The de Blasio administration has agreed to pay $1,515 to three homeless New Yorkers who had their possessions illegally destroyed by city cops and sanitation workers, a leading civil rights group announced Wednesday.
The New York Civil Liberties Union filed notices of claim in December 2015 outlining its plan to sue the city on behalf of the three homeless men who had their items yanked away and trashed when they were forced to move in the middle of the night on Oct. 2 of that year.
Before the legal action, the NYCLU obtained video of the incidents in East Harlem via a Freedom of Information Act request.
Some of the items tossed in the garbage included a birth certificate, Social Security card, blood pressure medication, inhaler, clothing and a silver cross necklace.
City trashing homeless people's personal possessions: NYCLU
“Homeless people deserve to be treated with dignity like all New Yorkers, and the city acknowledged that it had no right to treat their few possessions like garbage,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement.
“It's important that these three people were compensated, but some of the personal items they lost were worth far more to them than just their monetary value,” she added. “We will continue to remind the city and the NYPD that everyone has a right to be treated with basic dignity and that homelessness is not a crime.”
The three men were sleeping in a small area partly protected from the rain by an overhang at the Choir Academy Public School on Madison Ave. near E. 127th St.
They were awoken by police with flashlights and sanitation workers in white hazmat suits, according to the video.
NYCLU files complaint against NYPD for harassing homeless people
As the men began to collect their belongings, the sanitation workers grabbed the items and threw them into a garbage truck.
“I’ve been constantly abused,” said Floyd Parks, 61, who was sleeping under the overhang that night.
“What they did was an atrocity,” he told reporters at a press conference on the steps of City Hall announcing the agreement.
“It bothers me that this is happening,” he added. “Thank God for cameras. It showed the abuse that they had done to us.”
He lost his birth certificate, Social Security card, and several other personal belongings.
“They just took it and threw it in the dumpster,” he said.
Timmy, who declined to give his last name, got $800 to cover his lost his birth certificate, social security card, shoes, jackets, a Steelers jersey and personal hygiene products, according to the Notice of Claim.
Parks was handed $500 for hisbirth certificate, social security card, blood pressure medication, inhaler, clothing, a list of important names and phone numbers including shelters, and a silver cross necklace.
And the third man, identified as Jesus, was given $215 to cover his birth certificate, social security card, clothing, jacket, shopping cart and personal hygiene products.
Initially, City Hall largely defended what happened.
Karen Hinton, the mayor’s former spokeswoman, said the men were “trespassing” on city property.
“It is illegal for individuals to trespass and sleep on school grounds, and we will not tolerate it for security and safety reasons,” she said at the time. “That said, we will review our protocols concerning the seizure and disposition of personal property to ensure that it can be reclaimed by its rightful owners.”
On Wednesday, City Hall spokeswoman Aja Worthy-Davis did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.
“Will let you know,” she said without elaborating.Send a Letter to the Editor