For 60 Lower East Side squatters on the verge of eviction, the only option left is to stall–a tactic that includes firing their attorney, squat lawyer Colleen McGuire.
The six-year-old squat at 719 East Ninth Street got bought in April 1997 from the city, and the residents were soon served with eviction papers. They enlisted the help of McGuire and her law partner Daphna Zekaria–but the attorneys knew their legal appeals, unlikely to save the squat from being redeveloped by its new owner, served as a way to buy time. By early March, with all other resources spent, McGuire set up a legal agreement that meant the tenants had to be out by the beginning of this month.
But the squatters, claiming they didn’t sign on to the agreement, fired McGuire and hired another attorney, who got them a short reprieve and an April 12 hearing in Housing Court.
Zekaria defends the agreement, saying the new hearing ultimately won’t help the squatters much. “It was useless at that point to argue because the appellate court had already denied the pending appeal,” she said. “Now [the squatters] are extending their stay, but it has been at our expense and reputation.”
Squatter David King recognized that the squatters had little time left. But he also said they had no plans to leave without a fight. “We don’t want to be kicked out with the homeless people because Giuliani will then just arrest us too,” he said.