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Interview with James Rose, Occupy Sandy volunteer

Interviewee: James Rose, OWS activist and Occupy Sandy volunteer.
White man, 40 years old.
Interviewer: Shelly Ronen
1/14/2013

Q: So thanks again for your time. I have some questions specifically about your experience of Sandy and some that are kind of broader so why don’t you just start off by telling me how you got involved?

A:            Well through Occupy Wall Street. I’ve been involved with them since pretty much the beginning like late September, early October of 2011.  So all sorts of things they’ve been doing I’ve been getting involved with and this was another one but it was a lot different than other things that we’ve done.

Q:            Yeah, what were you expecting when you started out?

A:            I pretty much knew, I remember it was the night of the storm and I was watching television and New York One was covering what was happening and it was just a blackout in Rockaways and there’s these people that had a van and a guy was there with this light and boom mic it was three or four of my friends from Occupy Wall Street handing out food and I was like “oh my god that’s so cool” and the only ones down there right now are Occupy Wall Street, FEMA’s nowhere, Red Cross nowhere.  It was OWS for at least a couple weeks that were the main ones down there.  And I didn’t realize that they were localized to do that, they just did. I think our purpose — people from OWS because we already had a kitchen set up that gave us food for all of our events, like all of our protests and things like that, you know whenever we get masses of people together they come and bring us the kitchen.  There’s a working group that would come and bring us food so we had that already in place.  So I think it was just the kitchen again saying hey we’ve got to bring food over there, they have no power. So I’m pretty sure that’s where it started.

Q:            So initially it seems like it was mostly bringing food and like feeding people, what other sorts of problems arose over the course of the –?

A:            And then it was all the supplies necessary. I know St. Jacobi was one of the first hubs and that’s where I went first. It took me a little bit to get there– to respond to get down there just because life was crazy and I was living in [Northern Manhattan] at the time so it was a two hour subway ride over there or an hour and a half anyway.  I kind of got in a little bit of a routine a couple days a week heading over there. I wasn’t surprised but I was definitely impressed because I know Occupy is really organized anyway and always seems to have this infrastructure that seems to fall into place. I go in and there’s the communications, “the comms” they called it upstairs and then downstairs was just this huge — the hall at St. Jacobi was just full of stuff, it was like a little beehive of people buzzing around organizing things and I showed up with a bunch of stuff and I just gave it to them, they’re like “oh thanks” you know and they put it in its proper place.

And then I was asked what can I do and they had orientation so I went — there’s this one guy that was there that told us if you’re going to go out into the field this is the way you should behave because these people where they live has been destroyed and be considerate and think about them and don’t take pictures, be considerate this is their space, you’re coming there to help them not — it’s what do they need you know? Not like what you want to do. Yeah it was pretty cool. One guy from comms came down and said to my group of people that I was going through the orientation with and he said “does anybody here have a cell phone or a laptop” and I said “I have a cell phone” and he’s like “can you come with me we need someone to answer the hotline.” So that was my first, handful of times I came down to help out I was just — they redirect your number from the hotline number and you can answer the phone and you just basically somewhere through the — I don’t know exactly how they do it but it’s just basically — you just put your number on the list that the calls get redirected to.

Q:            That’s awesome.

A:            Yeah.

Q:            And what types of call were you getting?

A:            I was on the volunteer hotline so it was basically people that wanted to help out or give donations that sort of thing. And then there was another hotline for people that needed things and there was the distribution part of the whole situation. There was just different roles, two rooms basically one was for everything that was going out and one was for everything coming in via telephone and internet.  So if you had a laptop you can answer e-mails and actually call back people through the e-mails, there was also a visual voicemail sort of a thing where you could check and then also just answering the phones as they rang.  It was just a matter of catching up because there were several hundred a day, people contacting and trying to help out.

Q:            It’s an amazing system. So what do you do when you’re not involved with Occupy Sandy?

A:            I work with restaurants, I’m a bartender and also I’m a painter, an artist.

Q:            Okay. So how did you feel being dropped into the system of all the comms and –?

A:            It was pretty cool, you know definitely. I’ve done phone work before, like just talking to people on the phone different industries.  Years ago I was on — I would sell wine over the telephone, other odd jobs that I’ve had where I’ve had to answer the phone and talk to people over the phone so I feel pretty comfortable on the phone.  It’s something I’m comfortable with and talking to people.  Some people would call the number by mistake, people that needed things and that was always — that’s a lot more expected.  Like this one woman called Mrs. Davis from some — she’s up on the 26th floor in some affordable housing unit in the Rockaways and she’s like we have no power, we can’t cook food, we need help and I had to give her the right number to call. But she really wanted to talk to somebody. So I talked to her for a few minutes and just made her feel like we’re going to come help you out Mrs. Davis don’t worry about a thing, she’s an elderly woman.  She’s said  me and my husband we’re elderly we can’t get up and down the stairs because elevators are broken– so they’re going up and down 26 flights of — they’re not going to do that, they’re stuck there.  Thank goodness she was able to make the call; I don’t even know how she was able to do that.

Q:            That sounds like it would be really difficult?

A:            Yeah it sucked, that would’ve been a harder role to play I think because a lot of desperate people were calling and it’s tough, it’s definitely tough.

Q:            It seems over time that the kind of mental health needs became more prominent?

A:            I think so yeah, still you know, it’s crazy.  Like New York One, they cover a ton of things like 24 hours a day, that’s what they’re covering.  And it’s really something, I mean during this cold weather right now it’s zero degrees and there’s people with no heat, no electricity, 2-1/2 months later, more than that it’s going to be three months.  That’s the thing it shouldn’t be that way.

Q:            You were in [North Manhattan], is that what you said? And then when did you make the transition?

A:            Just a couple of weeks ago to [Brooklyn] yeah just so I could be with him some more and closer to him because his mother lives in [Brooklyn].

Q:            He’s brand new.

A:            He’s four months old yeah. My involvement with the kitchen is going down because his mother was on maternity leave for the first month and a half the kitchen was open but now she’s back at work so I have to watch him during the day quite a bit.  But we’re working it out and I can get over there.

Q:            So when did you transition from being involved with comms to the kitchen, how did that go?

A:            I was only with comms for like maybe a week or two and then Jacobi pretty much got closed. They stopped operating out of there and everybody was going over to 520 Clinton and that became the new main hub. And the F line or the R was more convenient for me because I have a residency, an art residency here and then Occupy Wall Street Puppet Guild is near and I just moved into this neighborhood, all off the R train, which goes to Bay Ridge Kitchen..

Q:            That’s really cool.

A:            Yeah we do great stuff there, the OWS Puppet Guild. We just did a huge thing this past Saturday to protest the third anniversary of Citizens United.

Q:            That’s awesome.

A:            Yeah we blew it up, we had a wedding on the steps of Federal Hall right across the street from the Stock Exchange, it was awesome. I was actually the groom.

Q:            You were?

A:            Yeah, I represented a super PAC and I had this big head piece on that had all these corporate logos all over it and I married a human, Monica, who’s a really big part of Occupy Wall Street. She’s more on the environmental side but she’s also a theater person so anything dramatic like this she is involved.  And she wore a wedding gown made out of dollar bills, like real dollar bills it was awesome.

Q:            That’s great.

A:            Yeah and we had Reverend Billy Talon from the Stop Shopping Choir, I don’t know if you know Reverend Billy, he’s an activist too and he’s just as amazing. If you want to see something cool if you give me your e-mail I’ll send you like two or three links.

Q:            I would love that, yeah I really love to hear more about that.

A:  Wall Street Journal did their digital whatever journal, you know it’s really good. They did a nice little piece on it. Also Dennis Trainor from the Huffington Post did an amazing video of it.

Q:            That’s awesome I want to hear more about that.  So given your experience kind of volunteering, how do you think your experience with Sandy was similar or different from that of other people?

A:            I don’t know I think — because then after Jacobi  reopened, they still used the space for meetings and things like that but it’s not like a place where they can get donations and things. So when that closed I moved to the kitchen and I think people just find their roles, you know and where they’re comfortable. I remember Kate who’s a big time part of the kitchen, it’s four main people over there. And then there’s people like me that have come maybe for two or three weeks and then get busy but then they come back and there’s like a bunch of us. And then there’s people that just come for a day and help out. So there’s a couple different levels of commitment and I’m probably second tier.  Tim is awesome, he’s there everyday, Kate’s there — all those guys and Marcus. I met Marcus at St. Jacobi and he was the first person I went in and I was like what can I do and someone said go ask Marcus. And Marcus is — he’s got a broom and he’s sweeping something up but then he just drops it and says come with me and he puts me in a job and I’m doing it.  And that’s just like a skill where you know everything — it’s something you learn from after being in this space for awhile you know everything that’s happening around you, the whole facility and you know what needs to be done and you’re kind of aware.

Q:            It’s a machine.

A:            It is and you have one person that’s — at the kitchen they call it a floor manager and I’ve done that a few times where people come in, volunteers come in, they need a job you give them the most pressing thing that needs to be done. It could be cleaning out the coolers that the food goes in or we need onions chopped ASAP, you know.  And that’s just a matter of knowing what we have for supplies, knowing what’s going out, knowing what the chef needs, the cooks need and then also letting the cooks know what we have for food and what’s coming because there’s donations coming in, food going out, volunteers showing up with nothing to do.  And I know Marcus is awesome at that and he trained me how to do that. And then there’s the whole cleanup and close down.

Q:            So it sounds like it’s a lot of orchestration, moving people around and resources and figuring out constantly and checking up on what’s coming in and going out.

A:            Yeah.

Q:            Does anything spring to mind like anecdotes or examples of things that were particularly challenging during the course of doing that, like what sorts of things came up that were?

A:            Using the food and keeping it so it wouldn’t go bad because sometimes you get inundated with just so much produce and then keeping it organized, so people don’t forget about the five coolers of potatoes that are setting out in the courtyard and then also keeping it up to  health codes too.  That’s one thing I know that I contributed because I have worked in restaurants and I know the health codes, I know what the health department could come in and freak out about.  And a lot of people that show up have never worked in a restaurant but they want to help. They get to know the space and they get to know how that works but they don’t know the standards.  So I know when I came in I noticed all this food sitting on the floor, just boxes of food sitting on the floor and I was like “that’s got to be at least six inches elevated off the floor.” So we had all these pallets that were empty that were sitting that were six inches high, big huge wide awesome flat pallets. So I grabbed a couple people and we just moved everything and put the pallets in and put it on the pallets and now a health inspector could walk in there and be like alright that’s not bad. Everyone should all be wearing hair nets to.  If they all had their hats on it’s different and people wear gloves which is really good.  They’re aware of keeping things clean.  And Occupy is so sensitive towards vegetarians and not crossing where meat is prepared with where vegetables are prepared. That’s good not just for contamination but also they don’t want to — they keep that very separate.

Q:            I remember when I was there I noticed or I think I overheard some discussion kind of like about the cultural sensitivities with some of the residents to which the food was being delivered. Did any of that ever come up like ‘oh these residents don’t like this food, they think it’s weird’ or how did that play out, how did you deal with that?

A:            I think so, well they make the requests and we meet them. They call it in and they’re like no pork, this is a Muslim community, that sort of a thing.  So that definitely happens.

Q:            So that was actual feedback that’s impressive?

A:            Yeah well we only respond to people asking for food, we’re not just sending it out.  We have specific orders going to specific hubs. They might like more chicken please, less vegetables. Sometimes everything we send is just more vegetables, like all sweet potatoes for like a week because we have this huge thing of sweet potatoes.

Q:            Right that’s what we got.

A:            It’s what we have is what we can do but if we can help it we try to give people what they want.

Q:            So did your experience volunteering change the way you view New York at all?

A:            Yeah definitely and pretty much the United States because there was people coming from all over to help volunteer, it was awesome. And people from Canada, like this mother daughter team from Quebec, I was sitting at the table with them. This young lady came all the way from Hawaii to volunteer; I was like you’re awesome.  It was just great, tons of people from the Midwest, a lot of people from Boston have come down, people from Baltimore all over.

Q:            So actually it feels like kind of outpouring of  help.

A:            From all over the place.

Q:            Assistance from all over the place.

A:            Yeah, a lot of New Yorkers but you know I think the New Yorkers that have been there have been from Brooklyn and they feel like they’re helping out other Brooklyners you know and that’s cool.  Less Manhattan people. It’s crazy.

Q:            What do you think that’s about?

A:            I think Manhattan is so caught up in Manhattan and I lived in Manhattan when this was happening, I was up in [North Manhattan] and the next morning I saw a couple tree branches down but basically it was just like a windstorm, it didn’t seem like anything.

Q:            Right.

A:            And I worked — the restaurant never lost power, my work was open the whole time.  I took my usual route, no problem, didn’t skip a beat.

Q:            Right.

A:            You know because of the storm so I think a lot of people from Manhattan, especially people from uptown or midtown didn’t even really — they don’t even know what it’s like over there.

Q:            Right.

A:            Unless they’re watching New York One which shows it all the time but people they don’t really — they think “that’s still happening?” I’m like, “yeah it’s still happening”, it’s been three months and it’s still like lots and lots of people without power or no heat or their kitchens are so molded they can’t use them. The houses are barely livable.

Q:            So what do you think the failure is, is it about the media that not enough media is publicizing it?

A:            I think so.

Q:            Or is it about people don’t care to listen to those stories when they do hear it, what do you think?

A:            I think at a month any natural disaster just kind of drops out of people’s minds even if it’s in their backyard, apparently. When Katrina happened we all forgot about it after about a month but I’m sure Katrina is still recovering from that.

Q:            Yeah. It’s just like we get tired of it?

A:            Yeah it’s like okay that’s too bad but there are other problems in the world. They had our month of attention and then apathy kicks in which is too bad. I think it’s something to do with human nature or I’m not really sure.  But Occupy doesn’t forget though.

Q:            Yeah it seems like it right.

A:            We stay on top of it yeah and that’s been true with every single cause that we have and this is definitely related to global warming and that’s a huge part of what we’re about is environmental issues.

Q:            So what do you think needs to be done about global warming?

A:            Global warming?  We have to steer away from this trend they call it natural gas or whatever; you know fracked gas, anything like that.  Like I’m a huge — I hate fracked gas and I know that that’s trending right now; people are thinking that’s the way to go because it might burn a little bit cleaner than the traditional oil. But it’s still just as bad in the long run because it’s going to make us more dependent on it and stay away from going towards solar, wind and water which we need those three to be seriously ramped up.

Q:            It sounds like yeah a lot of the mitigation issues of choosing different.

A:            Just big oil, the energy industry doesn’t want to switch over because they have billions of dollars worth of gas right here in this Marcell Shale deposit and that’s a whole other issue. I mean fracking.  One thing that OWS has been doing it’s called Occupy the Pipeline and there’s one, the Rockaway pipeline there’s CARP, it’s Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline and that’s right there, that’s the Rockaways and there’s a pipeline coming right into — under Jamaica Bay and through protected national reserves. — it must be coming up the coast. But then there’s the other one, The Spectra Pipeline that’s coming through New Jersey, it’s coming from Pennsylvania through New Jersey and out of New Jersey City underneath the Hudson River and right into the West Village.  And they’re going to pump this like 30 inch diameter pipeline with firehose pressure of fracked gas which is has 70 times more radon in it than normal gas and it’s extremely volatile and explosive. There was that same exact kind of pipeline in San Bruno, California that left a 1,000 foot crater because of an explosion.  It just blew up, something went wrong.

Q:            It’s going to do that, right.

A:            And this is coming under the West Side Highway right under the West Village, can you imagine a 1,000 foot crater around the West Side Highway.

Q:            That’s a lot of damage in New York Manhattan.

A:            Yeah.

Q:            So why is it happening?

A:            Money, it’s money. Bloomberg invested  20 million of his own money into it, it’s huge. Bank of America is a big investor, I think Chase is too and there’s just huge banks and corporations are just pumping the money into i — it’s I think the biggest profit out of fracked gas is not just selling the gas, it’s building all the infrastructures for it.  Like the Spectra Pipeline they aren’t the ones actually drilling it they’re just moving it over to them, they build pipelines, they’re not big oil.

Q:            That’s where the money is.

A:            It’s a lot of the money; it’s just the whole infrastructure of it. And people think oh, fracked gas is going to bring prices down on gas, it’s not, they’re not going to lower the prices, why the hell would they do that?  It’s not going to happen, it hasn’t and they’ve been doing it for years, they’ve been pumping fracked gas out for 20 years and the price is still — they’re just terrible.  So that’s not going to happen, why would they give up money? But what they’re going to do is if they have an abundance of it, if they’re going to have a surplus they’re just going to export it to Europe or China and that’s exactly what they’re doing.  That’s why they have these pipelines so that it can go to New York ports and then send it out. Of course they’re going to sell to Manhattan too but the majority of it’s going to go overseas and do you think they’re going to share those profits with the US citizens, these big oil companies, no?  It’s going to go right in their pockets. And then probably get moved even out of the United States to the Cayman Islands in tax shelters, we’re not even going to be able to tax it.

Q:            The benefits of just being taken away.

A:            Yeah, zero for the US citizens.

Q:            I mean you’re already talking about this but I guess I kind of want to ask it explicitly certain social scientist sociologists talk a lot about inequality, the idea that Sandy affected people unequally and so I’m wondering can you talk about your sense of how that played out with Sandy?

A:            Well I mean I think — Sandy didn’t discriminate, I mean there was wealthy neighborhoods that were hit too but they recovered a lot more quickly.  Like lower Manhattan for instance, a lot of people were accusing Bloomberg of really just worrying about Manhattan and not really caring about the other areas which to some extent makes sense because it’s a huge effect on the entire United States’ economy and if that’s all shut down down there there will be a ripple affect that would be pretty bad. So a lot of things needed to get up and running but the human element of it though I mean people still without power it shouldn’t be this much of a gap. It shouldn’t be like okay overnight Manhattan’s ok and then three months later people in poor parts of Brooklyn and Stanton Island or from the middle class is not still — still not up and running.  When Goldman Sachs actually never lost their power ever and they were right there, they were surrounded by a total blackout.

Q:            How did that happen?

A:            It was the only building that was still lit up through the entire thing.

Q:            The irony of that is crazy.

A:            Yeah the only building in all of lower Manhattan through the entire thing that never lost its power.

Q:            I didn’t hear that, that’s insane.

A:            Of course why would they — they’re gods, they wouldn’t.

Q:            They control the power.

A:            Yeah, they’re like we’re not losing our power.

Q:            So why is it that some people are still without power?

A:            That’s a good question I’m not really sure. I mean I know — well some of the reason is because to get the issues fixed Con-Edison can’t go in and do that, yeah you need to hire a contractor to do that. So that means you need money or insurance or the ability to get somebody in there to do it because it’s like a problem with the house not with the service of Con-Edison.

Q:            Right.

A:            So these people haven’t been able to do that.

Q:            Private damage.

A:            Yeah because of what’s happened to their internal you know electrical system.

Q:            Yeah that makes sense.

A:            Yeah.

Q:            Let me think what else I wanted to ask you.  You talked about it a little bit about being involved with Occupy Wall Street and then transitioning from that into Occupy Sandy, how do you think the kind of mission statement of Occupy Wall Street or as much as you understand of what they’re up for or what they stand for, how do you think that translated into Occupy Sandy?

A:            Into Sandy?

Q:            Yeah.

A:            Well they’re do-gooders, you know, they are.  People don’t realize that, they think that it’s just a bunch of anarchists or whatever. No we really want to affect the world for good and they want to make changes for the positive.  One of our mantras is ‘another world is possible’ and that also happens to correlate with helping out people that are suffering from Sandy. We’ll help; we’ll go over there and help the community come together. And a lot of my right wing friends that I have that I grew up with they’re like see that’s why we don’t need these agencies we can do this together, it’s supposed to be grass roots like that.  I was like well you’re kind of right because look at FEMA, it was like a month before they had all the red tape cut and they got in there and were able to do anything.  So I agree with them on a lot of things.  That’s why I think Occupy Wall Street has nothing to do with partisan politics at all because it really — if we want the whole thing to be redone, we’re not going to side with democrats or republicans.  It’s just the whole system is out of whack.

Q:            So if it were to happen another Sandy or another hurricane how do you think it should be handled in the future? Do you think scrap FEMA and give Sandy money or kind of like how do you envision it?

A:            I’m not a big fan of FEMA anyway, there’s other things that they’ve done like the way they handled the 911 whole event was awful.

Q:            With the first responders or?

A:            With everything and also the investigation of it, they totally overlooked so much evidence.  All the materials from those buildings within a month was gone, it was being recycled in China, they were shipping out like 400 truckloads of debris a day before any investigators were allowed in there to check it out.  And especially when there’s all this evidence of explosions and they just assumed it was the jet fuel. FEMA to me is kind of a joke. And they kind of scare me, like FEMA and Homeland Security and all these new agencies since the Patriot Act, they scare the crap out of me. I don’t like it. I just found out they bought 450 million hollow point bullets, what do they need those for, for domestic use? Not for overseas, not for the military it’s for domestic use, that scares me.

Q:            Yeah.

A:            I don’t want to get into conspiracy theories or anything like that but it just scares me, these are facts and it’s alarming.

Q:            Yeah.

A:            So I do believe that I think it was a good exercise — we were able to execute a good practice of citizens coming together and organizing ourselves. And I think there were so many different groups of people that did it too not just Occupy. I mean there’s so. Also, there were some groups that came together to do it as a PR sort of a thing, a little bit. Like that concert, 12/12/12, every commercial break they cut to all these corporations and banks that were –“and you could pat us on the back for putting this concert together.”  This is a money-maker for you, this is like the biggest PR stunt you’ve maybe ever done, its ridiculous. I didn’t like that at all.

Q:            That’s not what it’s about.

A:            No they should’nt  have put their name on it at all. It was ridiculous, I mean I’m sure it made a lot of money for those people and that’s awesome, it really is, but at the same time it was kind of — all these corporations that are contributing to the global warming and the cause of the hurricane, they’re not going to change their ways but they’re going to do something like that concert to make themselves feel better about everything.  That’s like a lot of philanthropy and things like that have always been that way.

Q:            Right.

A:            It’s kind of like alright let’s do really bad things for a really long time and then we’ll just do a little something good here so that everybody knows about until we feel better about it.  And then they also get to kind of direct the way culture is going to go too.  Like if something like this happens again what should we do?

Q:            Yeah what should we do?

A:            I think all is we can do is what we’re doing, and volunteer.  Try to get as much awareness about what’s happening to other people as possible, encourage people to help out as much as they can and not make people feel bad if they can’t.  Because there might be something else they can do.

Q:            Have you had any experience with — I know Occupy was collaborated a little bit with some organization, some government organization?

A:            Yeah we were but that’s more out on the scene and I haven’t really been out there much.

Q:            Okay.

A:            I was just part of the kitchen and that’s it. I felt like I could do what I could do, I mean I can do puppetry and things like that, I have some of those skills.  But I felt like once you get to know a spot you kind of go to that spot so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you go to try to help out. I mean I probably could go and help out in the rebuild, part of it and there’s so much cleanup to be done still. And I know that there are people that have been working with the agencies but I don’t know.

Q:            Yeah that’s separate from the work that you were doing.

A:            Right.

Q:            You’ve answered a lot of my questions.  On the climate change piece of it, we talked a lot about mitigation like what we should do like structurally how we should change things.  What about kind of  city preparedness, adaptation?

A:            For another hurricane?

Q:            Yeah, what’s your sense of sort of what’s important there or whether it’s important, how we should be weighed relative to the changes at kind of corporate level?

A:            It’s going to be hard to avoid I think, there’s not much we can do. I mean I don’t know, I know in New Orleans it’s about the levees, building those levees you know. So maybe we need to do things like that.

Q:            Make sort of a structural thing.

A:            Well it is what it is, this is the most populated part of the United States it’s really dense and it’s all in the coast and it’s all at sea level.  Pack up and move ten miles inland, I don’t know.

Q:            Move away from the shore.

A:            Move away from the ocean I don’t know. I mean I think real estate is going to shift a little bit but I also know like right now Cuomo is encouraging people to sell their land to the state that live on the coast.

Q:            Interesting.

A:            Yeah, that makes me nervous too.

Q:            Yeah.

A:            And also Bloomberg I know he’s got his eyes on all that destroyed land and houses where people are just available, okay I’ll just sell it to you. They want to redevelop it and I’m sure they’ll redevelop it with all these standards or specs that they have to be able to avoid future damage. A lot of  Cuomo is like if you’re going to rebuild your house put it on stilts and that sort of a thing.

Q:            How do you think that’s going to play out, I mean is that going to benefit the people there?

A:            Well I think if they redevelop that it’s going to be corporate and gentrified and the poor people that live there I don’t know where they’re going to go.  That’s just basic 101, urban planning you know. Like you look at the Barclays Center on Atlantic Avenue and all that, their situation people are like where did they go you know, where did those people go? There’s a couple thousand people that just all of a sudden boom had to leave, eminent domain, places like Columbia University, NYU.  But in Columbia I think it’s a little worse because it’s a little bit more — it’s more residential and more lower income uptown.  NYU it’s already a good place to live, in the West Village come on.  But Harlem that’s a different story. But that’s beside the point it’s the city and just the developers. I think they really are seeing dollar signs and opportunity in all of this and that’s not right.

Q:            Yeah.

A:            They should just help people rebuild their homes.

Q:            So I think you really answered all of my questions. So thank you so much for your time but is there anything else that you want to add, something that you think we should be thinking about or talking to people about, about climate change, about urban governance, about inequality?

A:            Yeah well, climate change is the main thing I think. These storms — the one thing I know like people imagined for a few years now we’ve been hearing that lower Manhattan and parts of New York were going to end up under water.  And people are thinking that it was just going to be this slow rise and maybe centimeter by centimeter the ocean level is going to rise and it was going to be this sort of passive sort of a thing that’s happening.  But we just found out it’s not going to be passive at all it’s going to be incredibly violent and it’s going to happen faster than we think. I mean the 1 train still only goes to Rector Street So I believe the rise of the oceans will not be a subtle change over time, the oceans will hammer us with these hurricanes instead, due to climate change.

Q:            I have to say this isn’t exactly a question but I guess it’s more of a comment and I wonder if you could respond to it. I’m really impressed that you have a four month old and that you’re out volunteering. It seems to me that this kind of work that’s been uncompensated and volunteer, is the sort of work that’s harder for some people to do than others especially those with dependants and those with responsibilities with families. Do you think that — how do you think people in your position can kind of justify going out there and spending that time and how do you think about that yourself?

A:            Well I mean I’m pretty lucky; his mother works and has a really good job so that really alleviates a lot of the pressure for me.  And I know it’s hard, like I had a friend last year that had a baby and he was in Occupy Wall Street and he kept plugging and he’s out doing things, he’s awesome. I was just like, “you have a newborn how are you like organizing this incredible art show. He did you organize this art show it was amazing?” It’s hard, I mean you can only do what you can do and people also — even if they don’t have a kid or they only work part time they’re still going to get burned out. And this has always been an issue with Occupy Wall Street because people get burned out. If they got to take a month, off no problem, we’re not going anywhere. This problem isn’t going to go away any time soon.

Q:            So there’s a good culture around burnout, like take time off?

A:            Take it off, you can’t show up hey no problem it is volunteer work. The thing is don’t commit unless you can do it.  That’s the thing and I’ve done this before too.  You commit to something and then last minute you’re like oh I can’t do it and then people were depending on you. So people still will depend on you but don’t overcommit, that’s the only thing and take time off when you need it, nobody’s going to blame you for it. It’s just the way it is.

Q:            Well thank you so much for your time.

[Tape off]

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