BY DEAN MOSES
The city agency responsible for aiding homeless New Yorkers said Thursday that it’s working to assist destitute vendors who have set up a junk market along 14th Street near First Avenue in the East Village.
Department of Social Services (DSS) Associate Press Secretary Neha Sharma told amNewYork Metro on Oct. 15 that the department regularly dispatches outreach teams to the area, engaging New Yorkers who may be experiencing unsheltered homelessness, and encouraging them to accept services.
Sharma indicated that the DSS would have “a City Agency partner presence” to address the issue, which they have reported to have done three times over the past work week. DSS plans to keep sending outreach teams to try and engage with these individuals and learn more about their living situations, including to determine if they are in fact living unsheltered.
DSS also told amNewYork Metro that anytime the city encounters, learns of, or receives a report about a condition on the street that needs to be addressed, the city addresses it as quickly as possible. Through this process, the agencies are trying to build trust and relationships with the individuals at the East 14th Street location in an effort to encourage them off the streets.
The incursion of unsolicited vendors along East 14th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A has made the area a hub of homelessness, crime, and garbage, according to local businesses and residents. They told amNewYork Metro that very little is being done to combat the issue.
Prior to the pandemic, the only flea market on East 14th Street and First Avenue was run within the property of Immaculate Conception Church. However, when it shut down, individuals who were desperate to earn a quick buck flipped this community staple into a garbage-run free-for-all.
Local business owners, employees, and residents have shared reports of squalor, drug use, and violent individuals overtaking the avenue and transforming it into a hot zone of lewd activity and potentially a COVID-19 risk.
While those in the area claim the NYPD is doing little to quell the unrest, the Police Department rebuffed these accusations in a statement on Wednesday, stating that while they no longer have a Homeless Outreach Unit due to budget cuts, the 9th Precinct is addressing the matter.
In addition to the NYPD, the situation — which has steadily grown in proportion over that past several months — has gained the attention of Council Member Carlina Rivera’s office, who maintain they have urged Immaculate Conception to reopen their original flea market in an effort to bring order to the sidewalk. Her office also states that they have had discussions with the NYPD and city agencies about the matter.