Syracuse police and other law enforcement agencies spent several hours Wednesday going through an abandoned 10-story building that has been a daytime hangout for some of the city’s homeless.
My friend James, who sleeps in a doorway of the office building — across the street from city hall — has told me of prostitution and other activities that go on inside.
The building once was home to a telecommunications company, but apparently has been vacant since 1995. County tax records show it’s now owned by a Brooklyn-based outfit, with $2.34 million owed in back taxes and penalties.
I couldn’t reach Syracuse police spokesman Lt. Eric Carr Wednesday afternoon to learn the reason for the police presence. And James wasn’t hunkered down in the doorway as usual when I stopped by again after 5 p.m., so I couldn’t ask him.
James has slept on a pile of cardboard in a doorway of the building since at least last winter. Overnight temperatures have dropped below zero recently, and while the doorway is exposed, it’s sheltered from the wind.
James, 49, is a survivor who falls into the “hardcore homeless” category, meaning he sleeps outdoors no matter how cold it gets. He refuses to go to shelters for food or to get out of the elements. I’ve written about him here several times.
James minds his own business. He wants nothing to do with what he says goes on inside the building.
Last winter, I lent him a snow shovel so he could clear a path for the shopping cart he pushes around Syracuse to collect returnable bottles and cans.
Someone stole the shovel, so James bought me a new one. I’ve used it several times already this winter.
I’m not sure where he’ll end up sleeping Wednesday night, but I hope the police are done with their business and James can return to his familiar surroundings. I’ll try to gather more information Thursday.