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.

Broad Channel
Nick Pinto
Broad Channel
Veggie Island in the Rockaways.
Nick Pinto
Veggie Island in the Rockaways.

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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