When you’re the most down and out, you’ve got a few options to pay the rent: aside from ditching the single life, or declaring the 20-something equivalent of bankruptcy and moving in with the parents, you could take a route that’s been returning to prominence recently: squatting in those myriad half-finished condos lining Williamsburg and elsewhere. Hm, actually that does sound like a better (though not exactly legal) alternative to moving back to Jersey. But how do you go from traditionally homed rent payer to aspiring gutter punk? There’s a class for that: a “Squat the Condos” class April 10, described as “a practical workshop on squatting and direct action that will take us all from curious dilettante to eager amateur.” But do you really need a class in this? Teacher Christopher Robbins fills us in.
Robbins, who describes his work as being at the cusp of art and community development, built his own hut out of mud and sticks and lived in it while part of the Peace Corps in West Africa and spoke at a United Nations conference about his cross-cultural digital arts and education work in the South Pacific, among many other accolades.
Robbins tells us he’s offering the class — titled “SQUAT THE CONDOS! How to be a counter-culture dilettante” — more as an instigator than a pro. So what does it take to be a successful squatter anyway? [UPDATE: Looks like he's on to something: the class was listed as full this morning].
“There are number of things to do to establish a presence (start to get mail sent to you at the address, get utilities hooked up in your name, etc),” he says. But Robbins says to keep in mind the class is also about cultivating a renewed counter-culture movement.
“It’s all about running with the basic essentials and learning by doing, together,” he says. “Realistically, I see the class as a way to get some NPR gang into direct action — channel some Abbie Hoffman into 2011.”
Classes at the LES-based Trade School, a pop-up education center, run through April 17 and work on a nominal barter system from students (Robbins listed things like apples as potential payment from his students).
So how about it: would you ever take a class in squatting, or would you just wing it with a cardboard sign and a prayer? Has squatting ever been in the realm of possibility for you?