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Guide to the Squatters' Collective Oral Histories Project OH.068

Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY, 10012
(212) 998-2630
tamiment.wagner@nyu.edu


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive

Collection processed by Heather Mulliner in consultation with David Olson. Interview descriptions provided by Amy Starecheski.

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on December 03, 2014
English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard.

Container List

Series II: Interviews by Amy Starecheski, 2009-2012

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements note

Audio recordings, images, and transcripts from this series are stored in 176 digital files. Presently, Tamiment Library does not have the technical ability to provide direct access to these materials. Access copies can be made available upon request, but advance notice is required. Please contact the Tamiment Library for assistance in obtaining copies of interviews in this series.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
item: OH068_Morales_07192009_02172012 Frank Morales: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

In the first session, Frank Morales discusses his upbringing on the Lower East Side, his experiences in the 1960s liberation theology and decision to go to seminary, and his early experiences with squatting while working as a priest in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South Bronx. He describes the theory of spatial deconcentration and frames the abandonment of the 1970s as an attack on people of color and squatting as resistance to it. Later he discusses returning to the Lower East Side and squatting in that neighborhood, including losing several buildings to arson. He compares squatting in the Bronx and on the Lower East Side. In the second session, Morales primarily discussed his ideology regarding the value of property and the right to housing. Although not originally involved in the decision to move forward with UHAB and the legalization process, Morales shared his thoughts and feelings about the decision and noted his support for having UHAB as an ally versus antagonistic forces. He also discusses the difficulties of funding the legalization process and the “normalization” of squatting.

Biographical/Historical note

Frank Morales was born in 1949 and grew up in Jacob Riis housing project on New York’s Lower East Side. His father was Puerto Rican and his mother was Peruvian. Although raised Catholic, Frank became interested in Christianity through contact with a chaplain over his conscientious objector status. In 1973 he became an ordained Episcopal minister. Frank spent time in the South Bronx in the late 1970s and in 1985 he returned to the Lower East Side where he was an active squatter and political leader.

Jul 19, 2009, Feb 17, 2012
Box: 1 CD : OH-68-007-01 (Master CD)
Box: 1 CD : OH-68-007-01 (Access CD)
item: OH068_Diallo_07302012 Alfa Diallo: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

Alfa Diallo's interviews discusses his experience living at 544 East 13th Street. He describes opening the building, allocating spaces, and doing renovations. In this interview, Diallo also discusses the split that occurred among residents in his building.

Biographical/Historical note

Alfa Diallo was born in Dakar, Senegal. He went to college in Senegal, then the Sorbonne in Paris, and moved to New York City in the early 1980s. Hanging out on the Lower East Side, he became friends with Rolando Politi, and was introduced to the squatters of East 13th Street. 539 East 13th, the first building opened was full, so he joined a group of people opening a new building across the street at 544 East 13th Street. Diallo worked in construction, and later began selling t-shirts at a flea market and doing administrative work at Cooper Union.

Jul 30, 2012
item: OH068_Cashman_08022012 Bill Cashman: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

In this interview Bill Cashman talks about how he came to squatting through his involvement in the punk scene and discusses the thrill of exploring abandoned buildings in Asbury Park, and a similar feeling on the Lower East Side. Cashman, who ended up living in C-Squat, describes the building's decision to phase out having people live in the basement as they were trying to legalize, and the legalization process overall. He talks about how spaces were allocated and contested in the building. Cashman also describes the conflict between the NYPD, Leftover Crack in 2003, and the increasing challenges of putting on shows in Tompkins Square Park. He describes working on his room and becoming a member of the house. Cashman was deeply involved in the process of finding a tenant, the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Spaces, for the C-Squat storefront, and he talks about that. Cashman also talks about his interest in history and his research into his building’s past.

Biographical/Historical note

Bill Cashman was born in New Jersey in 1982 and was raised by his mother, a nurse, and his grandmother. He was involved in the New Jersey punk scene in Asbury Park and New Brunswick, and started coming to Lower East Side squats for punk shows. He got involved with the band Choking Victim through organizing shows, and came to C-Squat originally as a band member’s roommate.

Access Restrictions

Interview may only be accessed at Tamiment Library.

Aug 2, 2012
item: OH068_Pants_03172012 Brett Pants: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

In this brief interview, Brett Pants talks about how he found himself at C-Squat and how he began squatting at a very early age, starting when he was still attending high school. Pants discusses the manual labor that he and his fellow squatters put into rebuilding C-Squat, as well as the emotional investment that he made in regards to the building and the residents of C-Squat, who he considers family. Pants admits that he never really believed that the legalization process would take place, and at the time of the interview felt very disillusioned and frustrated with what he perceived as UHAB’s lack of progress in the whole process.

Biographical/Historical note

Brett Lebowitz was born in 1973 and grew up in Canarsie, Brooklyn. When he was young he traveled and squatted in various places, but always ended up coming back to New York City. He started living in C-Squat by watching a friend’s space, and when he was 19 he eventually got a space of his own in the building.

Mar 17, 2012
item: OH068_Yafet_07292012 Dan Yafet: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

In this interview, Dan Yafet talks about work days and decisions within the 209 East 7th Street building where he lived. He describes the make-up of the building’s residents at that time, and later talks about the decision to cooperate with UHAB. Yafet also discusses his work with architect Paul Castrucci in helping to get the squatted buildings up to code. He continues to discuss the legalization process and financial issues that the squats faced with UHAB.

Biographical/Historical note

Dan Yafet was born in Pittsburgh in 1956, the son of a Turkish father and an American mother. He grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey and went to college at Rutgers University. Upon finishing his undergraduate education Yafet spent time in the Peace Corps teaching chemistry in Cameroon. When he returned to the United States Yafet got second Bachelor’s degree from City College, and began working at the Environmental Protection Agency, but did not stay at the position for long. In 1987 he went to several meetings of an organization called the New York Nicaraguan Construction, which sent construction crews to Nicaragua. At these meetings he met people from 209 East 7th Street and ended up staying in that building after he returned from working in Nicaragua. In 1988 he got his own apartment in that building. After suffering through fires and conflicts within the building Yafet decided to leave the squatting scene. He later returned to East 7th Street in 1995.

Jul 29, 2012
item: OH068_Boyle_08172012 David Boyle: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

In his interview David Boyle talks about taking over and working on buildings on 13th street, specifically 539 and 544. He played a major role in the organizing and structure of the buildings and the East 13th Street Homesteading Coalition. His interview focuses on adverse possession and he speaks at some length about the process and decision-making regarding legalization. He also talks about the 13th street eviction and the trouble between 544 East 13th and the rest of the buildings on 13th Street.

Biographical/Historical note

David Boyle was born in Richmond Hill, New York. His family moved to New Jersey when he was young, but Boyle later returned to New York to go to the New School. Before he got involved into the homesteading movement he was part the anti-nuclear movement and was a member of the Yippies.

Aug 17, 2012
item: OH068_Rivera_05202012 Edgar Rivera: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

In his interview Edgar Rivera discusses gaining access to a space in Umbrella House, which he contributes to the fact that he was young, strong, and willing to work. He briefly touches on his experience as a minority in Umbrella House and the squatting community in general. He explains the different dynamics between non-native and native English speakers and the dynamics between different Latino groups. He also talks about his disapproval of the deal with UHAB, mostly because he felt there was a lack of transparency.

Biographical/Historical note

Edgar Rivera was born in Colombia and moved to New York to study music at City University of New York. He was introduced to squatting and moved into Umbrella House in 1988 at the age of 22.

May 20, 2012
item: OH068_Rassi_06022012 Eric Rassi: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

During his interview Eric Rassi recalls New York in the early 1980s and the onset of the housing crisis. He recounts series of arson and building demolitions and the Tompkins Square Park Riots in 1988. He also goes into detail about his ideology about property as a commodity and land rights. Rassi expresses his unhappiness with how the UHAB legalization process worked and the issues of financing and debt. He also briefly touches on conflicts within the building on 10th Street where he lived.

Biographical/Historical note

Eric Rassi grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. In the 1970s he traveled around the country, and eventually moved to New York City in 1980. Rassi moved into a squat in 1988 after living in various places and experiencing the increasing rate of rent in the city. Rassi moved between squatted spaces, often being forced to move by fires and building evictions, and eventually settled at 10th Street, where he lived at the time of the interview.

Jun 2, 2012
item: OH068_Williams_04012012 Erin Williams: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

Erin Williams describes the ending of the squatting scene and the acceleration of gentrification until a tipping point around 2007. She moved into C-Squat around 1999 and describes her first impressions of Alphabet City as surprisingly green but still just starting to gentrify. She talks about the social world of squatting and C-Squat particularly, over the past 13 years. Williams discusses gender relations and allocation of space in the building, and talks about the legalization process and the changes and challenges that came with it. Williams, who studied archeology at Brooklyn College, describes her decisions that led her to seek an education, and later her decision to not continue pursuing an academic career. She began working IT and accounting at a publishing company, and she discusses how squatting and legalization shaped her choices in life. She also discusses how she learned construction skills and built her apartment.

Biographical/Historical note

Erin Williams was born and raised in northern Vermont in 1979, and was the child of back to the landers. As a teenager she was into punk rock and at age 17 she left Vermont for Montreal. In 1999, after travelling for a few years, she settled in New York City and was voted into C-Squat after living there with a friend.

Apr 1, 2012
item: OH068_Luck_08282012 Fran Luck: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

In this interview Fran Luck describes the Tompkins Square Riots of 1988 as the events that radicalized her and brought her into contact with the squatting scene. She discusses the contrast between the squatting movement and Cooper Square and the Village Independent Democrats, with which she had been involved previously. She describes the squatter’s political analysis, emphasizing planned spatial deconcentration and framing gentrification as genocide and the growing connections between organized homeless people and squatters. Luck moved to the Lower East Side in the 1960s and describes the neighborhood as a bohemian enclave, and the process of gentrification starting in the 1970s. In this interview Luck also talks about the squats in the 1990s, focusing on how they were organized, their politics, and problems with bullying, domestic violence, and sexism. She focuses on the sexism in the political wing of the movement and the dynamics of anarchism and communism. Luck also talks about the feminist radio show she hosted on Steal This Radio, which later moved to WBAI. Finally she discusses evictions (8th Street, 13th Street, ABC Community Center, Doc Blocos) and the process of legalization.

Biographical/Historical note

Fran Luck is a longtime housing activist and supporter of the squatting movement. She was raised in a lower-middle class Jewish family in New York City and came to the Lower East Side while she was a Cooper-Union student in the early 1960s. Luck worked in typography and became involved in the Second-wave feminist movement. She lived in a small apartment in the Lower East Side since the 1970s, and was not able to move because she could not find affordable housing elsewhere. Luck describes the neighborhood as a bohemian enclave, and the process of gentrification starting in the 1970s. In that environment of decentralized authority, she began organizing demonstrations, although she was viewed with suspicion as an older woman not involved in the squatting lifestyle. Luck organized the Lower East Side Squatting Support Committee to rally the support of respected organizations for squatters. She also describes the power squatters and their allies had in the aftermath of the Tompkins Square Riot. Luck was part of the second six-week occupation of ABC Community Center and describes her experience of that, particularly the misogyny of some occupiers and conflicts between communists and anarchists. After that occupation she started anti-gentrification organizing, founding RAGE ON - Revolt Against Gentrification Erasing Our Neighborhood.

Aug 28, 2012
item: OH068_DannGeoff_05232012 Geoff Dann: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

In this interview Geoff Dann talks a lot about the difference between the neighborhood when he first moved into the Lower East Side and the neighborhood in 2012. He expresses nostalgia for how free and dangerous the neighborhood was in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He also talks about the decision-making process within Umbrella house, how people were given spaces in the squat, and how people were evicted from the building. Dann expresses his dislike for what he sees as the overly political attitudes and actions of his fellow squatters and of the legalization process.

Biographical/Historical note

Geoff Dann was born and raised near Madison, Wisconsin. In July 1989 he moved to New York City where he immediately got an apartment in Umbrella House.

May 23, 2012
item: OH068_Marco_06122012 George Marco: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

In his interview, George Marco talks about his experience moving from one squat to another and then away from New York City. He also talks about his ideas about squatting, or homesteading as he prefers to call it, which are pro-legalization. He discusses his priorities in a building, which focus on getting the gas, heat, water and electricity turned on immediately. At 4th Street he and several other people quickly brought the building up to code, took legal action and became owners of the building, after which Marco sold his space in the building. Marco believes this should be the objective of all squatters but acknowledges that there are different objectives and different personalities within the movement.

Biographical/Historical note

George Marco was born and raised in New York City, predominately in the Hell’s Kitchen area. He first went down to hang out on the Lower East Side in the early 1980s and moved into a squat in 1986. When that squat started becoming overtaken by the drug crowd, Marco moved to Serenity House, which had just opened at the time. Next he spent a brief period of time in Bullet Space and then went back to Serenity and later helped open a squat on 10th Street. After 10th Street he opened and legalized a building on 4th Street, but then quickly sold his space in the building and left New York. Since then he has lived in various places in and out of New York. At the time of the interview he lived with his wife in Pennsylvania, but was planning to move back into the squat on 10th Street. He and his wife are performance artists who work with fire.

Jun 12, 2012
item: OH068_Brandstein_05022012 Howard Brandstein: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

Howard Brandstein's interview discusses his work with different organizations and the evolution of the homesteading and affordable housing movements in New York City. He discusses not-for-profit housing versus for-profit housing. He also comments on the some key differences between homesteading and squatting.

Biographical/Historical note

Howard Brandstein was born in 1953 and grew up in Washington Heights, Manhattan. Brandstein attended Stonybrook University where he did his senior thesis on urban homesteading. In March of 1978 Brandstein began work with the Adopt-a-Building program and from there worked with a variety of other housing organizations.

May 2, 2012
item: OH068_Kaminsky_08252012 Jen Kaminsky: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

This is the second interview Amy Starecheski conducted with Jen Kaminsky. The first covered Kaminsky's personal history and discussed how she ended up working at UHAB, as well as an overview of the squat legalization process, which was not recorded. This session was conducted via Skype video call, but only the audio has been recorded. This interview focuses on Kaminsky's observations of how squatters responded to and engaged with the legalization process. She discusses the appropriate role for non-profits like UHAB to play in a squatting campaign, assisting the squatters at their request. She discusses the romanticization of squatting by organizers in Buffalo where she worked most recently, in comparison to the real and difficult experience on the Lower East Side. She also talks about people’s conflicted feelings about commodifying their housing and commercial spaces and the city’s role, as the original legal owner of the buildings, in shaping the parameters of the legalization deal. She talks about warehousing and evictions in the legalizing squats. Kaminsky also discusses the challenges faced by the most marginal people during the legalization process, and the ways that people’s responses to the process varied along class and gender lines, especially in terms of leadership. Additionally Kaminsky discusses the risk of foreclosure of HDFCs.

Biographical/Historical note

Jenifer Kaminsky is an urban planner whose work focuses on community development and creation of affordable housing. At the time this interview was recorded, she resided in Buffalo, New York, where she served as Housing Director for the Buffalo Neighborhood Stabilization Co. (BNSC), the housing development arm of People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH). In this capacity, she has led BNSC’s efforts to create high quality, green affordable housing on Buffalo’s West Side and reclaim vacant lots as opportunities for storm water management and community green space. From 2007-2011 she was Senior Project Manager at the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB), where the Lower East Side squat legalization was one of her major projects.

Aug 25, 2012
item: OH068_Hall_08142012 Jessica Hall: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

Jessica Hall discusses the difficult process of getting a space in the building where she lived at 209 East 7th Street, everyday life in squats, and her run-in with Child Protective Services. As the secretary for the building she talks about decision-making processes and the shift over time from construction work to administrative work. She was deeply involved in the legalization process and talks about the negotiations with UHAB, and in particular the debates over debt and resale value. As a homemaker, Hall talks about the impact of that on her life choices and her decision to go back to school to become a social worker. Finally, she talks about what the gender dynamics and everyday life in the building have been like in recent years.

Biographical/Historical note

Jessica Hall grew up in rural Maine. She moved to New York City to study theater at New York University, fell in love and started a family. In 1995 Hall was an activist and stay at home mom, living on Avenue A and struggling to pay the rent, when her family decided to move into a squatted building at 209 East 7th Street. A few years after her family moved into the squat, she became the building's secretary. She was also a homemaker and later went back to school to pursue a career as a social worker.

Aug 14, 2012
item: OH068_Coast_08112012 Johnny Coast: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

In his interview Johnny Coast discusses witnessing the legalization process from the perspective of a relative outsider (he was not a full member of the building until after the process was already underway). He talks about the unique way that he got access to his apartment and the back-and-forths that happened with him and other rooms and other buildings. Coast’s interview contains a lot of insight about the rules of squatting and how things changed with the legalization of the buildings.

Biographical/Historical note

Johnny Coast was born in Olean, New York. His family moved to Denver, where he grew up. He was an activist from a young age and was introduced to squatting in 1996 when he first came to New York. He bounced around between different squats and different cities until he landed his own apartment in C-Squat. He also started his own business making and repairing bicycles.

Aug 11, 2012
item: OH068_VanAbbema_04042012 Lawrence Van Abbema: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

In his interview Lawrence talks about the reasons why people end up squatting. He recounts his role in fighting against the eviction of 13th Street and his involvement in the punk rock scene, which had a lot of influence on his work as an artist. He also discusses the legalization process and his reasons for favoring the legalization of his building.

Biographical/Historical note

Lawrence Van Abemma was born in 1962 and raised in the Midwest. As a youth he moved around frequently, living and attending school in several different states. He moved to New York City from Minneapolis after dropping out of college to pursue a career as an artist. In 1989 he moved into a space in Umbrella House.

Apr 4, 2012
item: OH068_DeDominicis_08302012 Marisa DeDominicis: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

Marissa DeDominicis describes her initial involvement with a group organizing to occupy vacant buildings, and their entry into 539 East 13th Street. She discusses her move to 544 East 13th Street following a fire at 539. In this interview she talks about her deteriorating relationship with the father, conflicts over the apartment, and the overall deterioration of social relations in the building. She describes her experiences as a single mom and the challenges of negotiating a custody battle as a squatter. DeDominicis describes the process of negotiating the legalization deal, and her disappointment that people wanted to sell for market rate, and her decision to leave 544.

Biographical/Historical note

Marisa DeDominicis was born in 1962 in Beacon, New York. She grew up in a working class family . She moved to NYC in 1983 and became involved with community gardens and squats on the Lower East Side. She moved into a squat at 539 East 13th Street through her involvement with an activist group that was organizing to occupy vacant buildings. DeDominicis moved into a squat at 544 East 13th Street following a fire at 539. She had a baby in 544 in 1988, and continued to live in the building until 2003.

Aug 30, 2012
item: OH068_DannMarta_01232012_04122012 Marta Dann: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Access Restrictions

Interview may only be accessed at Tamiment Library until the year after 2020. After that time, this interview may be accessed by researchers outside the library.

Scope and Content Note

In this interview Marta Dann describes the intense community formed by squatters struggling to live in difficult circumstances together, and the challenges of dealing with issues of race, class and gender. She discusses the birth of her son, and her experience of raising a child in a squat. She also talks about how the building has changed over time, becoming more individualistic and rule-bound, especially with legalization.

Biographical/Historical note

Marta Dann was born in Portugal and came to the United States in the mid-1980s. She worked as a nanny in New Jersey and later moved to New York City. After nearly becoming homeless, she moved into Umbrella House in 1989, shortly after the building opened.

Jan 23, 2012, Apr 12, 2012
item: OH068_Clayton_06102012_06142012 Nigel Clayton: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

During the first session of the interview Nigel Clayton talks about the shoddy construction UHAB did on his apartment and all of the trouble he had with UHAB and with the legalization process. During the second session Clayton discusses his connection to the Lower East Side and why he choose to be homeless there instead of find an apartment anywhere else in the city. He attributes his loyalty to the East Side to its singular vibe and to the music scene. He also talks about his experience as one of the few black people involved in the squatting scene and the difficulty of maintaining a space in an apartment if you were a minority. Nigel also shares his thoughts and feelings about the legalization process and specifically, how complicated and unfair he found the UHAB legalization process. Nigel ends the interview talking about his daily life and his routine and his objectives of getting a job in radio.

Biographical/Historical note

Nigel Clayton was born in 1968 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He originally came to New York City to work for Chrysalis Records in 1988. Nigel was homeless when he came to New York and bounced between staying in squatted buildings and living on the streets. Eventually, a friend invited him to share a room at Dos Blockos. Nigel lived at Dos Blockos from 1991 to 1998, when the entire building was evicted. After being homeless again for a short while, Nigel was offered a fully furnished space in Serenity House.

Jun 10, 2012, Jun 14, 2012
item: OH068_Osiris_09152012 Osiris: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

In this interview Osiris (pseudonym) discusses his process of deciding to move into Umbrella House, knowing it was a squat and a space with no water, heat, or windows. He moved into Umbrella house sometime around 2000, thinking it was temporary, and a better option than imposing on friends. Osiris discusses his shift in thinking about his place when he found out about the legalization deal. He also talks about the process of getting and renovating his space. He talks about the stigma of living in a squat and the politics and morality of squatting. Osiris describes the meetings and governance of the building. He also describes the liberating experience of having affordable housing and talks about how the building chooses new members.

Biographical/Historical note

Osiris (a pseudonym) is Chinese American, from the Bay Area. He attended University of California Berkeley, had a background in design, and renovated three rental apartments before he began squatting. He started living in Umbrella House in 2000.

Sep 15, 2012
item: OH068_Spagnuolo_03272011 Peter Spagnuolo: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

Peter Spagnuolo describes the social and physical structures of the squats. He also discusses the heroin cultures in the Bay Area and New York City in the 1980s. Spagnulo was deeply involved in the adverse possession suit filed against the city in 1994-95, and talks about that process in detail. He also discusses his archiving practices in this interview.

Biographical/Historical note

Peter Spagnuolo was born in 1965 and lived in seven different places before he was 18. He saw the Ramones in a strip mall in Long Island in 1979 and spent his high school years coming into the New York City to hang out, do acid in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and explore the Lower East Side. While studying poetry at the University of California Berkeley he became addicted to heroin and moved into a squat. He moved back to New York, worked full time at the Strand Book Store, and in 1988 moved into a squat on East 13th Street after losing his apartment in Williamsburg.

Mar 27, 2011
item: OH068_Popeye_04172012_06032012 Popeye: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

In this interview Popeye (Roland Llewellyn-Thomas) describes the transitions of counter-culture movement in the Lower East Side from the Beats and hippies and the Young Lords of the 1970s and solitary, curmudgeonly squatters to the more organized, whiter activists, and crusty punks squatting in the 1980s and 1990s. He also describes the life cycle of a squat, and life at C-Squat in the early days. He discusses gender and power dynamics at C-Squat. Popeye was the lead singer of the band Banji, and he discusses how squatting allowed him to stay in music even though it did not become a source of income for him. He describes the transition at C-Squat from a mixed group, with lots of Hungarians and other Europeans, to all young crusty punks, and how the group learned over time to work together as a collective. Finally, he talks about the legalization process and his experiences of becoming a homeowner.

Biographical/Historical note

Popeye (Roland Llewellyn-Thomas) was raised in Toronto by a British scientist father and an American mother. He had a privileged upbringing, but was not wealthy. He came to New York City in 1975, after seeing a photo in the paper of CBGBs. He became a stripper in Times Square, and ended up experiencing the early days of punk rock, through the white downtown scene. He also experienced the early stages of hip hop, through the black and Puerto Rican scene he was involved with through hustling. He also worked as a bike messenger for fifteen years. He started squatting in the late 1980s at 327-29 8th Street, which burned down. Later he lived in a shack on the roof of Fetus, which also burned down.

Apr 17, 2012, Jun 3, 2012
item: OH068_Klemann_07132012 Rick Klemann: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

Rick Klemann describes the process of getting an apartment at 544 East 13th Street, his work renovating the space, and getting water, electricity, and new windows for the building. He also talks about racialized conflicts with local teens, and the racial and gender dynamics of the squats. Klemann also discusses the legalization deal, critiques of it, and the split in his building which prevented them from moving forward.

Biographical/Historical note

Rick Klemann was born in Washington, DC in 1960 and grew up in a middle class, but integrated, neighborhood. He moved to New York City in 1979 to join the art scene. In 1985 he moved into 544 East 13th Street, where he still lived as of 2012. In the late 1980s he began painting custom guitars and drums for rock bands. He most recently worked repairing generators and air conditioners.

Jul 13, 2012
item: OH068_Politi_12112010 Rolando Politi: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

In his interview Rolando Politi discusses his role as a representative and the challenges of trying to work with the community. He also talks about the difficulties that arose as factions in the buildings began to disagree and argue. His interview contains a number of good stories about opening and working on buildings on 13th Street. Politi moved around several times because he never got very attached to a specific apartment or building. He also offers insight into the differences between European squatting and squatting in the United States.

Biographical/Historical note

Rolando Politi was born and raised in Naples, Italy and was involved with social work and housing throughout Europe, especially Germany, during the 1970s and 1980s. He came to New York in 1980 and moved between different squats. In April of 1984, Politi, along with several other people, took over 539 E. 13th Street. Politi was active in the East 13th Street Homestead Coalition and served as a representative at Community Board meetings.

Dec 11, 2010
item: OH068_Cohen_08152012 Stanley Cohen: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski and Fly Orr

Scope and Content Note

In this interview, Stanley Cohen discusses his participation in legally assisting the squatter’s movement. He speaks in detail about the 13th Street Adverse Possession case, for which he was the lead trial lawyer. Although Cohen and the squatters initially won the case, the ruling was overturned in the appeal process and the 13th Street squats were consequently evicted. Cohen talks about the difficulties of proving adverse possession. Cohen also discusses other legal action he was involved in, such as the conflict over fire barrels in Tompkins Square Park and defending squatters who got arrested at protests.

Biographical/Historical note

Stanley Cohen is a well-known activist lawyer who started his career doing criminal defense work with Legal Aid Society in the South Bronx, and has been working on the Lower East Side since the late-1980s. He has defended many squatters arrested during evictions, and is perhaps most well-known for defending people accused of terrorism and Lynne Stewart, a lawyer found guilty of providing material support to terrorists.

Aug 15, 2012
item: OH068_Bilsted_01162012_02152012 Tauno Biltsted: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

Tauno Biltsted describes the “chaotic and lovely” world of the Lower East Side in the 1980s, and how he got involved with squatting through the encampment at Tompkins Square Park. He moved into C-Squat in 1989, and describes the social and physical makeup of the building at that time, including drug use, decision-making, and the creation of the basement show space. He discusses the ABC Community Center occupation, and the complicated relationships between Tent City and the squatters, and homesteaders and squatters. He also talks about his experience living in Umbrella House. He describes the politics, organization, and physical condition of Umbrella House over the next 20 years, including rebuilding the infrastructure of the space, issues around race, record-keeping, and allocation of spaces. He discusses eviction defense, including 13th Street, and the legalization process, beginning with meetings in the early 1990s that did not lead to an agreement on legalization. Biltsted was deeply and consistently involved in the legalization process, and he discusses debates over resale value and affordability and the challenges of dealing with ownership.

Biographical/Historical note

Tauno Biltsted was born in 1970 in Copenhagen, Denmark, to a Danish father and a Turkish/Canadian mother, and grew up in a hippie neighborhood in Vancouver. At age 13 his family returned to Copenhagen in search of work, and two years later they moved to East 3rd Street in New York. As a teenager he was into punk rock music and culture, and while in Copenhagen he was involved with the squatting scene there. In 1989 Biltsted moved into C-Squat in 1989 following the Tompkins Square riots. It was mostly young people, but not yet all punk rock, and included expatriate Hungarians. He was interested in taking over spaces and people running them as models for how to live in community. Biltsted later went to Europe to experience the squatting scene there in 1991-1992, and when he returned to New York he was voted into Umbrella House.

Jan 16, 2012, Feb 15, 2012
item: OH068_Umpster_12142010 Thadeaus Umpster: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

In this interview Thadeaus Umpster discusses the many different squatted buildings he lived in, and his experience opening up several buildings (including in other parts of New York and other cities across the country) that lasted on average six months to two years. Umpster discusses his political involvements, especially with the organization Food Not Bombs, and the ways in which his activist work intertwined with the squatting scene. He also discusses squatting in the Bronx at Casa del Sol. Umpster also goes into detail about the difference between his perspective on squatting and that of the “old-school” squatters and squatters involved in the UHAB deal. The interview ends with a conversation about the economy, the recent recession and what it might mean for those attempting to reenergize the squatting movement.

Biographical/Historical note

Thadeaus Umpster was born in Boston in 1981 and grew up on the South Shore. He remembers his first introduction to homesteading as a documentary video on homesteaders in Alaska that he saw in Junior High. In High School Umpster began listening to punk rock music which heavily influenced his political and ideological thinking. In 1999 he came to New York City to get involved in the punk and squatting scenes there.

Dec 14, 2010
item: OH068_Freedom_08102012 Joanee Freedom: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

In this interview Joanee Freedom talks about the nineteen-year rent strike and lawsuit in her building on 6th Street and Avenue B and about her work with the garden on the corner. Freedom also tells the story of opening the squat at 544 East 13th Street and discusses gentrification in the neighborhood. She talks about Steal this Radio, the Rainbow Trading Post and Everything for Everybody, and about underground non-profit food distribution networks in the 1970s. She also discusses consensus-based decision making in these contexts. Freedom remembers the Tompkins Square Park riots and the drug scene in the neighborhood and the struggles between squatters and gardeners and drug dealers.

Biographical/Historical note

Joanee Freedom is from New Jersey and came to New York City in 1980 after a period of living on communes and travelling with the Rainbow Family. She was originally involved with the Yippies and 9 Bleecker in New York City. Through her roommate, David Boyle, she got connected with the homesteading/squatting movement and was involved with the buildings on 7th Street between Avenues C and D and on 13th Street in the early to mid-1980s. After a serious car accident she was unable to participate in the physical labor of squatting.

Aug 10, 2012
item: OH068_Wrigley_01262012_02212012 Maggie Wrigley: Oral History Interview by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

Maggie Wrigley's interview describes the beauty and brutality of New York and the Lower East Side in the 1980s. Wrigley, who lived at Bullet Space, describes doing work days, being voted in at a meeting, and discusses how the squatter made decisions about allocating space over time. She describes the cold of those first winters, the violent atmosphere, doing work on the building, and the community of squatters and supporters. She also describes both tense and friendly relationships with their neighbors on the block. Wrigley talks about the 13th Street evictions, the defense of Umbrella House, and defending their building with barricades and petitions from the city and from non-profit housing groups. Wrigley discusses how squatters were demonized, and how they proved their good intentions by securing permanent affordable housing in the neighborhood. She also discusses her archives – why she made them, what they contain, and how she has used them. Bullet Space has historically been an artists’ building, and she discusses its evolution as such, and art projects done there over the years, including Steal This Radio and Your House is Mine. Wrigley talks about how the building was run, and how it has changed with legalization. She describes the health impacts of living in a squat. Finally, Wrigley discusses the legalization process, and the challenges of dealing with UHAB and becoming homeowners, including negotiations with Margarita Lopez.

Biographical/Historical note

Maggie Wrigley was born in Brisbane, Australia in 1958, and grew up in Sydney. Her father was a chemist and her mother was a teacher. After briefly attending art school she left Australia to go travelling, and stayed in San Francisco for a year, living in a punk rock warehouse and working in a punk rock club. She intended to only visit New York for a while in 1984, but felt instantly at home and decided to stay in the city where she worked in night clubs. In the winter of 1987 Wrigley started squatting at Bullet Space, after paying rent for a place in Williamsburg that had no heat or water.

Jan 26, 2012, Feb 21, 2012
item: OH068_Bartelt_12182010 Johanna Bartelt: Oral History by Amy Starecheski

Scope and Content Note

In this interview Johanna Bartlet talks about her experience as a squatter and discusses some of hardships of living in the cold and dusty squats. She describes what the neighborhood and the art scene were like she arrived and how it changed over time. She discusses the class and gender dynamics of the squats and in particular the macho atmosphere and conflicts between artists and housing activists. She also talks the legalization and renovation process and the shifting power dynamics in the building. In this interview Bartlet describes her art and she her more recent work teaching art to young people. She also talks about the strains and the security of life in a legalized squat.

Biographical/Historical note

Johanna Bartelt grew up in a poor neighborhood in Toronto, which she was pushed out of when it gentrified. She struggled with drugs and alcohol in her twenties and moved to New York City at the age of 30 in 1985. She came to Bullet Space, a squat known for its population of artists, through Peter Missing. Bartlet remained in the squats throughout the legalization process and has taken on bookkeeping work. Bartlet is also an artist and teaches art to young students.

Dec 18, 2010

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