Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Some Aspects of a Civil Agreement

Above: Occupant's door and lock

Above : Harrassment charge retraction agreement
Above: Police checking occupant's utility bills and mail receipts
For a while , for a few posts , I am going to go back and cover in more detail some events relating to 120 St Marks Place .Please refer to the earlier part of this blog for reference .

On the afternoon of 28 March 2006 , I , by chance , came upon this scene pictured above , a loud and seemingly violent scene , at 120 St. Marks Place . This event has been discussed in an earlier post on this blog and to some extent has been reported in " The Villager" at www.thevillager.com and "Polis" at www.nycenvirons.blogspot.com . At the time I wasn't prepared to deal with this potentially violent event and was a bit too cautious . I should have been more aggressive and should have taken more pictures but I was alone with no one to back me up if I was attacked and had $5000 worth of brand new camera and lens , that I was testing for the first time , to lose . Also , there were a lot more of them than me and they had sledge hammers and crobars ,which they were brandishing .

The people with the sledge hammer and crobar are Magnum Management employees and the man with the smug grin is Benjamin Shaoul , the head of Magnum Management . What were they all there to do? Why all the threats , screaming and displaying of crobars and sledgehammers ? Why the breaking of locks and bashing in of doors ? Certainly some people on the scene were intimidated by their presence and behavior and some of them later would claim to the press that they were intimidated and thus were being harrassed by Mr. Shaoul and his employees . Later Magnum was concerned enough with the claims of harrassment that the company offered to one of the occupants of 120 St Marks Place an additional two weeks to move out if that occupant would retract the claims of harrassment .

The situation became so serious at one point that the police were called .Officers from the 9th precinct arrived on the scene and calmed the situation bringing everything under control. The occupants utilities bills and mail receipts were examined by police to determine occupancy since this event was in some way about the eviction of squatters .

120 St. Marks Place was a squat , the last illegal squat in the East Village . These squatters unlike many of the occupants of the infamous historic squats of the East Village were accepting of the fact that they would someday have to leave and were not interested in claiming ownership by the theory of adverse possession or in fighting interminably with the owner of the building and the police . The owner of the building had allowed squatters to live in the building for 5 years or so and for some time the building had been an artist commune known as the "Cave " .The owner had never attempted to collect rent from any of the occupants of 120 St Marks Pl nor had he ever attempted to evict any of them.

Sometime before the 28th of March the owner of the building made a deal with Mr. Shaoul of Magnum Mangement to manage and renovate the building and then later , I have been told , to have the option to buy the building . The first meeting that any occupant had with Benjamin Shaoul was a day or two before the major confrontation of the 28th of March . During this first meeting Craig Lopez met with Mr. Shaoul and agreed to move out for an amount of money and under terms to be determined by their lawyers .It was agreed at a slightly later time by the other occupants of the building and Magnum Management that the remaining occupants would also move out for money . These agreements in the long run were much cheaper and less time consuming for Mr. Shaoul than going to court to evict . In New York State there are eviction laws that require among other things that the eviction of anyone that is an occupant of a building for more than 30 days is ,though possibly not a legal resident , a legal occupant and can only be removed with force ultimately by the police and then only after the necessary court proceedings constituting due process have occured and then only after a series of notices have been delivered and posted in plain sight by city marshals and after attempts have been made by city marshals to evict peaceably . This meeting was not a surprise since the owner had been mentioning for weeks the possibility that the squatters would have to move out but the events of the 28th of March certainly were a surprise because everyone thought that an agreement on moving out had been made . Certainly the behavior of Magnum Mangement employees and Benjamin Shaoul was understood by all occupants to be harrassment and as duress to effect a more favorable civil contractual eviction deal for Magnum Mangement .

It is difficult to see the breaking of locks and bashing in of doors to occupied apartments and the shouted threats to " demolish the building right around you ", of which threat there is an audio tape , as any part of a proper and legal civil agreement to vacate a property in exchange for money. And speaking of threats ,Mr. Shaoul even went so far as to confront me and demand that I stop photographing him and his employees in hostile tone ,right in my face .I can't say what if any harm to me he threatened but usuually people read a hostile tone and aggressive stance as carrying at least an implied threat of harm . At the time of this confrontation ,I was wearing my NYPD issued press card ,standing in the street in a public place at a news worthy event with police present.... also I am half a foot taller than him and am about a hundred pounds heavier .Thus in more ways than one , such a confrontation was really stupid behavior , but then its not at all that surprising that Mr. Shaoul would behave in this manner as following posts will show .

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