On Sunday, November 4, Mike Becker of Allston joined for a day the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts coordinated by Occupy Wall Street activists. The words are his, with some edits for clarity by The Boston Occupier staff.
Midtown and up was pretty much unaffected, and life seemed to be continuing as normal–tourists, businesses, etc. A little farther south there was some evidence that something had gone wrong–a few buildings still without power in lower Manhattan, some parking lots still being pumped out, and a fair amount of subway closures. There was also a strong National Guard and FEMA presence around Battery Park. They seemed to just be generally standing around. A few crews manned pumps to get the basements of buildings cleaned up. The [New York Stock Exchange] was ready to go, and things looked pretty normal.
I view this as a gross mismanagement of resources. The aid we [Occupy Boston activists] were giving was in Far Rockaway, which was pretty hard hit along with quite a few less economically advantaged areas in and around the city. There was very little government help to be seen: some evidence of looting, a couple National Guard trucks, and a woefully understaffed FEMA distribution center manned by what appeared to be entirely Americorps workers in their early twenties. The fact that a single taxpayer dollar was used to pump water out of the basement of the NYSE to get the stock market running while there were still people trapped in their homes without food, water or heat/electricity; people afraid or unable to navigate the dark stairwells of their apartment buildings and thus cut off from distribution centers, disgusts me utterly. The more I think about it, the angrier it makes me, and I haven’t yet reached a limit yet.
What are our tax dollars for, if not to help those who have been struck by a freak occurrence and need help the most? Why is getting power restored to the offices of JP Morgan Chase more important to those who direct aid than the needs of actual living, breathing, suffering humans?
That said, the showing of volunteer and community support for these neighborhoods was inspirational to say the least. Occupy and other groups (notably the churches) are running massive distribution centers, and free of any red tape or silly rules about distribution (like Bloomberg’s fresh ban on feeding the homeless in public), can do things like go door to door to deliver critical aid–food, water, medicine–to people who can’t get it themselves. These groups also have an astonishing number of feet on the ground, which, coupled with huge resource pools, is making a tangible difference everywhere it can be seen. Is it enough? Probably not, but it is growing.
The thing that sticks the most for me, having gone down for just a day, was an older lady in a low-income beachfront midrise telling us that the seven of us (including three medics) with our minivan and a few bags of diapers, sanitary napkins and wipes, water and food, were the first form of outside aid that they had seen in the five days since the storm. That sums it up pretty good.
To donate to the Occupy Boston leg of Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, please visit sandyrelief-