St. Albans Park squatter a nuisance

Residents say this woman has been living near St. Albans Park for years and causing problems for the community. Photo by Ivan Pereira
By Ivan Pereira

A squatter who has been living in St. Albans Park for at least three years has been littering the streets and been a nuisance to the community, according to nearby residents, who want the city to help her and to clean up their neighborhood.

Addisleigh Park resident Archie Spigner, a former city councilman, has been reaching out to southeast Queens elected officials, the city Department of Homeless Services and the police to deal with the nameless vagrant who is usually spotted at the corner of Marne Place and 113th Avenue, but nothing has been done so far.

Spigner said her presence, accompanied by several boxes of junk such as dustpans, dirty clothing and trinkets, has been disturbing parkgoers because she litters her goods all over the street.

“She’s been on the sidewalk 24/7,” he said. “Through the rain, through the snow, through the heat, whatever weather, she lives there.”

The woman, who does not speak English, first appeared eight years ago and began squatting in front of a Seventh-day Adventist Church and the park, according to the Addisleigh Park Civic Association. When the church erected a steel gate around its perimeter around two years ago, the squatter made the park her home, much to the annoyance of the neighborhood, according to Rene Hill, president of the civic.

“She undresses in the park and in the street. It stops all the traffic and it’s disgusting,” she said.

The civic head pointed out that since the woman speaks French, it is hard for anyone to find out why she is homeless and if there are any friends or relatives who could help her. Although she has not physically harmed anyone during her time in the neighborhood, she gets testy and loud when people try to talk to her, according to Hill.

Hill said her group has grown concerned since the city is currently conducting a review on designating Addisleigh Park a historical district and the squatter and her trash is in conflict with the image it is trying to preserve.

The resident said the city has sent people from time to time to deal with the vagrant, but somehow she has stayed put.

A representative from the DHS said its outreach operation, which sends representatives to persuade homeless people to enter city shelters, cannot force anyone to leave city streets except under serious circumstances.

“While we work intensely with every street individual encountered to help them to understand that housing is their best option, the ultimate decision to come inside is up to that individual,” the agency said in a statement.

Spigner, a Democratic district leader, said he has talked to neighborhood leaders like Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and state Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans) and they, too, have become concerned about the situation.

“If she was squatting in front of Carl Schurz Park near Gracie Mansion or … near City Hall, this would last for five seconds. This is an insult to our community,” Spigner said.

Representatives for Scarborough’s and Comrie’s offices said the leaders have been in talks with city agencies such as the DHS and has been working hard for years to help both the woman and the residents.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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