The couple living beneath the FDR drive was evicted Wednesday morning, June 30.
Alex Lively and April Saccoccio — and their two dogs Buddy and Snoopy — were given a rude awakening Wednesday morning when about 17 NYPD officers surrounded their longtime encampment on East 18th Street and Avenue C. Overseen by DOT officials, members of law enforcement instructed the couple that they had to vacate the area due to ongoing construction.
The couple was forced to herd their dogs into a carrier before scrambling to salvage their most valuable items as officers began dismantling their shelter and casting it into the back of a sanitation truck. Saccoccio attempted to pack her suitcase with as much as possible, letting it rest on top of her mattress when officers began carting that away as well, amNewYork Metro observed.
Lively and Saccoccio fought to save clothing and other necessities from the back of the garbage truck as the NYPD continued to mount it in the crusher.
“They threw all my good clothes away and my wallet with all my debit cards, this is what I got now,” Lively told amNewYork Metro, pointing to the shirt on his back.
While Lively wrestled with his belongings, he became visibly shaken. Breathing heavily, he sliced open his finger in the back of the truck. Leaving a trail of blood, he became faint.
“I am having a panic attack,” he said as the loud clanks and bangs from officers dismantling and tossing their items echoed beneath the bridge.
While the majority of the belongings they had been gifted by local residents were destroyed, the few suitcases they retrieved were taken to a police lockup where they are said to be retrievable — if they are not “contaminated.” However, Saccoccio is concerned this will be impossible after her ID was also discarded during the removal process.
Since the pandemic, the couple has sought shelter beneath the FDR Drive. In doing so, they have not only garnered a host of items that were donated to them, but also a community of friends.
Merton Stokes has known the couple for about a year now, and he was shocked and concerned to see the couple being treated so inhumanely. Upon walking along Avenue C with his dog, he saw his friends overcome with grief as they watched their belongings tossed away like trash.
“Alex is a very spiritually deep human being and he got hit by a bus and has issues with his body and finds it hard to do a lot of physical work, but he takes care of his girl. He doesn’t do drugs and he is just the solidest guy I know in this area. He is a really sweet guy,” Stokes said, describing Lively’s kind demeanor.
An NYPD lieutenant told amNewYork Metro that he and fellow officers gave the unhoused family warnings that they would be removed, the latest of which occurred last Friday. Yet Lively rebukes this claim, stating that he films the officers and outreach teams when they arrive and says they have not stopped by since June 3.
This bump on the road to recovery for the pair comes as they say they were about to reserve money donated by amNewYork Metro readers and others to a GoFundMe page Lively created in April. The page is still active and Lively says he could use the help now more than ever.
NYPD officers told the couple that, along with their dogs, they will be placed in a shelter overnight, but with their makeshift house literally torn away from them, the future remains uncertain for Lively, Saccoccio, and their two beloved pets.
If you would like to donate to their GoFundMe, you can do so here.
amNewYork Metro reached out to the
A spokesperson for the Department of Social Services/Department of Homeless Services told amNewYork Metro that New York City doesn’t “allow obstructions of public places or encampments and 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, with multiple city agencies responding as appropriate.”
“To that end, whenever DSNY or another partner Agency addresses a condition on the streets, we at DSS-DHS and our outreach partners are on hand, continuing to engage any individuals on-site, building on trust and relationships with those individuals, and outlining the range of services available to them,” the spokesperson said. “We know that it can take hundreds of interactions to encourage an individual to accept services and transition off the streets – and our dedicated outreach teams are prepared to keep coming back to make that breakthrough.
Since January 2020, as part of our ongoing effort to increase service options and pathways off the streets for New Yorkers in need, we’ve opened more than 1,300 specialized beds dedicated to serving and supporting unsheltered individuals, including new Safe Haven beds and stabilization beds we established in commercial hotel locations – and these vital beds are already proving to be an invaluable resource for outreach teams, helping hundreds of individuals who were residing on the streets get back on their feet.
Through this 24/7 work, and with new tools, investments, and interventions, outreach teams have helped more than 4,200 individuals come off the streets and remain off under the HOME-STAT program, which is the most comprehensive outreach program in the nation. Our outreach teams canvass this neighborhood several times a week and have made four recent placements from this area to transitional or permanent housing opportunities.”