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MoRUS Squats on Avenue C

A living archive of urban activism, the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space rented a storefront for its exhibits from C-Squat on Avenue C — and, like neighboring businesses, soon found itself clearing up after Hurricane Sandy.

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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On Ave. C, ‘The Countercultural Squat’

At 155 Avenue C, a seemingly ordinary five-floor walkup bears an unusual handmade sign: “This Land Is Ours. See Co-Op Squat. Not For Sale.”

This is See Squat, one of 11 remaining squatters’ buildings in the East Village. Now technically a co-op, the building has retained its character as, in the words of one resident, “the countercultural squat.”

Many of the residents at See Squat view one another as a family that has come together from varied pasts – including drug addiction and homelessness – to build and maintain a community on Avenue C with their own hands.

NYU Journalism’s Robyn Baitcher reports.

Locals | John Penley

John Penley_2Rhea Mahbubani John Penley.

John Penley’s circuitous journey to the world of community activism in New York City began with a single question.

It was 1984 and Mr. Penley had just finished a year in jail after charges arising from his role in a protest at a South Carolina nuclear plant.

“When I got out of custody, they gave me a $100 bill and a bus ticket and asked me where I wanted to go,” recalls Mr. Penley, who is 59. “I said New York and that was it.”
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