Swept away: Kips Bay homeless man kept his block clean, and lost his living quarters for his trouble

An eccentric Kips Bay homeless man who calls himself Zioni spent months cleaning outside of a closed down Indian Restaurant, Deccan Spice NYC, just steps from where he lived.

Now his encampment, set up beneath a scaffold, has been cleared out due to construction. 

When New Yorkers spy homeless encampments, complaints of piled garbage usually follow. Yet Zioni considered himself the sole owner of the encampment at the corner 28th Street and Lexington Avenue, and he took it upon himself to make sure the sidewalk was free of trash and other debris. 

Compared to more destitute encampments, Zioni’s was rather tidy. Constructed with found and donated pieces of furniture, he created a living room on the neighborhood sidewalk.

From a couch, a desk, an office chair, and even a makeshift bed, he had fashioned a personal dormitory amidst the brisk fall winds and passing pedestrian traffic. Yet where he set himself apart from countless other encampments found around the Big Apple is his apparent dedication to cleanliness.

The encampment included a couch and chairs. Photo by Dean Moses

“I’m here Monday through Sunday,” Zioni said, smiling. He shared that many of the items he has received were all donated by members of the community. 

Erected against the wall of an out-of-business restaurant and with the hustle and bustle of New Yorkers traveling to and from the 28th Street subway station — just one block away from his encampment — Zioni ensured his block was maintained.

In late November, Zioni told amNewYork he doesn’t want any trouble but also does not care if anyone loses respect for him for living on the street. However, he does say that there were unsavory individuals lurking around his encampment attempting to steal his belongings and harass him. 

“People try to steal my stuff all the time, but life is hard,” Zioni explained.

Often seen with a dustpan and brush in hand, Zioni was forced out of his encampment in December due to ongoing construction work. The couch and chairs have vanished, leaving only bare pavement and the workman’s façade in its wake.

Zioni sweeping the area. Photo by Dean Moses

According to Dean Connolly, a builder working on 120 Lexington Avenue, says he is impressed by Zoni’s dedication to the area and even sees him return to clean.

“The trashcan over there is full. It is unusual because homeless guys aren’t usually very cooperative. He seems like a good guy,” Connolly said.

Local owner of New Foods of India, a small food bazaar, located across the street from the former encampment, agrees with this sentiment. 

“He used to come around to buy lottery tickets, smoke or something like that, but never any trouble. He would come in the morning to clean and to smoke a cigarette. He wouldn’t ask for money,” Atein said.

Although Zioni no longer sleeps on the corner of East 28th Street, locals say they still see him around with his dustpan sweeping the area.

The sidewalk after the removal. Photo by Dean Moses