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Ours to LoseWhen Squatters Became Homeowners in New York City$
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Amy Starecheski

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226399805

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226400006.001.0001

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From Drug Murder to Door Ceremony: Claiming Buildings, Building Claims

From Drug Murder to Door Ceremony: Claiming Buildings, Building Claims

(p.42) Chapter 1 From Drug Murder to Door Ceremony: Claiming Buildings, Building Claims
Ours to Lose

Amy Starecheski

University of Chicago Press

Chapter One introduces the history, and pre-history, of squatting on the Lower East Side through the story of one block of East 13th Street. Chapter One opens with the narratives of a small group of activists who in 1984 first opened the squats that would become, for a time, the epicenter of the neighborhood’s squatting scene. A political economic analysis of how capitalism produces abandoned buildings between cycles of disinvestment and reinvestment is presented to address explain why the buildings were empty. A social history of squatting, highlighting the influences of Yippies, hippies, Nuyorican organizing, European squatting movements, DIY punk, and urban homesteading, explains why these people claimed them. Through an in-depth history of urban homesteading as both a policy and a grassroots practice, the actions of squatters are placed in a broader historical and political context, including New York City’s responses to abandonment and unique history of social democracy and debates about the social and economic values of low-income homeownership and the role of labor, or “sweat equity,” in generating property rights. The threat of illegal squatting pushed governments to create urban homesteading programs. Some squatters aspired to become legal urban homesteaders, while others rejected homeownership as a goal.

Keywords:   Lower East Side, squatting movements, urban homesteading, DIY punk, sweat equity, Nuyorican, low income homeownership, Yippies, disinvestment, reinvestment

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