Friday, November 15, 2013

Strand Sprinklers

One night back in June, I was walking by the Strand, as I do several times a week, when I was nearly soaked by sprinklers installed in the bookstore's awning along 12th Street. I stood awhile, watching them spray the sidewalk, and realized they were likely put there to get rid of the homeless encampment that had been there for months, starting when the building had some scaffolding up.

The homeless were mostly young people, sleeping in sleeping bags. Many of them, I noticed, wore pajamas and cuddled teddy bears. The Strand seemed to tolerate their presence--until they didn't. Once the sprinklers went in, I never saw the homeless return to that spot. I thought the sprinkler tactic was appalling, cruel to the homeless kids and also a waste of water, so I took some photos of them in action. But I decided not to post them here because I didn't want the Strand, a place I love, to be subject to punishment from the public.

Well, now that punishment is coming anyway. DNA broke the story yesterday, on a tip from an employee. The story has spread to Gawker and the New York Post. EV Grieve linked today to a cartoon about the sprinklers. Some people are calling for a boycott of the Strand.

A boycott of the Strand is not a well thought-out or appropriate response. What the Strand did was cruel, but is it grounds for destruction? Should we vanish the Strand because of this? Absolutely not. And certainly not in a city where independent businesses and bookstores have been decimated. Not in a city that needs a place like the Strand. It is one of our last, oldest, and greatest independent bookstores. It feeds our minds and our souls every single day.

So many of the corporations in the city do horrible, inhumane things every day, on a much larger, often global scale. Boycott the businesses that rely on sweatshop and child labor. Boycott the businesses that commit horrifying daily acts of animal cruelty. Boycott the businesses that deliberately destroy the fabric of our communities--and our environment. Do not boycott the Strand. To attack the Strand and not Apple, Amazon, The Gap, and others like them, is a gross misplacement of anger and energy.

Next year, when the Strand is gone, replaced by an American Eagle Outfitters or a TGI Friday's, we'll all be sorry.



With the damage already done, here are my photos of the sprinklers in action, taken late one night in June. As you can see, there are no homeless in the photos because, once sprayed, they did not return. Signs are posted warning people about the sprinklers--not everyone saw these, however, as I witnessed a few walker-texters get doused and run off screeching.





27 comments:

Anonymous said...

The zombie texters and walkers deserved to be doused.

Didn't Strand partnered with Club Monaco? In a sense, it is no different than an American Eagle or Urban Outfitters.

Jeremiah Moss said...

I enjoyed that aspect of the sprinklers!

Anonymous said...

Like you said, before long the Strand will sadly be gone anyway, so...don't really matter.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to dig around to find the right section of Code, but there's no question this is an illegal installation.

In my view Strand has less to fear from boycott than they do from a huge liability lawsuit - one person slips, or claims to have gotten an illness from this water, and they will be tied up in court and they will lose.

And unless they own the building, they have also put themselves at risk of being evicted - no landlord in their right mind would allow this to happen, and now that its been made public, look for the landlord to push back (and flip the space for said big-box retail...)

An idiotic move on Strand's part, on so many levels...

sinestra said...

Thanks Jeremiah- as abhorrent as dousing people is, the Strand is a NYC institution with a NYC attitude and we need to support those places that we love as much as we can. Miles and miles of used books from and indie bookstore- that's my kind of NYC.

Anonymous said...

This is so similar to shops that spray/play pipped misak along their store fronts in order to block street musicians.

Anonymous said...

Strand now has book readings and signings by the likes of Corey Feldman and not Cormac McCarthy. Speaks, or reads, volumes of what that "institution" has become. They are now catering to the materialistic consumers, much like what Bloomberg has turned NYC into, instead of fostering a community. Before, walking into Strand, one gets the presence of the minds browsing the books on the shelves; it was an intellectual communication. Now and then you meet another great reader in person -- it was an intimate communication with others who love books. Nowadays, Strand is more of profitable business enterprise than a community service. It is now no different than walking into the many cupcake, froyo, Marc Jacobs stores. It is now a place to be seen rather than to see or look for something to read. Strand has become the Highline of bookstores, so of course they'd turn that sprinkle and hose and sweep and wash-off the vagrants.

stanchaz said...

To paraphrase Ebenezer Scrooge:
Bah Humbug! Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses? Are they hungry? Are they homeless? It’s not my problem! It’s their fault! Let them die, and decrease the surplus population! But ...NOT in my back yard!”
The reality, however, is that these homeless people  are not some kind of half-human monsters. They are people from our community. People who have lost their way. People who desperately need our help, and our understanding. They are living ---and dying--- on our street corners, and in our parks. How callous some of us have become. There but for fortune, my friends... 
For these people need our healing and our help - not our harsh words of hatred and harassment. If YOU were in their tattered shoes; if YOU lived their shattered lives, then YOU would hope and pray and plead for compassion and understanding; YOU would hope and pray and plead that when YOU fell, people would help to lift you up - instead of kicking you further and further down. Love thy neighbor? Yes--- ESPECIALLY- - if they are poor, hungry or homeless. THAT.... is the true meaning of “community”.
For what kind of society, what kind of community, and what kind of people are we - IF we close our eyes, IF we turn away, and IF we let people die on our street corners, in our parks..and.. in our hearts? IF we let that happen, then ask not for whom the bell tolls, dear neighbors. It tolls for thee....

Anonymous said...

The Strand owns the building.

animadversor said...

Leaving aside the decency of what the Strand did—or the lack thereof—it is a delusion to imagine that any boycott would harm the Strand enough to drive it towards closure, inasmuch as few would participate and most of those who did would drop out after a couple of weeks, and they probably were never customers of the Strand in the first place; they will, however, feel good about themselves. Moral onanism: feels good while you're doing it, leaves you feeling a bit “meh" afterwards, and utterly without fruit.

Dorothy Potter Snyder said...

Should be no surprise to anyone this kind of behavior. We are electing mayors and governors who declare openly that they are going to treat "government like a business", and we idolize marketers like Steve Jobs, comparing them to real intellectuals. It is no surprise that even beloved institutions like the Strand have absorbed and reflect this hard, materialist, un-compassionate attitude. On a brighter note, we can change this today by looking away from the screen and looking around us. The moral? Have a heart.

Anonymous said...

It's easy to say what the Strand did was cruel when you don't have a gaggle of homeless people camped out on your doorstep. It's not the Strand's responsibility to house the homeless. They are a business. Homeless people parked out front interfere with the running of said business. As much as I enjoy certain aspects of this blog, this pining for the old days is a bit disingenuous. Nobody "liked" piles of garbage, more crime and grafitti covered subways that never ran on time. It sucked. Hard.

Anonymous said...

I have boycotted the Strand for 24 years based on their treatment of employees - at least how I saw how they were treated during the summer of 1990 when I worked there and they physically and mentally abused workers. They also had a fairly good business in dealing with stolen goods - books stolen from other book stores, especially expensive art books, would end up there in a matter of minutes (this is not an exaggeration - security at a store I worked subsequentially followed the theives directly there).
This was all a long time ago and everyone needs to make their peace with the place. I have made my peace with never setting foot back in there.

laura r. said...

the strand owns the building, so that is good news. the idea is to have them stay open. they can easily get a zillion $$'s in rent by putting a chain store there, an ugly box store. no one here seems to know the whole story of the water & the homeless. we dont know why they used sprinklers. we dont know why the homeless didnt go to social services. i understand a shelter may not be safe. there are youth hostels, too bad the city wouldnt pay to put them there. (??). personally i dont think it was a good thing to let them camp near store. maybe there were complaints, or problems? i havnt been in strand for @least 5yrs, will check thier webpage. by looking @these comments, it looks like there were many changes. jeremiah is right, there are many corporate monsters out there to complain about. dont interfere w/the strand. all my books are from stand! good price good service, leave them alone.

Anonymous said...

the strand has been gentrifying itself for years. the only good thing about it is the friendly and helpful african american fellow ben on the 1st floor.

Anonymous said...

Why shouldn't we boycott The Strand? Because they're an independent business? They should get a pass because they're not Barnes & Noble? Ok, well if they're in theory supposed to be more in touch with the street and humane, or at least most certainly way more than some national chain bank, then they are ten times worse than that bank because THEY SHOULD KNOW BETTER AND ACT DECENTLY.
The Strand will never get my money again because they have shown themselves to be just as cruel and inhuman as any corporate business if not more because last I checked, there aren't any sprinklers going off on the outside of Citibank, Duane Reade, or Subway.
Bottom line is all the managers for The Strand should be fired and the sprinklers removed. BTW when is the NYFD fining them for illegal use of sprinklers? What if someone, say an elderly person, slipped on the water on the sidewalk from the sprinklers being on?

D

Pat said...

@Anonymous 11:08AM:

Ditto on Strand's stolen art books. A friend of mine, now deceased, who had an East Village book store, now closed, said the same thing, the Strand was notorious.

Anonymous said...

'Love the defense of The Strand because it's an independent bookstore. If this was Barnes & Noble these defenders would be singing a different tune.

The double-standard is alive and well on here and EV Grieve.

Starbucks and Subway good (even though they've killed the independent cafe and deli), 7 Eleven band (EV Grieve.)

The Strand good (even though they brutalize the homeless, waste water which could be used to put out fires, and could cause someone to die from hitting their head on the sidewalk from slipping on sprinkler water), Barnes & Noble bad.

D

Anonymous said...

I wholly agree with D on every point. What the Strand has been doing is unconscionable and like someone else wrote, probably illegal code-wise.

laura r. said...

personally i would not shop @a store which had people camping outside. before you judge, find out details. btw, owners hose streets @times, i dont think it is illegal. when it rains hard streets are wet, elderly walk on them. it's not oil its water! the homeless were given warnings before. boycotting is a stupid stundenty thing to do. i just said this on a conservative forum, now i say it on a progressive forum. now you know why i dont join clubs. everyone is a busybody, everyone has opinions w/out much to base them on. the fact that i bought brand new publishers copies for less then 1/2 price is amazing. the fact that i could call in before hand, have them save the books for before i would arrive in NY. the fact that they sent me books @ the guest house w/out charging a big fee is amazing. the fact i didnt have to go on a fxxking computer, could telephone in my order was amazing. the last thing is that it was always the same girl who i spoke too (chelsea), called her from south america. now thats old world, & my style. the store gave the homeless charity for a while, but it couldnt go on anylonger. if this is a cause you care about about, there are many things you can do to help people. but gee, i think you boycotters want your photo in the paper.

Anonymous said...

You gotta give it to Strand because they still remain in the city. I personally wouldn't want a bunch of druggies (and these are not poor elderly women) I know the kind of jerks who are hanging out there. These drug addicted 20-30 something JERKS who are in perfect health, have legs and arms and the ability to work, but they are lazy. I have no sympathy for them. Most of the so-called homeless I encounter in the Union Square area are drop outs who want to live on the street and do not want to face responsibility.

I am 100% for helping people who cannot help themselves (eldery, mentally retarded, or destitute who are worthy of it, but not these young jerks around Union who live on the street).

I am sure the Strand has discerned what type of so called homeless are loitering there.

Kudos to them.

Anonymous said...

laura r. said...
personally i would not shop @a store which had people camping outside.>

So don't. Your choice. I guess you are the demographic The Strand is targeting with their barbaric treatment of the homeless.

"before you judge, find out details."

I have. It's called reading what's been reported and the reports have been verified with photographic proof included.

"btw, owners hose streets @times, i dont think it is illegal."

Using that amount of water for hours on end is or should be as what if there's a fire in the building and there's not enough water to put it out? Besides that it endangers pedestrians.

"when it rains hard streets are wet, elderly walk on them."

Rain is not man-made.

"it's not oil its water!"

A person can slip on a wet street.

"the homeless were given warnings before."

Who is The Strand to give warnings?

"boycotting is a stupid stundenty thing to do. i just said this on a conservative forum, now i say it on a progressive forum. now you know why i dont join clubs."

Stundenty? Is that a word? So what you're a conservative? Bringing political stances into this now, are we?

"everyone is a busybody, everyone has opinions w/out much to base them on."

Hello? Pot calling kettle black? You sure have opinions without much to base them on.

"the fact that i bought brand new publishers copies for less then 1/2 price is amazing. the fact that i could call in before hand, have them save the books for before i would arrive in NY. the fact that they sent me books @ the guest house w/out charging a big fee is amazing. the fact i didnt have to go on a fxxking computer, could telephone in my order was amazing. the last thing is that it was always the same girl who i spoke too (chelsea), called her from south america. now thats old world, & my style."

Good for you, so keep patronizing them. We get it, you will continue to shop there. Fine, go ahead, I will continue to boycott them.

"the store gave the homeless charity for a while, but it couldnt go on anylonger. if this is a cause you care about about, there are many things you can do to help people. but gee, i think you boycotters want your photo in the paper."

You have no clue as to what I want. I help people - I doubt you do. BTW what do you consider "help" - let's read it.

D

Anonymous said...

I hope anon gets an encampment of homeless in front of his or her building.
Homeless junkies are a far greater hazard than sidewalk that has been dangerously moistened with what could apparently be our last precious drops of water in this city.
FYI, there's no shortage of water to put out fires, and the elderly walk on wet sidewalks all the time and they seem to be doing just fine.

Ellie K said...

Wow, what a brutal crowd! Where shall I begin? Maybe I shouldn't, and spare us all :o) I echo the sentiments of Mr. Jeremiah, whose online home this is to begin with. I just finished reading his post of January 2009. Little has changed, it seems.

Sad news about the Strand's current troubles. I remember time spent there, fondly. Nice books of all varieties, nothing ephemeral. Good to know that they own the building! Some of the prior comments would probably want the title seized and transferred to Amazon as a ritual offering to labor exploitation. Amazon doesn't limit that to warehouse workers, by the way. They underpay and overwork programmers and engineers, whether U.S. citizens or not. I am afraid that Barnes and Noble will soon be gone, as well as the Strand and any other lingering survivors.

Jeremiah, I laughed at what you said, about the oblivious zombie text-ers and walkers getting doused! Thank you for that.

Laura R. and Anonymous-at-19 Nov 2013-4:09 PM are probably correct. I lived on Bleeker Street near NYU, and recall most store owners spraying down the sidewalks and gutters early every morning when I walked to work. There were no homeless.

Anonymous said...

They're not homeless. They're refugees. Living in our country's only refugee camps.

We send millions to refugees in other countries and spray with water, our own.

Anonymous said...

Good for you, D! I'm proud of you. You responded to that person's comment with more articulation than I could.

Anonymous said...

To all of the do gooder douchebags attacking Strand, know your facts before talking out of your ass. I work in Union Square. These nice, homeless folks are, in reality, wacked-out, dangerous junkies.

I am pretty sure that the outraged people posting have never encountered what is commonplace in the Union Square area. The area is home to a methadone clinic. The south and east sides of the park are ruled by junkies.

When you go into to work, do you want to have to confront a junkie sleeping in front of your door? In the past week, I have had to call 911 six times. I kicked out one man who shot up and was about to re-load from the water bottle that he was using store his drugs.

These people are violent. They threaten my employees on a regular basis. They are, for the most part, not afraid of the police. They are a menace.

If you are so outraged by Strand's treatment of the homeless, invite these beautiful people into your homes, put a roof over their heads and feed them...or shut the F up.

Thank you