The city, which has been taking a cautious approach in its plan to remove the longstanding illegal encampments on the Bulb, went to the site about 8 a.m. today to remove two campsites that city officials believed were abandoned, according to Gale Rossi, a city project manager for the effort.
The two campsites have been the homes of three Bulb residents who found alternative housing as a result of city outreach and community support. The city issued an announcement on Thursday about their finding housing.
When the city crew showed up with a backhoe this morning to remove the encampments, however, the occupant of one was still there, saying she had not yet finished sorting through her belongings, according to Rossi and Bulb resident Amber Whitson.
Police and city workers gave her more time while they began removing a nearby shelter built around and in a tree.
The second shelter, which was soon torn down, had been occupied by two other Bulb dwellers who have already moved to the new housing, but another homeless person named Kris had moved into it within the past few days, according to Whitson and attorney Osha Nuemann, who is assisting Bulb residents.
The tree shelter was not occupied when the city crews got there. Whitson said its new occupant had left a sign saying, "This camp is not abandoned. Kris. S."
A report on indybay.org this morning, headlined "Albany Bulb Eviction Happening Now," said the city was starting the Bulb eviction and that the first targeted campsite, which was occupied by the female resident, was being dismantled and all her belongings being taken to a dumpster.
The city posted an announcement on its website today disputing what it called the "inaccurate claims" of the indybay.org report. "The City is removing only materials associated with abandoned encampments," the city said. "No evictions are occurring at this time."
Neumann said the city did not provide adequate warning about the removals.
Rossi said the woman who was found still in her shelter had signed a release confirming that she was abandoning the site and relinquishing possession of anything left remaining.
Neumann said she was still waiting for a friend with a truck who had pledged to move her belongings.
Police and city workers at the scene during a Patch visit in the morning appeared to be taking a conciliatory approach toward the targeted camp whose occupant was still there. Police Lt. John Geissberger told Neumann that the city would be willing to move any belongings she wants to keep to the city's temporary storage lockers at the new homeless shelter near the Bulb.
During the morning, several supporters who oppose the evictions came to the Bulb and some stood in a road blocking a city truck near the two campsites during the late morning.
Around 2 p.m., about 11 protestors stood in a road blocking a truck that tried to travel into the Bulb along the lower road on the Bulb neck, according to Lesley Haddock, one of the opponents of the eviction. The truck eventually turned around and drove off, she said.
As of late afternoon, the first campsite targeted for removal today still remained.
"Our city staff is still intending to remove those sites," said City Clerk Nicole Almaguer.
Occupancy of the new homeless shelter
Meanwhile, Almaguer provided an update on the number of people using the temporary, 30-bed homeless shelter that the city opened next to the Bulb on Nov. 22.
During the past weekend – when the current exceptionally cold weather plunged some areas below freezing – three people stayed on Friday and two stayed on Saturday and Sunday, she said.
Two also spent Wednesday night at the shelter and one on Thursday, she said. No one stayed at the shelter during most of the first week it was open.
The city has established a "Transition Plan" to evict the several dozen people living in makeshift shelters and tents on the city-owned peninsula in order to realize the city's long-established policy of making the property part of McLaughlin Eastshore State Park.
Background on Albany Bulb issue
For background on the city's plan for the Albany Bulb and protests by opponents of the eviction, see our list of recent Patch articles and reader posts about the issue:
Don't miss any news from Albany Patch. Get the day's
headlines and events – plus any breaking news alerts – by subscribing to
the Albany Patch email newsletter.
If you're not subscribed, just click “Get the newsletter” at the top
or bottom of the homepage.