"We started going door to door and kind of collecting as many volunteers as we could, especially who seemed like maybe they maybe had a little know-how with construction or something that would make them feel a little more at home and not completely a fish out of water in a disaster zone, and started talking to homeowners about what they needed to do to clean up and why for health reasons and for the integrity of their building and things like that."
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"A lot of the homes were really like disaster zones and there was no one doing any kind of site safety checks and so the first thing we tried to do was go into homes before random volunteers went into them so that we could just make sure there were no oil spills, there was no natural gas fumes, there were no serious hazards beyond what you would normally see with water damage and just kind of build a relationship with the homeowner so that they weren’t in a situation where somebody came in and did half the job but then the volunteers weren’t coming back the next day and so leaving them hanging – like there was a system and we very quickly started keeping track of who we were working for, what they needed, what the sites were like, if there were any hazards, if the stairs were broken, you know. And then we noticed that nobody knew what to do about mold. We knew that mold was going to grow. We knew that we couldn’t use bleach to get rid of it. We knew people who had done that kind of work after Katrina and we knew what needed to happen. And so, that became our focus right away just because that’s actually a really serious public health issue and, you know, can really degrade the structural integrity of a home."
" It felt really kind of there was this huge potential for change that I hadn’t felt since Occupy Wall Street so it was exciting as much as it was overwhelming and really sad and difficult. It was just like this could be our moment to really change the dialogue in New York around issues of climate justice and affordable housing and public housing and all of these different things that I’ve been thinking about and my friends have been thinking about for years but now it’s like on everyone’s mind how inadequate NYCHA is, how inadequate our utilities are, all these things. So it was a big moment in that way also."
"Responding to people in need was exactly the calling of Occupy Wall Street-- to be the first people on the ground in our communities to stand up and say we’re not waiting for FEMA, we’re not waiting for the mayor’s office, we’re not waiting for the Red Cross or for Wall Street or for anybody to come and save us. The cavalry isn’t coming, the cavalry is us. And so we immediately put out the call and there wasn’t an infrastructure formally in place to receive that volunteerism, to receive that support so we built it on the spot. I mean literally three days I spent trapped in my room, I didn’t leave, I didn’t sleep much at all I just sat by my computer and frantically built websites and Google voice accounts and communicated with disaster relief experts and countless phone calls to organizers on the ground who were driving around in trucks and the Rockaways, we pay accounts and just a flurry of infrastructure, online infrastructure and offline too that we were setting up. And it happened organically because we didn’t descend on communities, we emerged from within them and these are our neighbors, these are our friends, these are our family members."
"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.""
"When I first started, I thought it was going to be a couple of weeks. Now it's more feeling it's going to be over a year at least. I'd like to see people getting back into their houses feeling more comfortable coming and getting the services that we're offering. But the numbers are increasing, not decreasing. And that's kind of eye opening...we are not back to normal and everyone thinks we are. They think that the storm is past and the damage should be over. And there's houses in this community that haven't even been touched yet. And there's, you know, people just starting the cleaning process. And it's six months later, so now they're tackling mold and mildew and a lot of other issues that we didn't think existed prior."