Wednesday afternoon, four days after the Department of Homeless Services officially washed their hands of the 27 residents who stayed—making them squatters until a judge says otherwise—something happened to the power. "I was in my apartment and the lights just went out," Ravan Huddleston said.
Huddleston is one of 20-odd shelter residents and long-term tenants who have signed onto the lawsuit since it was filed, rolling the dice on the opportunity to inhabit one of the apartments and hoping enough legal pressure can force Hersko to fix the place up. So far that prospect is not looking good. Residents we spoke to on Thursday morning say at least five apartments have lost power, all of them home to former shelter residents who are plaintiffs on the lawsuit.
Workers were in the building's basement on Wednesday afternoon, along with two men who seemed to be supervising, residents say, and when people complained that they'd lost electricity, they say the men told them Con Edison had shut it off but it would be restored momentarily. It didn't come back. By 7:30 p.m., the workers were gone and lawyers, activists, and police from the neighborhood's 70th Precinct were on site trying to get to the basement, where the circuit breakers are. The elevator that goes to the basement was strangely inoperable, Tenants and Neighbors organizer Jennifer Berkley said, and an employee of Hersko's, who refused to identify himself to her, adamantly refused a cop's request for entry over the phone.
"It was nuts; the guy from Hers's office was screaming at the cop," she recalled. "They have some nerve. They're literally screaming at the cop."
Berkley and others who were present recall the man on the phone saying that he didn't care if he was arrested—he wasn't restoring power. The activists left around 9 p.m. without any luck getting Con Edison to come or getting access to the basement.
On Thursday morning, shelter residents, many of them mothers of small children, kept their kids home from school in hopes of a resolution. Nadina Brown, a plaintiff, said that she's all for standing their ground, but Hersko's alleged sabotage makes it hard.
"The baby's crying," she said. "How we gonna stick it out with no lights?"