EAST HARLEM — A group of homeless men who claimed their belongings were seized and destroyed when police moved them from their sleeping spot near a school entrance have settled a court case against the city.
Timmy Hall, Floyd Parks and Jesus Morales will be paid a total of $1,515 after their property was destroyed by police and sanitation workers in 2015. Hall will receive $800, Parks $500 and Morales $215.
The three men were sleeping near the entrance to the Urban Assembly School for Global Commerce, on Park Avenue and 127th Street, early on Oct. 2, 2015, when NYPD officers started “shining flashlights in their eyes and banging on the metal fences near the school entryway,” according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which represented them.
The sanitation workers then took their possessions — which included medicine, birth certificates, social security cards and clothing — and threw it in the back of a garbage truck, the NYCLU said.
The incident was captured on video, which was obtained and posted by the organization.
The NYCLU then took up the three men’s cases and filed suit against the city in December 2015.
"I'm glad that the city is acknowledging that something bad happened,” Morales said of the settlement.
“I'm not an animal. None of us are. For what I suffered, and what hundreds of people are suffering every day, the city needs to do more to stop these out-of-control cops.”
Parks said the settlement will help him get back on his feet.
“I'm grateful that the city is paying me back for the things the cops stole from me because I'm homeless, I need new shoes and a warm jacket, and my disability benefits aren't enough,” he said.
“With this settlement, we got our foot in the door.”
All three men are members of Picture the Homeless, an organization run by homeless New Yorkers.
Picture the Homeless said the incident is a part of a “disturbing pattern” of the police criminalizing homelessness.
“Homeless people deserve to be treated with dignity like all New Yorkers, and the city acknowledged that it had no right to treat their few possessions like garbage,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said.
“We will continue to remind the city and the NYPD that everyone has a right to be treated with basic dignity and that homelessness is not a crime.”