Sandy, Occupy, and the City's Failures

A Storm of Controversy

Others see Occupy Sandy as a natural development for the movement, a testament to the power of people to build things for themselves in the ruins of a failing and neglectful state.

But to acknowledge Occupy Sandy's relative competence is not to say that it is remotely adequate.

To be sure, Occupiers' culture of solidarity and improvisational collective action is well suited to some aspects of disaster relief. But Occupy is not equipped to restore power to the pitch-black streets and stairwells of Red Hook and the Rockaways. Occupiers don't have heavy machinery or any sort of emergency-response expertise. They've never done this before.

FEMA, the Office of Emergency Management, and the Red Cross have all these things. The story of volunteers and neighbors helping themselves is heartwarming and important. But even more important, as the days since Sandy hit stretch into weeks and months, will be the story of the failure of the institutional relief, the question of why, even with the mind-boggling resources of expertise, money, and infrastructure that these groups possess, their response in the city's most hard-hit areas during one of New York's greatest crises was so slow, disorganized, and ineffective.

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It's the job of NYC's Office of Emergency Management to coordinate resources, volunteers, communications, etc. They did a lousy job. I really don't think anyone is in charge over there. Bloomberg should be embarrassed.


Thank you, Nick.  Throughout the rest of the city, we were led to believe that we weren't receiving services because all attention was focused on the hardest hit areas you cite.  Turns out they weren't getting what they needed, either.  It almost makes you wonder whether all of the calls to provide money to the Red Cross should have been heeded.


Sandy was the "on your own" storm.  The media is our watchdog, not our source of heart-warming comfort.  Communities left to their own devices, while politicians pose for photo ops to make it look like they are doing something.


I'm no fan of Giuliani, but at least he showed compassion, telling the media that the loss was "more than we can bear."  Bloomberg, to contrast, continuously praised everyone in sight, standing next to a sign language interpreter for the deaf who couldn't be seen by deaf people without power and, therefore, televisions, and who couldn't hear him over battery-operated radios.  Cuomo went after Con Ed while praising the MTA, the agency he is responsible for, who I consider a real villain in the downtown blackout story.  Just ask anyone on any of the buses.


We need an independent report on the failures of city, state, and not-for-profit institutions.  Your reporting is a start.  Again, thank you.


FEMA is primarily there to pump $$$ in local and state government coffers.  Most of it goes to large government projects.  How much of it goes to line the pockets of contractors who pump it back as campaign contributions, vs. how much goes to the streets of the Rockaways, is a story that will never be told.  Larry, Brooklyn

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