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Summer Brings Wave Of 'Crust Punk' Homeless Nomads To East Village

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - A homeless population living on the street by choice is back in the city again, and some East Village residents aren't thrilled about these visitors.

Packs of so-called "crust punks" or "crusties" taking over the streets, panhandling, drinking and getting rowdy have become a familiar sight in the summer, reports CBS2's Reena Roy.

"It's getting worse now than it was before," said Tania Martinez who lives in the East Village. "Me paying a lot of money being here, I shouldn't see things like this."

The homeless nomads - known to hop freight trains - pop in and out of cities across the country like Seattle and San Francisco, often ending up in and around Tompkins Square Park when it gets warm out.

The pilgrimage dates back to the late 1970s when many began migrating for the neighborhood's punk rock music scene. Like most subcultures, rejecting the status quo was a conscious choice by its members.

"It's absolutely a choice," said Dallas, one of the movement's adherents. "We just hate our government system, the way it affects us as a whole."

Dallas admits life on the streets can often get out of hand.

"Some of us, we drink and fight and do drugs and people don't like that on the streets," he said, admitting their presence can be a nuisance.

NYPD sources say there are more transient people this summer because of the city's increasing opioid epidemic. The narcotics division has been patrolling the park to help, with police doubling arrests this year - many of them drug related.

Police sources say because of the stepped up enforcement, many "crust punks" have started sleeping inside abandoned buildings in the outer boroughs instead.

Councilman Stephen Levin says homeless outreach teams are also out in force, but can only do so much.

"People have a right to stay on street if they want to, if they choose to," said Levin. "It's our job as the city to provide an adequate alternative to that so people feel safe."

So for now, the "crusties" are here to stay... until their next stop.

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