Since Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast and left a gigantic part of New York City flooded, without electricity, heat, and water, and, in places hit hardest like Staten Island and Far Rockaway, reduced to nothing but burning rubble, the Internet has been filled with “disaster porn” imagery. It hits close to home, literally — close enough for New Yorkers to be able to help. There have been numerous reports that efforts by the Red Cross, FEMA, and other large-scale rescue organizations have been failing, with centers closing early, getting shut down, or failing to exist altogether. While help has arrived to a few areas, some — notably, Far Rockaway — were left stranded on their own, until Occupy Sandy stepped in. The all-volunteer, DIY organization, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, has been providing assistance all over the city. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been crucial.
“We’re able to bypass some of the ‘red tape.’ We’re not operating under regulations — we just do whatever we can, immediately. Disaster relief should be able to do that,” Chloe Cockburn, a civil rights lawyer and Occupy Sandy volunteer with the Red Hook Initiative, tells us. Occupy Sandy has made huge efforts in organization through social media. Their Twitter account is updated continuously, but their internal communication channels seem to be the infrastructure, with many on the Occupy lists coming out of the woodwork to help. “We’re able to reach out directly to people imbued with the spirit of community activism, those with friends who can help, to local organizations, communities, and churches. It’s been a lot of ‘my friends at this place are willing to do this right now’ and going for it.”
Here are some of photos of their relief efforts in Red Hook by photographer Tod Seelie. Go to the Occupy Sandy website to see how you can help. They are accepting donations for food, warm clothing, flashlights, batteries, generators — anything you can do is appreciated.