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Recalling A Couple’s Activism

When Paul and Monica Shay were gunned down July 2 in their country home in Montgomery County, Pa., it quickly became clear to those who knew the couple that their loss would be felt especially deep in the East Village.

What longtime friends remember most about the Shays — who lived on East 10th Street — is their roles as leaders in the fight for housing, which in the 1980’s and 90’s included frequent clashes with the police during demonstrations for the rights of squatters in and around Tompkins Square Park.

“There’s a short list of people who when they say, ‘let’s do something,’ they mean they’re going to do it,” said Seth Tobocman, an activist artist and friend of the Shays.

“Kathryn and Paul were always on that list,” he continued, referring to Ms. Shay by her nickname.

Since the shooting, crowds of friends and neighbors have twice gathered publicly to remember the Shays, most recently July 9 in Tompkins Square Park.

Ms. Shay died July 7, while Mr. Shay remains hospitalized and in critical condition. Three other victims include Mr. Shay’s nephew Joseph Shay, the younger Mr. Shay’s girlfriend Kathryn Erdmann, and her 2-year-old son Gregory Erdmann. Ms. Erdmann and the elder Mr. Shay are the lone survivors.
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