A wooded area off the Grand Central Parkway was once known as the "Parkside Hill Community Garden." But's it's been a long time since residents planted anything there.
"Honestly, this has been a dumping ground for quite some time," Swarovski Beaumont said at the location.
Tires, shopping carts, and trash are common now. Sometime last year, neighbors said, two men planted themselves here, pitching tents behind the thicket:
"They're building a tiny home on city property," the resident said.
A @NY1 exclusive: Two men began constructing their own well-crafted shelter in the thicket off the GCP this week. Concerned neighbors say the area used to be a community garden but became a homeless encampment and dumping ground over the years pic.twitter.com/j913aHlriK— Van Tieu (@Van_Tieu) October 18, 2019
"They definitely have a power saw and a power drill," she said. "They have already built flooring, and started to build insulation."
When we returned two days later, after asking the city parks department about the encampment, the city had stepped in.
Several city agencies, including the Department of Homeless Services and the Department of Sanitation, came together to clean up the site Friday morning.
The city's response included dozens of workers in protective clothing. An official, who declined to be identified, said one of the men was taken to a shelter, but that the other refused services an outreach team offered.
Advocates for the homeless say the encampment is a sign of just how bad the homeless crisis has become.
"This story is pretty incredible, that people are opting to build their own housing in a city where we are one of the richest places on earth," said Paulette Soltani, of VOCAL-NY.
The mayor's officer told NY1, "The Mayor has been clear — we will not tolerate encampments. Our outreach teams have met with these individuals, offered them services, and are working to connect them with further resources."