Skip to comments.Wanted: Sleeping Space for Protesters. Hot Water Optional.
Posted on 08/17/2004 12:26:35 PM PDT by NYC GOP Chick
wo weeks before her guests plan to arrive, the hostess cannot remember their travel arrangements or even their names.
"It's hard to keep track," said the hostess, Shelby Eidson, 24. "The Canadian couple's driving. The lesbian couple's driving. The biker activist girl is driving or getting a ride."
Ms. Eidson has little to offer these people, only a dark wooden floor in a small room near the Boy's Grocery in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. She walks the floor in faded overalls and flip-flops. Her toenails are painted baby blue. She affects a purposeful tone.
"The more people that can be here, the better," Ms. Eidson said. "As long as they don't mind sleeping on the floor, it's free."
Though her accommodations are modest, Ms. Eidson expects seven houseguests in her two-bedroom apartment during the Republican National Convention. Aside from those traveling with their partners, the guests have never met. Yet they share common ground in their intention to protest in the streets and their willingness to depend on the kindness of strangers.
Unlike the delegates and journalists coming to New York, protesters are being offered no hotel rooms, no free Broadway shows and no massages.
Still, they are receiving an outpouring of hospitality from scores of people who are opening their apartments, churches and improvised spaces as temporary shelter, free of charge.
The choices are scattered across the boroughs and are as diverse as the protesters themselves. The process of finding a place to stay is a lot like ordinary roommate hunting, except that the starting point is neither neighborhood nor amenities, but rather vague political affinity.
The hosts have been encouraged to participate by organizers of loosely allied protest groups with names that leave little to interpretation, like Counter Convention and R.N.C. Not Welcome.
"They don't need to be told why we're protesting the convention," said Geoff Johnson, 26, an organizer who, like many of those involved in planning protests, has a day job unrelated to politics. "The sell is that it's a minor crisis, so it's something people are willing to help out with."
Once so motivated, the hosts find guests through word of mouth and advertisements posted on politically sympathetic Web sites. The hosts expect to be cramped, but aside from the close quarters, their first concern is screening the guests. The popular image of protesters as wild-eyed, window-smashing anarchists is an unfair stereotype, but still, the world is full of crazy people.
"Some people said their name was Flowerchild and they were bringing a dog, and I didn't want to give the room to them," said Judi Aronowitz, 67, who lives in Manhattan. After sorting through dozens of responses, Ms. Aronowitz said, she settled on three young men from Florida who "just sounded honest."
Some hosts are hoping that their advertisements will ward off undesirables. Lauren Knighton, who is offering a space in the one-bedroom apartment she shares with her boyfriend in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, specified that drug use and cigarette smoking were against the house rules.
By the same token, other hosts are warning applicants that their apartments are not exactly the Four Seasons.
"There is a disabled child living here, which causes enough chaos," one posting says. Another says that the apartment can accommodate six people, or perhaps more if the guests are "creative sleepers."
Most of the protesters will find more comfortable lodging than the guests of Casa del Sol, an unfinished building in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx whose ownership is in dispute, and where squatters have taken up residence. They have posted notice that they can accommodate 70 people - in rooms with no air-conditioning or hot water, on floors covered in sawdust.
To its credit, Casa del Sol, on East 136th Street, is easy to find. The brick facade is festooned with graffiti and signs, including one that says: "This Is Our Community. Clean Up After Your Dog. Prevent Fascism."
A mounted camera points at the front gate, and the side yard holds an enormous white tepee. The entrance is filled with wood chips, and a coat rack holds a vest, an umbrella and a surgical mask. Spray enamel and fire extinguishers sit in a hallway under a wooden bas-relief of green cactus, blue clouds, yellow sun, orange world. One day last week, young men and women dressed in unwashed shorts scurried up and down the building's staircases, at work cooking or pushing around the sawdust.
On the sixth floor, there is a room with exposed rafters and windows that look out on highway ramps. The floor holds blankets, soundproofing materials and a plastic record player - the kind that girls used to take to slumber parties - spinning a Rolling Stones record.
"To live in this town, you must be tough, tough, tough, tough, tough, tough, tough," Mick Jagger's voice sang through the speaker.
The host here is Rafael Bueno. His wispy salt-and-pepper hair pokes out from under a baseball cap, and he wears clear-rimmed plastic glasses and a short-sleeved flannel shirt.
Mr. Bueno, who says he is a Mayan priest, also appears to be something of a collector. Scattered around the building are a bathtub, a bow and arrow, a sombrero, a pumpkin-shaped lampshade, tools, milk crates, spray cans, a piano and a small ax. A thin cat squints up from a blanket in his studio.
Mr. Bueno opened files full of applications for lodging, all of which he has approved.
"Everybody I've screened have been the best people in the world," Mr. Bueno said. "The least comprehended people in a society are the most beautiful."
Those seeking a somewhat more comfortable stay can go across the river to Harlem, where the Rev. Earl Kooperkamp expects to house 30 to 50 protesters at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, near the 26th Precinct station house. His guests can choose between the wooden pews or the cool tile floor downstairs. The basement is air-conditioned, but it is used as an outreach center, so protesters will have to be up and out the door by 6 a.m.
Father Kooperkamp has persuaded about three dozen religious institutions to open basements, sanctuaries, gymnasiums and parish halls, enough room for about 500 protesters in all.
Though he shares the protesters' politics and intends to demonstrate against the convention, he speaks of other motivations.
"The practice of hospitality both makes us more human and makes the world a more humane place," Father Kooperkamp said. "As long as they're standing firm against war, working for peace, that's what the church is supposed to be about. We pray every day to a guy called the Prince of Peace."
Translation: allow strangers into your home -- and don't worry, we don't bathe.
Try the subway or how about a local jail?
Maybe they'll get a shower for a change.....
"Hot Water Optional."
Supply me with coffee to fill my bladder and a second story window and I'll "git er done".
Send them to the Bates Hotel.
BTW, NYCGOPC, what's the answer to your tagline?
Oh...where to start?!!!?!??
This ones a keeper: ...."Another says that the apartment can accommodate six people, or perhaps more if the guests are "creative sleepers."....
And I this one gets a giggle:.."This Is Our Community. Clean Up After Your Dog. Prevent Fascism..."
But I have to say...this one says it all: "The least comprehended people in a society are the most beautiful."
The great unwashed...coming soon to a Starbucks near you!
yes, I know what everyone is thinking and I am sure I would agree.
But look at the flipside - give the left credit for being willing and organized well enough to do something like this. our side could never pull something like this off, I can't think of a single issue where they right would take to the streets with such an organized movement - and provide the support structure to make it happen.
and yes, we will look at these protestors with revulsion - but there are plenty of stupid sheeple out there who will not.
Other optional items:
Razor, deodorant, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste.
Aany will end up staying in jail me thinks
Talk about counter-protest...
actually - use the address for the Tombs prison - its perfect for them.
..and brain cells
On 2nd thought, that's probably too much to ask.
Hopefully Mayor Bloomburg will take the same actions Mayor Dailey did in 1968!
Hopefully Mayor Bloomburg will take the same actions Mayor Dailey did in 1968!