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Strand Books Spraying Water on Homeless Is 'Barbaric,' Customers Say

By Rosa Goldensohn | November 15, 2013 7:20am
 The Strand was criticized for treating the homeless like "pests," not people.
Strand Customers Talk About Store's Homeless-Dousing Sprinklers
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GREENWICH VILLAGE — The practice of dousing homeless people sleeping under Strand Book Store's signature red awning with water has left customers of the iconic shop appalled.

“It will certainly make me reconsider coming here again," said Ted Curtis, 41, an energy specialist. "I just think it’s barbaric."

DNAinfo New York first reported Thursday that the Strand used a sprinkler to soak homeless people trying to sleep on the sidewalk in front of the 828 Broadway store.

The shop had posted signs reading “Warning: Sprinkler System Will Run Periodically From 10:30 PM-9:00 AM.”

They were removed when a DNAinfo reporter inquired about them.

Graphic design student Lindsay Bevington, 18, called the tactic “passive-aggressive.”

“It’s stupid. You could be more direct about it," she said. “I don’t think that they should do it."

The tactic is emblematic of the city's attitude toward the poor, said Alex Calhoun, a 24-year-old high school teacher who lives in Harlem. 

“It sounds like something you do to keep pests away, not people," he said.

A Strand spokeswoman wouldn't say on Thursday if the store is still using the sprinklers, which manager Eddie Sutton previously said were used to clean the sidewalk. The shop has received two complaints from customers about the use of the sprinklers, the spokeswoman added.

But other customers defended the store.

“It’s a sad scenario, but I don’t know why the Strand should be obligated to shelter these people,” retired NYPD officer Mike Harrison, 67, said. “I guess it’s inhumane in a sense, but they have a right to do it."

Customer Maria Chernaya, a recent graduate of the University of British Columbia, said her love of the independent book store outweighed other concerns.

“I’m going to come here whether they use those tactics or not, because this is my favorite bookstore in New York," said Chernaya, 25. "There is no other bookstore with this kind of giant collection."