Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Casa Del Sol, a squat in the South Bronx

Land Struggles Around The World

  • Casa del Sol a long time squatted cultural center and home may be facing it's final eviction. The large South Bronx building has been occupied since the mid eighties but not without a fair share of struggle and strife. In 1997 the building's approximately 70 residents were evicted by a platoon of riot police assisted by helicopters, as part a Giuliani era anti-squatter "quality of life" campaign. The building was later re-occupied by a small group of former residents including Rafael Bueno. With Bueno at the helm Casa del Sol focused on it's vision of creating a center for indigenous persons of the Americas and converting the six story dwelling into a "green" building for "The Future City". In 2002 Casa del Sol's nonprofit face The Cherry Tree Association was awarded a $225,000 grant towards that end. Soon afterwards all residents of 672 East 136th Street save Bueno abandoned the project and their residence under less than amicable terms. Using classic time tested divide and conquer tactics the city's Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) has "awarded" the property to local non-profit activist group the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in April. The group's director Bertha Lewis is actually a former resident and college of Bueno's, but the two have vastly different visions for the building. Bueno is fighting back in the courts and will likely remain in the building for at least another year. The building has promise of once again becoming an active center for community voices as Bueno has offered housing for 70 people who are coming to town for the Republican National Convention protests in August.
  • Iraq's newly appointed Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has ordered that all squatters living in "government owned" buildings be evicted. The strife ridden country already has a homeless rate of 20% nation wide, according to a recent survey by the Iraqi Ministry of Housing and Construction.
  • 300 foreign Indonesian workers, in Malaysia have been left homeless, after a fire destroyed four blocks of squatted houses in just under an hour. The fire may have begun at a nearby construction site. Nobody was reported to have been injured.
  • A fire in MoBay, Jamaica claimed the homes of 50 squatters. The cause is thought to be an electrical short circuit.
  • Squatters, whose building was razed by a fire over the weekend in Nimbin, Australia, "went on a rampage and smashed shop windows". Authorities are calling for more police to be assigned to the area in northern New South Wales were homelessness and crime is rampant. Currently there are only four.