LONG ISLAND CITY, Queens (PIX11) — A Long Island City man launched a hunger strike and has been sleeping in a tent on a sidewalk for weeks to fight for community space at his NYCHA complex.
On the corner of Vernon Boulevard and 44th Drive, just outside a massive city-owned building, Lashawn “Suga Ray” Marston is inside his green tent.
Marston grew up at the Queensbridge Houses, just a few blocks away. He said he’s camping out for a cause. He’s calling on New York City to convert the building, which spans almost an entire city block, into a community hub.
Marston is a member of the Western Queens Community Land Trust, a Queens nonprofit made up of small business owners, activists, and artists. He said he’s tired and frustrated with what he calls the tale of two Long Island Cities. So Marston decided to go on a hunger strike.
Marston said a note from the city’s Sanitation Department was attached to a nearby pole and that he has to be out by Saturday. But he wants to stay.
Jenna Lyle, the deputy press secretary of NYC Public Schools, told PIX11 News the building Marston wants to convert into a community hub — 44-36 Vernon Boulevard — is actively used by the Department of Education.
“[The building] actively serves many different critical functions for New York City Public Schools, with over 1,200 employees working out of the building supporting school facilities, transportation, food service, the Public Schools Athletic League, and many other departments,” Lyle said. “The building has also served as a hub for COVID-19 equipment and other PPE, as well as materials for incoming New Yorkers during the past year. There are no current additional plans for the building.”
Marston gets a lot of double-takes. Not everyone agrees with him. Asia Machado, who works across the street, said she’s curious about what’s going on with Marston and his tent.
Marston said he hopes to start a conversation and convert the building into what would be called the Queensboro People’s Space, a hub for food, manufacturing, and local artists.
Marston plans on being in the tent until Tuesday, his 39th birthday.