Left out in the cold: Manhattan Bridge homeless encampment swept again as unhoused New Yorkers struggles with temperature drop


The New York City streets are tough during the frigid months as winter settles in. For some homeless New Yorkers, the streets got even tougher Tuesday.

As harsh as the world is living on the streets during the frigid months, homeless New Yorkers told amNewYork Metro Tuesday that the City makes life even harder.

A group of homeless individuals gathered around a small fire pit, at the entrance of the Manhattan Bridge, early on Dec. 13 as they not only attempted to keep warm amidst brisk temperatures but also braced themselves for an encampment removal by city agencies including the Departments of Transportation, Sanitation and Homeless Services, along with the NYPD.

“The fire department came yesterday but they were cool about it. Somebody had complained about the fire, but they were cool about it because they know we are cold,” one unhoused man said, who did not want to be identified.

The homeless at Manhattan Bridge Arch and Colonnade use a small fire pit to stay warm. Photo by Dean Moses
Luis readies himself for another sweep. Photo by Dean Moses

The cold weather had driven some members of the encampment into the local subway system in an attempt to keep heated, forcing them to leave some of their valuables to the trash heap during the morning’s scheduled sweep.

With notices posted around the bridge from DSS-DHS, residents there began dismantling their tents and bagging their valuables ahead of the sweep. Still, despite the icy weather and constant removals, the undomiciled residents still say they would rather brave the streets than accept placement in a shelter due to what they cite as poor conditions.

“It is difficult, for the simple fact that if you are cold, you have no place to go except for the train and sometimes the cops don’t let you go to the train. It’s crazy,” said Luis, who has been homeless for two years. “It’s crazy because we have to stay outside and contend with so much.”

As the city agencies encroached upon the encampment with gloved hands, several individuals stressed that they are concerned about Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to forcibly institutionalize those suffering from mental illness — with one man at the encampment pointing out that he learned about the policy when reading amNewYork Metro.

“That’s no good. You have some people who will put their hands on you on impulse, so the policy is not good,” Luis said, adding that he has been through the shelter system and lost trust in DSS-DHS.

Luis gathers his belongings. Photo by Dean Moses
An officer removes items at the encampment. Photo by Dean Moses

As the homeless attempted to gather their things, NYPD officers and DOT agents arrived and yanked away blankets; they tossed a tent into the rear of a garbage truck.

When one man asked if the city workers would provide a value voucher for the belongings, an officer commented that she would not voucher empty bottles, something many unhoused recycle in order to make money. One other female officer helped the residents salvage their belongings before it was crushed in the DSNY compactor.

Despite the sweep, some of the displaced explained that they will most likely return to the bridge, claiming they have nowhere else to go. 

amNewYork Metro reached out DSS-DHS for comment and is awaiting a response.

DSNY tosses tents and blankets into a garbage truck. Photo by Dean Moses
Homeless individuals attempted to salvage their tent. Photo by Dean Moses