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.