COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT  4:40 pm November 21, 2011

Vacant DC Building Claimed As ‘Public Property Under Community Control’

by Ken Layne

Make every day 'May Day.'Everywhere, there is vacant real estate. Vacant storefronts, vacant warehouses, vacant McMansions and barns and especially big-city buildings stuck in some twilight of redevelopment or property speculation or repossession. The collapse of the Great Global Real Estate Bubble may have destroyed a lot of theoretical wealth, but it also left an abundance of places to live, places to build neighborhood gardens and playgrounds, places to be human. There are about six million unoccupied single-family houses in the United States, for instance. It is a moral disgrace that a single human lacks a place to live in this house-heavy country of vacant foreclosures. And, happily, the Occupy movement has begun to take abandoned buildings and return them to the communities. Of course the police are treating this victimless, peaceful use of empty structures as the worst type of felony.

What should be done with a former homeless shelter that was closed by “civic authorities” so that it could be turned into a hotel for K Street lobbyists? To OccupyDC, the answer was self-evident:

Occupy K St./DC liberated the empty, city-owned Franklin School. The school was closed several years ago and initially reopened as a homeless shelter. Despite widespread public opposition, the city government later closed the shelter. Next — in blatant disregard of social safety net programs that are necessary for the very survival of the people who are most directly impacted by economic injustice — announced plans to turn the building either into luxury condos or a hotel for the 1% lobbyists on K St.

In a move similar to other recent building occupations in Oakland, Chapel Hill, New York, and London, dozens of occupiers entered the building with sleeping bags and food and declared their intent to stay indefinitely. Occupy DC announced plans for an open forum to be held at a church next Monday to discuss uses of the building with the public. Inside, they began cleaning the building to make it usable for the community. From the roof, occupiers chanted “We are the 99%!” as others dropped a banner reading “Public Property under Community Control” over the school. Meanwhile, hundreds rallied in support outside.

Public property under community control. In less-wordy times, we would’ve just called it “the commons.” But that’s all right, you go to war with the wordy language you have, not the tersely poetic language you want.

What did the DC police do about this terrible outrage of claiming a vacant building for the people? Oh, the usual. Washington cops shut down several blocks, arrested everybody, and threatened onlookers with felony arrest. Protect and serve, etc.

Is there a vacant eyesore in your neighborhood that could do with a community makeover? Maybe you need a playground for the local kids, or a community garden, or a place to eat popcorn and watch movies with your neighbors on Friday night? Well call a locksmith (they do take cash) or do the work yourself, and do your part to make America beautiful. Christ knows it needs the help! [OccupyWallStreet]

 
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{ 98 comments }

nounverb911 November 21, 2011 at 4:42 pm

"Vacant DC Building Claimed As ‘Public Property under Community Control’"
The Capitol Building? No one seems to be using it either.

memzilla November 21, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Beat me by that much.

hagajim November 21, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I think they are using it – for farting contests or some such bullshit.

Terry November 21, 2011 at 5:02 pm

They use it as a mailing address at which they receive their checks from the Koch brothers.

dadanarchist November 21, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Amen.

I've long advocated transforming the building into something useful, like a homeless shelter or a trash dump.

As it stands now, it's the world's most elaborate jerkoff shack.

BaldarTFlagass November 21, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Hell, you can buy a hotel down on Baltic Avenue for only 200 smackeroos.

Schmegeg November 21, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Heck you can buy a REAL hotel on Boardwalk for a little more than this.

BaldarTFlagass November 21, 2011 at 4:45 pm

"Well call a locksmith or do the work yourself,"

Locked door, meet my friend, 8-pound sledge hammer.

Master Janitor V572 November 21, 2011 at 5:01 pm

We call that a "master key system."

philpjfry November 21, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Can't the poors find someplace else to eat their hobo beans? Lobbiests need a place to sleep too after their busy day of screwing the 99%. What do they think this country is fair or compassionate or something?

sati_demise November 21, 2011 at 4:45 pm

DC just wants them to get a corporate sponsor first.

They should have put Exxon, Verizon or Nike on that banner, then they would be allowed to stay..

memzilla November 21, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Can't decide whether homeless encampments should be called "Boehnervilles" or "Cantortowns." I do know that you can find "Boehner" in the dictionary, right between "bastard" and "bulls**t."

hagajim November 21, 2011 at 4:55 pm

That's cause that bastard is full of bullshit.

jus_wonderin November 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Is Cantor in the dictionary? I know, it takes creative alphabetical physics but I bet it would be between cancer and canker.

elviouslyqueer November 21, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Close. He's between "cancer" and "cunt."

flamingpdog November 21, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Don't you think mebbe they have a few spare bedrooms at the White House? Pretty big digs there.

Master Janitor V572 November 21, 2011 at 4:50 pm

All right, all right, Ken — I'll rent your vacant house. How much a month do you want, and how big a security deposit do you need?

paris biltong November 21, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Plenty of vacant premises here in Paris, some them quite spiffy. Many get taken over by "des squatters" on a fairly regular basis. The rule is that the authorities cannot kick anyone out of where they live – lawfully or otherwise – from October 15 to March 15, or thereabouts, as it is considered too cold to sleep under the legendary bridges during the winder months.

memzilla November 21, 2011 at 4:54 pm

"Des squatters?" Morticia! That's French!

prommie November 21, 2011 at 4:56 pm

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids both the rich and the poor from sleeping under bridges."

Ken Layne November 21, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Always amazed me that European cities have variations of this rule, written or unwritten, and winters are generally a lot tamer than they are on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. We are a nation of motherfucking scumbags — or, we've let them decide everything for, uh, hundreds of years ….

prommie November 21, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Our national character traits are resentful, mean, and truculent. Mean, in the older sense of cheap, miserly, and nasty in general.

Here in Amurrica you won't find us coddling our hobos by letting them sleep in abandoned buildings, oh no, here in Amurrica our youths actually engage in the sport hunting down and beating up hobos.

Gleem_McShineys November 21, 2011 at 8:05 pm

I have that video!
(It was a gift, honest)

paris biltong November 21, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Speak for yourself, Ken, some of my best friends are Americans. Meanwhile I believe this is one of the differences between a market system and a social model.

coolhandnuke November 21, 2011 at 4:53 pm

This disorganized community (OWS) is really starting to get their squat together. Now if only another Community Organizer (a few blocks away) could get his shit together.

snoopyfan2010 November 21, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Oh no you didn't! That was his first real job anyway.

Monsieur_Grumpe November 21, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Dibs on an abandoned Wal-Mart.

flamingpdog November 21, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Dibs on an occupied™ Wal-Mart.

widestanceshakedown November 21, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Don't do it. Even the land itself is now tainted. Only cleansing fire can redeem it.

elviouslyqueer November 21, 2011 at 5:07 pm
Monsieur_Grumpe November 21, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Wal-Mart is kind of like a nasty virus.

flamingpdog November 21, 2011 at 6:43 pm

In my town of residence, they tore out the wall between an abandoned Wal-Mart and the adjacent abandoned Albertsons grocery store (Joe Albertson was a Mormon), fixed up the outside a little, and turned into a Church-of-What's-Happening-Now-Jeebus megachurch (alleged membership of 10,000). That has to be some wierd feng shui.

Negropolis November 22, 2011 at 2:01 am

Same thing happened where I live. A Detroit-based Farmer Jack supermarket (which went under in 2007) where I lived had sat empty for years before some megachurch bought it up and renovated it. The neighborhood didn't want it, but the city stopped fighting it after the church threatened to sue.

LiveToServeYa November 21, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Bunch of Commonists.

hagajim November 21, 2011 at 4:53 pm

This is the tragedy of the commons – that it's all for fucking sale. I have an idea, why don't we just start burning all the vacant buildings to the ground….worked in Detroit – sort of.

NickDanger007 November 21, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Seems to be a good place for a guillotine factory.

Monsieur_Grumpe November 21, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Made in USA! Win win.

Numbat_Dundee November 21, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Aren't there torture factories in Northern Viginia? You, know, where they make the things that go buzz on Latin American genitalia. Occupy them and arm the OWS people with interesting buzz things to reply to the next pepper spraying.

TeaNuts November 21, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I say we start Occupying the police stations, after all they appear to be vacant minded, free coffee and donuts for everyone!

flamingpdog November 21, 2011 at 4:55 pm

"I want my Maypole!" [for the oldz at teh Wonkette].

FlownOver November 21, 2011 at 5:03 pm

One of teh oldz rendered duly nostalgic. I miss Marky's cheesy animation style.

SorosBot November 21, 2011 at 4:55 pm

"Of course the police are treating this victimless, peaceful use of empty structures as the worst type of felony. "

Won't you have some compassion for the needs of the real estate speculating slumlords?

Biel_ze_Bubba November 21, 2011 at 7:16 pm

"City-owned", but if the residents of the city try to use it, it's a crime. What's wrong with this picture?

prommie November 21, 2011 at 4:55 pm

When you occupy a vacant building and return it to community control, they call that a "crackhouse."

schvitzatura November 22, 2011 at 5:52 am

Yeah, we takin' over the Carter. We gon' bum rush the whole damn thing.

prommie November 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Fuck C'addle. I am sick of this PNW "hipper than thou" tone from youse.

jus_wonderin November 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Prommie, may I get you a refill while I am up?

prommie November 21, 2011 at 5:09 pm

Pack a bowl.

weejee November 21, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Yikes! Sorry, that was not the intent.

littlebigdaddy November 21, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Needz moar anarcho-syndicalism!

ttommyunger November 21, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Needz moar golf courses and country clubs.

johnnyzhivago November 21, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Nope, oversupply I hear! Not enough new millionaires!

ttommyunger November 21, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Well, in truth, sarcasm was my intent.

flamingpdog November 21, 2011 at 6:32 pm

♪ Here's to the new millionaires – same as the old millionaires. ♪

Pres.Libunatic November 21, 2011 at 7:30 pm

There's a country club/golf course complex on my commute to work that went bankrupt a few years after the foreclosures started and people couldn't keep paying their dues with their credit cards. Over the past year I have watched the once perfectly manicured greens and fairways visible from the road go back to nature. It's really quite beautiful now – tall grasses, wildflowers, deer – almost like one of those "After Man" teevee specials.

ttommyunger November 21, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Sounds good to me.

BarackMyWorld November 21, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Why isn't the invisible hand of the market lowering the prices of these properties to the point where people can afford them and live in them?

Haha, I'm only kidding. We all know market forces go out the window as soon as the needs of financial institutions aren't being met.

Numbat_Dundee November 21, 2011 at 5:14 pm

It is lowering the prices. But because it's invisible, no-one's noticed and they're mistakenly valuing them too highly. I have the same problem with my porn-star sized invisible genitalia, the girls just don't have faith in me when I tell them about it.

Biel_ze_Bubba November 21, 2011 at 7:17 pm

"Valuing too highly," except when they're selling to Wall Street speculators for a dime on the dollar (and a piece of the action.)

ttommyunger November 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm

OT: Did you know that every time a newbie hits their first golf ball a Demon gets his fucking wings?

Biel_ze_Bubba November 21, 2011 at 7:18 pm

This is actually true.

slowhansolo November 21, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Bushwood is not for sale, and I never slice.

sbj1964 November 22, 2011 at 12:26 am

Nice caddy shack ref. !

SayItWithWookies November 21, 2011 at 5:01 pm

So it's okay if a building is an abandoned, useless eyesore — right up until someone wants to do something with it. Or, I guess, the real indignity is that they want to do something with it for free — that's a real outrage to our capitalist absolutist overlords.

johnnyzhivago November 21, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Occupy K Street???? Fuck, how about DRONE STRIKE ON K STREET!!!!!!

sati_demise November 21, 2011 at 9:20 pm

I'm in.

Blueb4sunrise November 21, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Which of these places has broadband?

johnnyzhivago November 21, 2011 at 5:05 pm

I always knew mobile would exceed the wired internet – and with a nation of hobos, my predictions will come true even faster!!!

jus_wonderin November 21, 2011 at 5:14 pm

I fear the national game "telephone" that will inevitiably become the common communication. The message will travel the actual airwaves from DC to Oakland, but we can't insure what message will come out on the other side.

Though, we still have Hobo chalk and fence markings.

DahBoner November 22, 2011 at 8:34 am

Even if they did have BB, you still need to ration data to stay below 4Giga month…

DerrickWildcat November 21, 2011 at 5:04 pm

YES! I do want better broadband! I will write to congress about it!

Blueb4sunrise November 21, 2011 at 5:06 pm

nyah nyah

DerrickWildcat November 21, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Oops, I posted this on the wrong article.

ifthethunderdontgetya November 21, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Is there a vacant eyesore in your neighborhood that could do with a community makeover?

I'll take the Ohio Statehouse for $500, Alex.
~

Biel_ze_Bubba November 21, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Gracie Mansion needz some love.

elviouslyqueer November 21, 2011 at 5:10 pm

OT (again, and apologies), but in today's second installment of "Water is Wet," University research shows that watching Fox News makes you stupid and uninformed.

Mumbletypeg November 21, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Hmm, very clever, these Occupy K street ninjas rehab'ing old Franklin School. Prudent, too. Whereas the gimlet-eyed Tea Partiers might throw a hissy over shared use of "Taking our country back" etc. — somehow I doubt they'll run interference within spitting distance of an institution of learning.

DahBoner November 22, 2011 at 8:32 am

Unfortunately, the country the baggers want to take back is Germany, 1930's…

not that Dewey November 21, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Occupiers are gonna have to gonna have to duke it out with the Land Banks, who would prefer just to make money selling vacant buildings to be demolished. This way there's no risk of poor people living in them. You wouldn't want people to live in affordable housing, now would you?

DahBoner November 22, 2011 at 8:31 am

Sounds Utopian!

Negropolis November 23, 2011 at 12:42 am

I don't know. Where I live, the vast majority of land banked homes are actually renovated and resold, and this is in a rustbelt city with a weak housing market. I guess not all land banks are created equally.

not that Dewey November 23, 2011 at 12:57 am

Maybe NPR was trying to make them look bad? Dunno. I hadn't heard of the process before, and I was quite appalled when I heard the NPR story. Here were houses that could be bought for $5k, but only if people aren't allowed to live in them? One would think it wouldn't be so different in northern Ohio versus southern Michigan.

Hmm. [scratches chin]

Callyson November 21, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Is there a vacant eyesore in your neighborhood that could do with a community makeover?
Well, DC is not my neighborhood, but the House of Representatives could use a good community makeover. Ditto for 200 West Street in NYC.

Nothingisamiss November 21, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Ken your recent novel is coming true.

Btw, I have family in the Victorville/Joshua tree area, and that place was well cast as a fucking wasteland.

owhatever November 21, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Dear Acme Pepper Spray, Inc.
They've gone all Maypole on us and we may can't hold out much longer. Please increase production.
Thank you, the Police.

cc: Commander, XX Corps, 3/5 National Guard (Heavy)

lochnessmonster November 21, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Maybe they could set-up a few cots for the congress ppl who use their offices as apartments at the taxpayer's expense, rather than finding a real place to live in DC.

Neoyorquino November 21, 2011 at 6:40 pm

If I don't find a new job in the next couple of months, I may crawl inside a bottle of tequila.

Chet Kincaid November 21, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Artsy farts did this in Berlin in the '80s, squatting to take over the old Nazi Film Studios and create the ufaFabrik, now a world-renowned center of arts, music and creativity.
http://www.ufafabrik.de/en/nav.php?pid=44

snoopyfan2010 November 21, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Again, call me Ms. Cynical but you would have though that this type of activity would have served us better under the Shrub. How convenient that everyone is at their wits end while we have someone else in office. I would have sincerely paid to see this happen ten years ago, because there were homeless people around then too.

Negropolis November 22, 2011 at 2:14 am

Yeah, and there are now more of them. Go figure, right?

Perhaps, you forgot that the economy kind of collapsed, totally, in the latter part of 2008? Not that everything is going swimmingly before then, but that really was something new, a real shock to the system. And, maybe you're kind of missing the point of the protest. It's not against a president, at least not singularly, it's a protest that's arisen against a system whose faults have been laid totally bare.

I couldn't care less when this was happening so long as it's fuckin' finally happening. We've got more to worry about than some singular politician's future.

snoopyfan2010 November 22, 2011 at 6:29 am

So what you mean is that most of us were able to ignore poverty back then. Got it. What would Jimmy Carter say?

Negropolis November 23, 2011 at 12:40 am

If you don't get how an economic collapse is a shock that will open people's eyes to long simmering inequalities, that's your own cognitive problem.

sati_demise November 21, 2011 at 9:23 pm

The Banks didn't stick us up until 2008 in the late summer, so that accounts for the lag time.

Pat_Pending November 21, 2011 at 11:37 pm

I'm here in Silly-Con Valley, and I've been seriously considering an Occupy Google movement. They're buying up most of the empty office buildings in Mountain View, and they offshore their tax burden. Yeah, I prefer their search algorithm, but that hardly makes me their slave…

babyeinstein November 22, 2011 at 12:11 am

So many shenanigans with police tape that night. One thing anarchists are always good for is thinking of hilarious police tape jokes.

Negropolis November 22, 2011 at 2:05 am

I'm more partial to "crackden", myself. It sounds…classier. Mayhaps, the suburban, McMansioned forclosures should be called "crack chalets".

DahBoner November 22, 2011 at 8:22 am

Damn hippies squattin' in your mud huts.

Don't you know the highest form of Real Estate Self-Actualization is when you build a skyscraper full of bankers, lawyers or lobbyiests..

HelmutNewton November 22, 2011 at 10:19 am

That's the thing about pigs. Their job isn't to protect ordinary citizens. It's to protect "property". And the more property you own, the more protection you get. And all subsidized by the public that they pepper spray and lock up in jail!

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