility at 97 Bowery, run by Breaking Ground. He said, while there, he saw a man with no legs struggle to open a door, and that the staff should have helped him.
In general, Grima said there are many young children and older people in the shelter system and that much more needs to be done to help them.
Asked if he feels more permanently affordable housing should be created for people like him, he said — echoing his own “KIDNAPPED” poster — that vacant units that could be used for that purpose already exist.