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Interview with Andrea Ciannavei, InterOccupy, Occupy Sandy inbox volunteer

Sandy Relief 4/25/13
Interviewee: Andrea Ciannavei, InterOccupy, Occupy Sandy inbox volunteer
Interviewer: Max Liboiron

Interviewer: Alright so, since you’ve agreed that your name and affiliation can be used, would you mind saying your name and affiliation?

Andrea: Sure. My name is Andrea Ciannavei. I worked with InterOccupy. I’m actually on a break from them right now for a couple of months, but yeah.

Interviewer: Why are you on a break?

Andrea: I’m actually a writer, a TV writer. And I’ve been working–like just to give a brief timeline, like in 2011, I got a job traveling to ten countries and three continents for three months doing a lot of research for women’s empowerment issues. And there were a lot of sort of economic, political, social–vast inequities that I saw in each country that when I–by the time I got here, back to New York, Occupy had just started, like, maybe a month before. So I went from that straight into Occupy and was essentially working full-time hours for a year and a half-ish. Yeah, like, October, 2011 to January, February, 2013. So, I was pretty exhausted. But I also am a TV writer. And I ended up getting–I had to go…I had to go to Germany in the fall to run a writer’s workshop for veterans at Landstuhl. And then I went to go see my family in Italy. And then I got two TV gigs. So I had to take a couple of months so I could write those. And I was, like, I can’t do this right now.

Interviewer: Your time off was working.

Andrea: My time off was working, exactly. [laughter]

Interviewer: Okay. I want to come back to the women’s equity thing though. That seemed interesting.

Andrea: Sure.

Interviewer: I’ll circle back in a minute.

Andrea: Yeah.

Interviewer: So could you start by telling me sort of what your experience of Sandy was like?

Andrea: Sure. So Sandy happened, obviously. And I didn’t have–we were all–at least I was in my house. So in Harlem, there was very little–there were, like, a couple of branches on the ground. Some trees in the park were down. But there was nothing, nothing at all like what was going on downtown and in Brooklyn obviously. So I got a phone call from Tammy, and also from–and she was with, you know, Michael Primo and Diego Ibanez and a bunch of other folks. I don’t know if you can–

Interviewer: Occupy folks?

Andrea: Occupy folks, yeah. They were in Red Hook at that–like it was, like, the day after the storm sort of passed and the people were starting to come out of their houses. They were in Red Hook and they–Tammy called me and said, look, you know, there’s a lot of damage, a lot of people are really screwed in Red Hook. And they were actually on their way to Far Rockaway. And she just–she and this other woman, Bree, had set up, like, a volunteer sort of intake form and she was like, can you just start getting this, like you know, connected to our Civi system [CiviCRM] and start building a hub, that we have these hubs at InterOccupy. And so I was like, sure. So we just started, like, putting down basic things like, you know, information where to go for whatever, food supplies, that kind of thing.

Interviewer: So internet paperwork.

Andrea: Internet paperwork, essentially. Yeah. And then–but then they called me. We got– You know, all the people that had been working together on other Occupy things for the whole year were sort of just in place. So everyone got contacted. And then there was literally a car full of people that just went to Far Rockaway to see what was going on there. And they called us back later on that night and was like, it’s a disaster out here, like cops were asking Occupy people for food. Like it was really, really fucked up. So we were like, it just–no one expected that, you know? And so we started having these regular phone calls through–there were people on the ground, and then there were a group of us. It was really mainly me and Michael Badger who were just trying to intake all of this information. But it’s kind of like, you know, a little pebble being overwhelmed by a tsunami. It was sort of–it was too much. There was so many people that need–so many areas that needed help. So we started pulling in people over the next, like, two weeks. We started pulling in people. Like there was one artist named Sujen who helped us create a fusion table of all the different locations of people that were accepting supplies. And then the organizers had set up main hubs, like 520 Clinton and the other church, which the name now escapes me. Jacobi. And so the way it was working was that we had all these little areas. Some of them were apartments. Like I was accepting supplies from people in Harlem and then calling this guy named Dicey to send a truck to bring the stuff into Brooklyn and down to Chinatown. I went down there at one point to bring a bunch of stuff. So there were all these, like, little sort of places where people were accepting supplies. And then they would be, you know, driven into these major hubs. And then from there, it would be distributed to affected areas. And so our job online at least was to A, get the word out to people who wanted to volunteer–and we had a ton of volunteers. I think it was like–it was something like–there were different people taking in volunteers and we were trying really hard to make it centralized. Whether people like that or not is whatever, another conversation. But I think just from our site we took in something like twenty-thousand volunteers within a space of two weeks.

Interviewer: I’ve heard seventy thousand from other sources.

Andrea: Yeah. I’m sure. It’s–yeah. Yeah, that’s because different hubs were also taking in volunteers, too. So what the final number was, I really don’t have any idea. But just from my end, we were dealing with, like, twenty thousand people. So part of our job was to communicate to them, like, we need help in these areas. And in the early days it was really hectic. It was like I would get an email. And my job specifically was to deal with the email address that everyone emailed for questions. So I was working, like, from seven in the morning–I’m not kidding–seven in the morning to, like, two in the morning every night for two weeks. Like I didn’t leave my house. I just left my house to walk my dog, smoke a cigarette on the fire escape, and like get food occasionally. And at that point, I didn’t even want to cook. I just was eating peanut butter and jelly. So [laughter]…so the emails that were coming in were like anywhere from “how can I help” to “you guys aren’t doing enough,” to [laughter]…to “I have a truck load of shit from Ohio; how can I get it to you?” And then–but also we would get these frantic emails from people, like “my uncle’s in a wheelchair on the twenty-fifth floor in Chinatown, and I’m worried about him, and I can’t get down there because I have kids.” So in the early days, I would send out sort of alerts to volunteers, like you know, “we’ve got these people in this house. Who can go there? Please contact me.” And then, like, five people would email me back and say “I can go right now.” And I would just ask them, like, “can you afford to bring food and can you go with a flashlight and see what’s going on?” And people did that. And they delivered food and help them, or they went there and said everything’s fine. You know, they just checked in on them for me.

Interviewer: Did you have, like, a case–a sort of case infrastructure where you could–?

Andrea: No, I mean I don’t know from Adam about this stuff. All I know is, like, is if someone says I need this, I’m usually the type of people that was like, okay, how can we put that fire out right now? And so I just sort of went that way. It was like there was no–like in terms of, like, the way a social worker would deal with that.

Interviewer: But even, like–so how–so if someone said “my grandpa is stuck on the fiftieth floor and there’s no elevator. I can get to him. There’s no subway and I don’t have a bike.” How did you make sure that was met? How did you follow up on that?

Andrea: I did it by hand. Like I would email someone, and then they would email me back. And I would just keep track of them in my inbox and just follow up with them until I knew–

Interviewer: So you didn’t even have a spreadsheet or a check button, nothing.

Andrea: No. No, because I literally was staring at the computer all day long.

Interviewer: Right.

Andrea: So I just didn’t even–like there wasn’t even time for that. [laughter] Like sort of–I wish I could. That was probably the smarter way to do it, but I definitely kept my–there were only a few. I think there were like–there was one particular story that I remember where a guy from California emailed me and said, “hey, I have a family in Howard Beach; they’re my cousin or something. And they have kids. And they’ve been stuck in the house for two days. And there are, you know, looters and they don’t have gas for their car. They have no food.” And they are, like, “I’m really worried about them because they have kids and no heat and no food.” And I was like-“uh!”-and so I emailed some people. I’m like can I get somebody out to Howard Beach. And I did two things, one was I was trying to get a hold of somebody at a hub that was near there and say “hey, can you send someone up there?” But then I would also email the volunteer list and say “I need someone to go out here, you know.” And I just watched it. And then a couple of hours later, he emailed me back and he said “someone from Occupy showed up with a lasagna and got everybody”–it was very emotional. And I was like, I started crying on the computer. So…so there was that. And in the beginning it was like that. But it was starting to become a problem because there was too much, like–everything was urgent. And so we tried to consolidate, like, how…how we were communicating with these volunteers, you know. So eventually it became more controlled. And those sort of urgent things that came up, we started, once the infrastructure started to make itself clear, you know, if someone said, “hey, there’s somebody in Coney Island that’s, you know, having a problem,” I would contact the hub in Coney Island and say, “can you take care of this?” So it wasn’t directly coming from me, you know? And then after awhile, then it became about getting the hub to send me their volunteer needs so we could send it out to the big group. So that was the outreach sort of communication end. On the other end, which Michael was really in charge of, was keeping track of, sort of like, the general inventory for all the main hubs. So like say if you came to the website and you wanted to drop off supplies at Jacobi but you don’t know what to bring, you could go and say, “oh, they need cleaning supplies, they need X, Y, Z, they don’t need clothes, and this is what you can drop off,” and like all of that. So we tried to keep track of that. And the way that we did it–this woman Sujeun and Michael set up fusion table which kept track of all of the hub, all of the sites we could leave supplies, and then all of the volunteer information, like who was accepting volunteers, what the work was, that kind of thing. And what was cool about it was that you’d put in the information, then it would show up on the website. Everywhere that location was located on the website the new information would show up on these sort of cards. They looked like cards on the website. So it was more automated because before we just did everything by HTML and it was like insane and–

Interviewer: When you say fusion table, you mean Google Fusion?

Andrea: Uh huh. Yeah. And then I know–I don’t know. Did you talk to Devon at all?

Interviewer: He’s on the list.

Andrea: Okay. Definitely talk to him and he’ll have a lot to say about Sahana, which is–so you know what that is?

Interviewer: Say it for the tape. [laughter]

Andrea: Sahana–from my limited understanding because I didn’t end up working with it; it went directly to the hub locations. Sahana is an open-source disaster relief management system. And so they tailored it for Occupy Sandy.

Interviewer: Nice.

Andrea: Which is very nice. Then there was another one. I’d have to get the name for you. But this woman, Tara in Boston, had a similar thing where, and no one–she was like “nobody uses this.” It’s ridiculous, but it’s a whole database of all these different, nation-wide, different locations that have supplies or that need supplies. And you can go and look at it and– So if you need, like, blankets, you can call that person and say, “hey, I need those blankets.” And it’s a free system.

Interviewer: So it’s like Craigslist for disasters?

Andrea: Kind of, yeah. And I mean it’s not pretty-looking at all, but it definitely could get the job done if people use it. And I believe it was involved with–if I’m not mistaken, it’s involved with Katrina. I’m pretty sure. I will get that information for you because it’s pretty cool. So yeah, that was like—yeah, basically my job was, like, communicating with the volunteers. And I still kind of do it when– it slowed down a great deal. But I do that. And then keeping that website as up to date as possible, which was–

Interviewer: You’re still doing that?

Andrea: No.

Interviewer: Okay.

Andrea: No, not anymore. I mean someone, this woman, Pea took over the website stuff because I mean for, like, three weeks I was doing it pretty much twenty-four hours a day and then I had to go to Germany and do my job, so.

Interviewer:  You also have to sleep. [laughter]

Andrea: Yeah, I had to sleep and–yeah, so it was a little like, you know, I feel…I feel badly because in my mind, like, I like to work very–I like to follow things through. I like to get things truly done. And it was fucking next to impossible, if I may be so frank. It was just like–it was so much information. And there was sometimes conflicting information or information that would change, like, five times in an hour. So trying to keep straight, keep it all straight and keep it orderly was really hard. And some people, you know, had attitudes about it. And other people were like, “hey, we’re all here for free and doing this the best we can, and so you know, let’s just do what we can,” you know?

Interviewer: Do you think people fell through the cracks just because of the onslaught of info?

Andrea: I think–I’m sure they did. I think that in any situation like this people fall through the cracks, because the need is so overwhelming. And then you get into, like, Occupy bullshit about, like, how to like–you know:  what the decision-making process is and who should be involved with that, and how does that work, “we’re too big,” “don’t centralize anything,” “don’t do—“ It gets to–people start getting distracted and fighting about process, you know? And very Occupy. And then, like, we’re fighting about they don’t like this person because he’s a pain in the ass and–I’m part of that too. I mean there are certain people that I’m like, “don’t even bother talking to me because I can’t work with you. “You know what I mean? But yeah, so it’s not–in some ways it’s not so different from any other organization, even though we’re not a, quote, “organization.” But–

Interviewer: You’re not an institution.

Andrea: Not an institution. But at the same–I will say this. One of the things that–like just to give you an example—like, when Sandy first happened, the first thing I did was go to Red Cross to volunteer. I filled out a volunteer form. I didn’t hear from them until four weeks later telling me that they didn’t need me, right? And I know that’s a fucking lie. But what Occupy did, which I thought was really great–and I’m sure there’s many other things that other people will add to that–but one of the things that, from my point of view, that struck me was, like, we could empower people who do not have–and this is a plus or minus depending on what you’re looking at. But, we could put people to work immediately. Do you know what I mean?

Interviewer: And anyone, right?

Andrea: Anyone.

Interviewer: When I went down, there were eight-year-olds on the PB and J line.

Andrea: Yeah.

Interviewer: And you’re like, yes. I feel that you would not be–you know, this high to ride at the Red Cross.

Andrea: Right, right.

Interviewer: But these kids were–

Andrea: They can make peanut butter and jelly–yeah, there’s a place for everybody regardless of what your skill set is. I mean I had a friend who’s a vet in Massachusetts who’s a licensed plumber or something like that. Or she does heat and HVAC shit. She was like “I will come down and, like, help people fix the heating in their house if you want.” And I was like, “sure. Come.” Like we got people, a whole range of skill sets, and could put them to work immediately with, like, next to zero bureaucracy, you know?

Interviewer: Uh huh.

Andrea: They did have to–like we did have to say, like, “we’re going to be mucking and gutting. And so people with asthma and people with heart issues, that kind of thing, like don’t come to these things,” or “you have to be over eighteen.”

Interviewer: And everyone went through an orientation, yeah?

Andrea: Yes, they did. I would send them to either Jacobi or 520. And they would get oriented there. I have no idea what happened there. And then they would bring the people out to the site, yeah.

Interviewer: So sort of we’re interested in how needs are shifting over time, right. So did you see any difference between, like, the crazy pebble and tsunami sort of example into—so, so first of all, how long were you doing the sort of interface work?

Andrea: I was doing that for the first two weeks.

Interviewer: Okay.

Andrea: And then I handed it off. The inbox became–we were getting five hundred emails a day. So–and my–I was really a hard-on about making sure that every email got responded to in some fashion. So I had four people answering that inbox on twenty-four-hour shifts, basically. And then after that I switched over to just dealing with the volunteers. While I was working in Europe, I was still sort of setting up the information about the volunteers. And that was somewhat–that was daily actually, at that point. And that…that stuff was a lot about– The first part of it was more about donating, and then sorting the donations, figuring out what people had. So there was a lot of that. The next part was clean up, mold remeda–clean up, mucking, gutting, that kind of thing. Then it was a lot of mold remediation. And now it’s–there have been a few things that are more sort of cultural, like artistic sort of like ninety days commemoration–you know like, remembering Sandy or remembering the people affected by Sandy, you know. And then the more political aspect now, which is, you know, land grabs and climate change and that kind of thing.

Interviewer: Okay.

Andrea: Yeah.

Interviewer: Okay. So one of the questions we’re asking everyone is when do you think recovery has happened or will happen, and what do you think it will look like?

Andrea: Ask me that again so I can understand it.

Interviewer: So recovery–

Andrea: Yeah.

Interviewer: What does recovery mean? And when do you think it will happen or has it already happened?

Andrea: I don’t think it’s nearly done from what I understand. And part of my difficulty in answering that question is my–I was not physically present in any of those spots because I was stuck behind the computer doing that other stuff. From my understanding, there has been some recovery in the sense that the water has receded in some areas and some people have had–you know, obviously have their lights turned back on and their heat. But it seems to me that, like, insurance companies have not done their job in fully and appropriately helping these people rebuild their homes. Certainly on the climate change end of recovery, not much has happened at all. And that’s a highly politicized fight. And then in terms of land, like that question–like I remember the city was talking about everyone having to move back a certain amount.

Interviewer: Managed retreat.

Andrea: Managed retreat. Like on one hand, like, that seems logical. But on the other–I’m like something–I never trust the government when they say, like, “everybody has to move back because of the shore line” or whatever. I’m like somebody’s going to take that property. They’re going to do something with it. I don’t know what. But so I don’t know. I feel like, I mean I don’t want to say there hasn’t been any recovery because I know that’s not true. But I just–I don’t know. I feel like–I fear for another Katrina-type situation where people get put out of their homes and somehow they’re just never allowed to go back in. And you know, FEMA sort of mismanaging their money and putting people in hotels for all these times where we have a huge amount of apartment resources that they could have instead. You know, that sort of thing. It’s just like a silly use of money and resources. And then these gigantic institutions, which I don’t doubt that there are people there that have good intentions and want to help. But the bureaucracy is, like you know, ossified. You know what I mean? I don’t know if that answers your question.

Interviewer: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Andrea: I think that like—[long pause] I mean the thing that really troubles me is this climate change thing.

Interviewer: Yeah, talk more about this. I was going to ask you.

Andrea: I mean I don’t–like to me this is not, like, a one-off. You know what I’m saying? Like this is going to happen again and again. And did you read that story in–it might have been in New York Magazine–where there was like one section right by Goldman Sachs downtown where all of their lights were on. Like they were good.

Interviewer: It was Goldman Sachs.

Andrea: It was Goldman Sachs. There were five–

Interviewer: They have their own generators.

Andrea: Yeah, and everybody else was fucked. Like Chinatown was fucked. Like everybody was like–and it’s through no fault of their own. Like people can’t afford to have, like “oh, let me just put a generator in my apartment and get”–you know what I mean? Like it doesn’t work that way.

Interviewer: Plus there would be carbon monoxide problems.

Andrea: Yeah, just slightly. [laughter] But it’s like…it’s like…it’s like people who have means–they have means to get out of a flood. You know what I’m saying? And so that to me is connected to climate change because the people that are going to suffer the most with climate change are the people who don’t have the money and the means, you know? And you know, like sometimes I wonder about the climate change thing. Is it even reversible at this point? Do you know what I’m saying? Not that that should just be like, “well fuck it, let’s just do whatever we want.” But it’s kind of–I don’t know. It’s terrifying to me. And it’s not one of my, like–I’m more, just in terms of my own reading and stuff, and definitely I tend to learn more towards, like–you ever read “Griftopia” by Matt Taibbi?

Interviewer: No.

Andrea: Oh my god, it’s a great book. You have to read it. But like the sort of like inner, sort of–it’s like absolute corruption within finance and government and that collusion between the two of them. It’s–like that’s sort of where my focus is. But with this climate change stuff, it’s like–I don’t know. To me, like, this is sort of just like the precursor to what we’re going to be witnessing in– I think if not every year, every other year. And it’s going to happen with more frequency. And disaster relief in this manner is going to probably become even more of a busi–well, it will become more of a business. But I think that everyday people might find themselves –again– in a situation where they have to, like you know, run to help their neighborhood, which I don’t resent at all. Like, that’s what we should be doing. But it ‘s just it’s really…it’s really unfortunate when, because of our own personal unwillingness to change and, on a larger level, our government’s unwillingness to change, our businesses are unwilling to change–and so the people that end up paying the price for that are, you know, anyone who’s not holding power on those levels. Does that make sense? I feel like I’m babbling.

Interviewer: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well it’s sort of like everyone will be affected by climate change but everyone will be affected unevenly.

Andrea: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, for sure. Yeah.

Interviewer: Do you have any ideas about how we can deal with some of that?

Andrea: ]pause] Well. [pause] I don’t feel smart enough to answer that question. [pause] But you know, I’m still fixated on the fact that our political system is fucking broken that to even come up with a creative idea about how to change it–like I’m not even at that place. I’m sure there are other people, but I’m so mesmerized by the utter disfunctionality of our system. You know, this gun stuff is, like, a great case in point. You know what I mean? And then of course, like you know, you sort of feel that, in the last–I would say the last–like even when I was growing up–so for the last, like, thirty years, this whole notion of, like, green and energy and, you know, save the planet stuff was fairly uncontested until the last, what, four, five years where all of a sudden this anti-climate change thing started coming up where everyone’s lying and it’s all a conspiracy. I don’t know what it’s conspiring to do. But it just seems like in the last five years, like, there’s this willful, you know, denial of facts. And everyone else who’s not drinking that Kool-Aid is powerless to change anything. You know what I mean, because there’s also a huge amount of money behind that. You got oil. You have all these businesses that are multi-billion dollar profit businesses. And there’s–I mean we’re at their mercy. You know what I mean? And I don’t know how to get out of that. So then it’s like, well what can you do on a personal level? Bike everywhere instead of driving. You know, I actually in the last couple of weeks–I’ve been a staunch carnivore for my entire life. And I still eat meat. But even that idea, like you know, if you eat meat, if you eat red meat, like this is how it contributes to climate change, you know? And not–to say nothing of, like, the horrible conditions that those animals live in before they’re killed. And so I’ve actually found myself, like, through no will of my own [laughter]. like walking into a store and, like, the first thought is, like “oh, maybe I’ll buy a steak.” And then literally my mind is like, “no, you can’t.” Like my mind has changed on its own in a way. I’m sort of grossed out by the idea of it, you know. And then, I mean I’ll say this. I remember the gas shortage that was going on during Sandy. That shit was crazy. I was like this feels like I was told about the seventies, you know, where you know, like volunteers couldn’t even get to places anymore because they ran out of gas and there was nowhere to get gas, you know. And I was like this is why this is, you know–it was just a nice ironic reminder why we’re in this situation in the first place.

Interviewer: The fossil fuel issue?

Andrea: Yeah. Yeah.

Interviewer: Alright. So I have some other sort of questions that might be a little bit more patchy now–

Andrea: Okay.

Interviewer: –because I’ve sort of gone through–

Andrea: I hope I’ve answered, like–

Interviewer: Yeah, yeah.

Andrea: Okay.

Interviewer: Yeah. Social media–how did that play into the storm? Or mass media?

Andrea: Oh, it was huge. It was a huge player. First of all, in mutual aid–in the mutual aid sense, like, so whenever I would get volunteer calls, I’d put them in an email, send them out to however many people. Now it’s like thirty-two. I’d send them out to all these people. And I would take that language and post it on the website so it would also show up on there, on the volunteer updates page. Then it would go into Occupy Sandy’s Facebook page and also into Occupy’s Facebook page. And then I put it on my personal page because a lot of people were coming to me directly and asking how they could help. And then people start rolling that out, you know. And then we put it on Twitter with hashtags. And people who were looking to help with whatever, if they had time that day and all you had to do was search by Occupy Sandy or mutual aid or whatever it was, and things would come up. And people would get engaged in that way. Then–so yeah. Twitter, Facebook obviously, emails, web stuff. And then…and then, you know, newspapers just started like, like what are you guys doing? You know, and we started talking about it. And we got a lot of good press initially about…about Occupy Sandy and what we were doing with that. And it was a good–that really– One of the sort of unforeseen, at least for me–like I didn’t expect it–but it sort of changed people’s attitude toward Occupy at that time because right before there was sort of like–like Occupy was a joke that people would make. So it was a little bit of a derision thing, you know. And it sort of showed up on Mayor Bloomberg too because he had obviously a great distaste for us. And so they had to kind of like, yeah–you know, they had to give us props sort of unwillingly. But yeah, so I mean I think media had–it definitely– I think one of the things that it did do was project to people, like, you can get involved. Like this is very much an accessible way to do something, because people were feeling helpless and did want to do something. So if all you can do is bake cupcakes and send them–that’s what my neighbor did–then we did that, you know. So that was one of the things I felt like was really great. And then eventually I think there was one story about sort of the in-fighting thing that happened, like, with Occupy Sandy. I wasn’t really psyched about that but it was like kind of inevitable because the fighting became so loud at one point.

Interviewer: Who carried that story?

Andrea: I want to say Slate. I’m not sure. I have to look.

Interviewer: Slate also carried a positive–

Andrea: Yes, they did. Yeah, no. I would say that the overall sort of tenor of the coverage was positive. The people who were negative about Occupy Sandy were negative about Occupy. And that’s because of an ideological thing that they just have, you know. But it was quite small, you know.

Interviewer: Yeah, I think you would look a bit like an ass if we were criticizing Occupy during Sandy.

Andrea: Right, right, right. Yeah.

Interviewer: It was pretty obvious that you guys were carrying the weight.

Andrea: And also because there was–oh, back to–just quickly, back to that thing about climate change and then, like, sort of economic inequality. You know like, I had heard this from people who were on the ground that they were in neighborhoods in Far Rockaway where none of the big institutions ever went to, you know, and they were all, like, black or brown communities that were poor, which I found aston–I just…I just couldn’t believe it. You know what I mean? Like a part of me couldn’t believe it. But then also I wasn’t surprised, you know. It’s like–but yeah, I just wanted to throw that in.

Interviewer: So sort of going on the inequity thing, it’s been fairly clear how race and class have mapped onto the disaster rate. Some shoreline properties are really expensive but also the really low-line ones are where projects are. Right, if people don’t have means, they can’t leave. You already talked about that. Have you seen–going back to your gender inequity sort of thing, have you seen how gender is playing out, post storm?

Andrea: No. I’m sure it is but I haven’t seen it. All I can say about gender–well, I mean you know, it’s sort of like deductive reasoning. It’s like women get paid less than men anyway. And then they’re off–women are getting stuck with kids and no second income from a husband. That sort of thing happens often. And that’s a worldwide thing, you know, so it makes sense to me that if were to say, oh you know, women were affected more in the low-lying areas or in the poor areas, that would make sense to me, absolutely. I think the only thing I can say in terms of gender at least within Occupy is, like you know, there’s a lot of male entitlement and privilege happening. And so when women try to, you know, assert themselves oftentimes they come up against that, you know, which is–yeah. And in particular, like my attitude towards that when guys try to do that to me, like I have zero tolerance, and I just roar at them and fucking tell them off. Like no, you know what I mean, especially because the major age difference. I’m thirty-seven. I’m not going to have some twenty-eight-year-old dude, like, talk to me like I’m a bitch. Like I’ll incinerate him. You know what I mean? Just no. But it surprises me, you know, where I’m like, really? Like your job, your whole thing is about, you know, equality for all, whatever it is, and this is how you talk to other women? Like especially coming off of that trip, I was like I can’t do it.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Andrea: Yeah.

Interviewer: I totally understand.

Andrea: I bet you do.

Interviewer: I empathize and share in your pain.

Andrea: Well yeah, there’s no–I have yet to find an industry that’s not like that. You know what I mean? I’m sure–

Interviewer: Maybe the midwife industry. Well no, because then there are doctors.

Andrea: Right, exactly.

Interviewer: [Inaudible 34:47] industry.

Andrea: Exactly.

Interviewer: So do you think your experience of Sandy has changed how you see New York City?

Andrea: Hmm, that’s a really good question. It’s changed how I see the city much in the way that 9/11 changed how I saw the city only in the sense that, you know, most of the time when you walk around New York, it’s very easy to feel isolated and, like, you only have, like, your handful of friends and everybody else is a stranger and everybody’s an asshole because you have to take subways with them or whatever it is. You know, you have your attitude about the rest of the city. It’s very adversarial. But then when you have a thing like 9/11 or you have a thing like Occupy S–well not Occupy–Hurricane Sandy. And then people just band together in the face of this larger threat. It sort of opens your–it makes you more willing to open up yourself to someone else and sort of be in silent solidarity with them. Should something come and help. You know what I mean? It’s unfortunate that it takes a disaster to bring that out in people but it’s definitely, I mean just part of human nature. Do you watch Game of Thrones?

Interviewer: No, I don’t do violence.

Andrea: You don’t do violence? Okay. There’s a lot of violence in Game of Thrones. But there is like–there is a core that, like–there’s sort of something very true about that show that shows how people sort of act towards each other when there’s nothing greater than the sum of them threatening them, you know. And there’s a lot of in-fighting and, you know, egotism and violence and all that, you know. But then there’s something large in the show that’s coming, and we’re starting to learn what it is and it’s terrifying, and it’s threatening the entire planet essentially. And so it seems to me, like, when you’re looking at that scenario it’s like oh, well everyone could band together and fight this other enemy, you know. And it’s kind of what’s being hinted at in the show. And so I kind of see–and I write for TV, so of course I’m going to think of it that way. But so when I think of things like–and I hate the sort of jingoistic thing when it comes to terrorism. Like that’s a very dangerous conversation that I don’t like to have because it leads itself to, like, racism and stuff. But–and we’re culpable in a lot of ways. But things like that, you know, especially climate change, especially you know, disasters that hurt my neighbors, like that–it sort of awakens that desire to be of service and to be there for someone else. And I think that’s the major perception change, you know. I think also walking around in the New York City, people feel invulnerable. We’re like we live in New York City. What’s ever going to happen here? But shit goes down here all the time. And it certainly goes down for people who–you know, black guys and that kind of thing. It’s not safe for them, you know? They can’t walk down the street without being harassed, so. It also sort of is a wake-up call to–actually you are vulnerable. You live on an island surrounded by water, you know. I don’t live downtown. I live up in the hills in Harlem, so I’m lucky that way. But even so.

Interviewer: I think we’ve hit all the–yeah. Is there anything that I didn’t ask or should have covered but I haven’t? Anything that sticks out to you as an insight?

Andrea: I don’t think so. I mean one of the questions that I walked away with from Sandy is just like how to…how to set up an infrastructure quickly and a decision-making process quickly that gives equal voice to all the stakeholders. You mentioned that word before. You know? So that it’s not, like, top-down prescriptive, like this is what we’re going to do in your community. That was one of the things I really appreciated about Occupy Sandy people, is that they–I felt like they did do a really good job of trying to connect with community groups that were already there and help them as opposed to coming in from a place of privilege and being like this is what we’re going to do. And so–but one of the big problems is that Occupy Sandy had was that we had no way to make a decision community-wide about whatever, a fucking concert, where the money was going to go to or what the budget process was or whatever, you know? So–and we were working with–oh god, what was that name? It was–we were sort of working on side with FEMA. I know that. Like kind of–

Interviewer: In what way?

Andrea: I think it was just supplies, like getting supplies out of buildings and stuff like that. And I know we had been on some phone calls with them. I don’t really know a lot of details about that. But there wasn’t anybody who were like, we’re not going to work with you, you know? We worked with them. We worked with Red Cross. W e worked with–there was one group in New York that had started after 9/11. It was something like World–let me see. They were kind of like a smaller version of the Red Cross, but–

Interviewer: That was New York specific?

Andrea: Yes. And there was–and there were just these–

Interviewer: Is it New York Cares?

Andrea: No, it wasn’t that. No. I’ll find the name for you. But I was actually introduced to them through a friend who knew somebody there. And we started working with them. But they were like–you know, my relationship with them was fine because, you know, it just was. But then when she started talking to people on the ground, like organizers, Occupy organizers, like there were some ideological differences that were like, you know–name-calling started happening. And it was just like–like to me, I was just like really guys? Can we really just not go–this is not where we need to go right now. Like we have people who don’t have heat and they have kids or whatever. But I saw that and I was like–and then even of course within Occupy, there were, like, different people with different agendas obviously. So trying to find a canister to sort of hold all those cats and herd them into one thing and then get them–that…that to me is like how do we do that? And that’s kind of like my work that I do anyway. Like I work for the Writer’s Guild Foundation, and we work with Wounded Warrior Project. So my job is to, like you know, help get, like, get  forty veterans and twenty professional writers, and have a weekend where they, you know, write together and do this whole thing. And I organize all of it and make everything happen and keep everybody in line and do what they are told. You know what I mean? So like–so within me, like, I’m attracted to Occupy. I identify with a lot of their things. But some of my working practices is just very like, this is what you need to do in order to get that achiev–it’s very–you know, and that can be problematic for some people, but.

Interviewer: In Occupy?

Andrea: Yeah. I think so. I mean I’m never…I’m never really–like I’ve never, like, enforced that. Like I’ve never been a jerk about it. You know what I mean? But that is how my way. That is how I work. So it’s kind of like, alright, if this is the thing that we want to achieve, this is how we have to–that’s my opinion.

Interviewer: When you were doing a bunch of the hand’s on data information sort of flow stuff, do you think that there’s, like, a genre of disaster data that’s fundamentally different than other forms of information at other times? Some of that makes that very different. It’s a very high up question. It’s basically a research question.

Andrea: Okay. What other kinds of data? Like–?

Interviewer: Like every day, so like every day information flows versus what happens as far as gathering, coordinating, and information flow during a disaster. Right, like there’s the compression of time and–

Andrea: There’s definitely a compression of time. There’s definitely–because there is, like, the emergency factor to all of it. There’s definitely that. And–but I don’t know aside from that. You know what I mean? Like I don’t really have an understanding of how every other, like, day to day data would work or what that is. If I did, I could probably answer it better.

Interviewer: I don’t know either.

Andrea: But to me, maybe–I don’t know. Maybe not. I would say that one of the major things that, if there were any differences, and I’m, like, sort of taking a shot in the dark, I think it is compression of time. And I think it also is, like, because those…those–the state of things changes very quickly. Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s the only difference. I’m not sure.

Interviewer: Okay. Alright. Anything else? Any questions?

Andrea: No, not at the moment.

Interviewer: Okay. Great. Thank you.

Andrea: Thank you.

End of recording

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