Occupiers Weigh Plans To Fight “Eviction”

Occupier Glen Steinburg, who’s taken on a landlord in the eviction process before, said he’s ready for another legal battle if the city wants Occupy New Haven off the Green.

Steinburg (pictured), who’s 36, offered his opinion on Tuesday morning, five days after a written demand from the city stating that Occupy must leave the Green by mid-March.

He said the city will have to go through legal eviction proceedings to uproot the encampment.

Irving Pinsky, a local attorney who’s taken on the title of “lawyer for Occupy,” agreed with Steinburg. He said the city will have to file a notice to quit and a writ, summons, and complaint in order to evict occupiers.

Asked for comment on whether eviction procedures were necessary, City Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden said the following: “The City has put forth a proposal to Occupy New Haven that is both appropriate and lawful.  At this point, nothing further needs to be said.”

The looming showdown between the city and its occupying forces marks a shift in relations. In the nearly five months since Occupy New Haven established itself on the Green, the encampment has become one of the longest-running outposts of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The leaderless protest is opposed to corporate greed, income inequality, and the outsize influence of money in politics.

Occupy New Haven has endured in large part because of a cooperative relationship with the city, which worked with the movement at the outset to determine the best place for it to set up. That relationship has become increasingly strained as winter wanes and the days grow longer.

In early February, the city started moving towards and end game with Occupy. Two meetings were held in City Hall between members of occupy and city Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts. One of the meetings was also attended by Drew Days, head of the Proprietors of the Green, the self-perpetuating private body that legally owns the Green.

The two sides agreed that the city would come up with a proposal for Occupy’s future. The city issued a document to Occupy this past Thursday. The proposal gets right to the point: “Structures on the Green will be removed by mid-March,” reads the first sentence.

The proposal states that if it leaves by the time requested, Occupy may return periodically on the Green for intervals of up to one week, with permission.

The city’s statement also “affirmed the rights to assembly and free speech on the Green,” Smuts argued. 

“In order to provide for fair access to the Green for all and consistent with the applicable law, the City and the Proprietors will require that reasonable time, place and manner guidelines be followed during any such activity, including but not limited to requiring permit approval prior to any such activity,” the proposal reads.

“It’s certainly not a sudden shift. We’ve been engaging with them since the beginning of February to talk about the fact that the Green is not meant for permanent use by any group,” Smuts said. “They will have to vacate the Green.”

Smuts acknowledged the city’s shift from allowing a five-month encampment to now limiting the occupation to one-week periods. “The big difference is that we were in the winter. We’re approaching the end of winter and with it comes all the other uses, both formal and informal, that make the Green the Green.”

Smuts said moving the occupation to another city park may still be an option. Occupy New Haven would have to propose something like that, and then the city would see if it possible, he said.

In other cities, occupations have ended with police coming in. Asked if that might happen in New Haven, Smuts said, “We’ve been very proud of having a different type of relationship here in New Haven. If possible, we’d like to continue it.”

Smuts said the city does not have a date for the end of Occupy more specific than “mid-March.”

Tuesday morning on the Green, Steinburg smoked a cigarette outside the tent he’s occupied for two and a half months with his girlfriend. He said he’s encouraging his fellow occupiers to arrange to receive mail at the post office with their address listed as “the Upper Green.” It’s part of an effort to buttress their claim to the land when the city tries to evict them.

“The city has to go through a certain process for eviction,” Steinburg said.

He said he’s been through it before. He was “burned by the IRS,” lost some money, and got into a battle with a landlord, he claimed. He said he was able to stay in his apartment for 60 or 90 days after the landlord tried to evict him. He’s been homeless for two years now and was living in East Rock park before he joined the occupation, he said.

“It looks like they have to go through a notice to quit and summary process,” said Attorney Pinsky. “If you have a tenant that doesn’t pay the rent, you can’t just go over there and lock them out. That’s a violation of the law.”

The city will have to send the occupiers a notice to quit, Pinsky said. “Then a certain amount of days have to go by, then they’d have to file a writ of summons.” A marshal would have to get involved to deliver documents; it might end up in arbitration or a trial, Pinsky said.

“‘Occupant’” is a big word in that statute,” Pinsky said, referring to state law on landlord-tenant responsibilities. The occupation was established with the “consent of a private landowner,” which gives occupiers legal standing as tenants, Pinsky said.

An attorney with 40 years of experience in housing court, who asked not to be named, disagreed with Pinsky. He looked up the relevant law, Chapter 830, Section 47a of the Connecticut General Statutes. Under the statute’s definitions, a “tenant” means someone occupying a dwelling unit under a rental agreement.

“I don’t think they have a rental agreement,” the lawyer, who asked not to be named, said of the occupiers.

“Obviously, this wasn’t contemplated” when the law was written, he said. “I can’t envision any interpretation of this statute by which they would be required to go to summary process.”

“It’s really tough to say what’s going to happen going forward,” said Ben Aubin, a non-camping member of Occupy New Haven. He said an Occupy New Haven General Assembly is planned for 6:30 p.m Wednesday.

Aubin offered a one-word response to the city’s proposal: “Nuts.”
It’s a reference to the Battle of the Bulge, when German forces had a Belgian town surrounded. They demanded the American soldiers inside surrender. General Anthony McAuliffe sent out the same one-word response.

Asked if he was comparing the city to Nazi invaders, Aubin declined to comment further.

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posted by: anonymous on March 7, 2012  3:50pm

So, Occupy began by opposing the 5 banks which now control nearly the entire American economy.  Very reasonable. I was there on the first day, 9/17.

Now they fight against a City that is the only municipality in the state to fund a homeless shelter, and then go comparing arguably the most progressive City in the nation (along with SF) to the Nazis.

Where did it all go wrong?

posted by: Proud New Havener on March 7, 2012  7:21pm

Don’t take that “nuts” comment too far. I don’t think he really meant to imply that the city was acting like nazis—he was just being a little reckless with his rhetoric.

That’s the problem with this movement. It hasn’t coalesced around anyone who could responsibly articulate what the movement would be satisfied with, so that the city, state, society, et cetera, could respond.

It is a little disappointing that nobody stepped up to take leadership and that it now just seems to be fizzling out without having made as much of a difference as it could have.

A lot of people had a lot of goodwill for this movement. A lot of people donated a lot of things to this movement (and some still are). It had everything going for it, except a leader.

posted by: HhE on March 7, 2012  8:19pm

I’m thinking these guys want for an exit strategy Occupy New Haven has become an end onto itself.  On the other-hand the City’s position is quite reasonable It resolves the issue of the damage to The Green, and its use by ALL people, yet allows Occupy to make their statement from time to time.

posted by: OccupyTheClassroom on March 7, 2012  11:44pm

Keep them busy. Where does New Haven bank?  Local credit union?  People need to know.

posted by: Dean Moriarty on March 8, 2012  2:55am

New Haven’s position has been very accommodating. In fact the media reports (including NHI’s unbiased coverage) from the beginning of this situation and onwards show that the city has bent over backwards to placate this group, sometimes much to the consternation of ordinary working Jane and Joe taxpayers struggling just to make ends meet. I’m not a fan of this Administration, but I have to say they handled this well. So, now it’s time to move on.  Occupy is not a tenant of the NH Green, as Chapter 830, Section 47a of the Connecticut General Statutes clearly states.  So talk of summary proceedings from attorneys who envision themselves as a new Bill Kunstler just don’t hold water. When NHPD bring dinners to you to keep the peace, and the City goes out of their way to accommodate your needs, it becomes hard to understand just what you’re protesting against here. I for one will be happy to see the Green in it’s normal serene beauty again.

posted by: Pat from Westville on March 8, 2012  6:38am

I agree that THIS Occupy group seems to have lost their way and become fixated on the encampment, as least judging by their lack of other actvity & apparent unconnectedness to the other Occupy groups & their ongoing struggle against the 1%.

If you check the OccupyWallSt web site, you will find something new at least every other day. OWS may have lost their encampment at Zucotti Park but they have become even more active than before. 2 days after their November eviction they mounted a day of protest in NYC that involved, by police estimate, 30,000 demonstraters. “You can’t evict an idea whose time has come!”

Just because there has been nothing the mainstream news media does not mean there have been no ongoing Occupy protests. TNe news media seems to have decided to not cover Occupy activities, just as they did not cover the DC demonstrations during the 1st Bush inauguration (remember that footage in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911?).
Most recently, on Leap Day, there were nationwide Shut Down The Corporations protests, and in view of Occupy Chicago’s plans to protest the G8 summit meeting there in May, the G8 meeting was quietly switched to the secluded Camp David compound in Maryland.

What I would say to Occupy New Haven? Maybe they need to really be in solidarity with Occupy Wall St by worrying less about the encampment and becoming active on local issues as well as in support of other Occupy efforts.

posted by: dandelp on March 8, 2012  8:59am

I am glad the city has decided to move on. Although I saw a point in the original movement, the green has turned into nothing more than a homeless shelter. As a tax payer in this city, that service is already provided elsewhere. Now lets get the green back to what it is meant for. I am also interested to see how the “movement” blends with the parade crowd this Sunday.

posted by: NewHavenPatriot on March 8, 2012  9:35am

Ben Aubin’s comment is funny, and I do give him a thumbs up for bringing a bit of humor into a tense situation, but it is not the official response from Occupy New Haven as a whole. Stay tuned for the official response, as it is currently in the process of being written by an affinity group within ONH.

posted by: Curious on March 8, 2012  9:58am

I don’t mean this to be disrespectful, but what exactly has Glen Steinburg done to fight corporate greed, apart from camping out on the Green?  Has he been marching, handing out flyers, talking to people in front of banks about joining credit unions?  Or is he just Occupying?  It sounds like he would be doing that anyway, so I don’t understand how great and noble the Occupation can really be if it’s become more about homeless people being able to have tents on the Green and less about political expression.

New Haven has bent over backwards to accommodate the Occupy camp, for reasons I cannot fathom.  I find it kind of hilarious that it is now coming back to haunt the City like this.  Why not just remove the latrines and revoke their permit?  I thought the whole reason they were able to stay so long was because some permit for another event/group was modified for their use.  Doesn’t it have an expiration, or can’t it be revoked?  I would be surprised if the permit was issued with no end date on it.

posted by: jayfairhaven on March 8, 2012  4:14pm

hopefully this will be an opportunity for refocus for occupiers. if their message and passion has merit it will play outside the encampment, on the streets and hopefully at the ballot box.

i’m grateful that no one has been injured during their encampment and that the governing agencies and police have treated them with kid gloves. let’s hope the transition is as peaceful.

for clarification, the man pictured is 36?

posted by: Miss E on March 9, 2012  9:57am

I am beginning to believe this site actually chooses what comments appear here. I posted two days ago and the comment is not here. I just want to know if the city is actually considering allowing these people to set up in one of the parks? And if so, what do we do with our children who have waited ALL winter to get back to the parks?