Occupy Sandy: Race, Class, and Disaster Gentrification
Zoltán Glück was a graduate student when Sandy hit, and he worked with Occupy Sandy doing recovery work in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Occupy Sandy, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement, was a major and innovative force for Sandy recovery in New York City. It's impact and legacy were covered by THE CITY on the occasion of Sandy's tenth anniversary here and inspired the Department of Homeland Security to study their methods and impact in a 2013 report here.
Glück's report covers the work of Occupy Sandy and its interaction (or not) with local, grassroots recovery efforts, and the government or official recovery efforts, and discusses how recovery resources were distributed according to extant divisions of race and class in Red Hook and how, thus, the recovery process actually intensified those divisions, eg the Sandy disaster actually encouraged further gentrification.
Glück's report on recovery efforts in Red Hook is a counterpoint to prevalent narratives that say that the Red Hook recovery process brought the community together. Throughout history, such self-affirming story lines are more comfortable for communities to memorialize as neighborhood memories, presenting a frequent challenge for researchers.
There was certainly lot of coming together, but there was also a post-Sandy fight for resources within Red Hook. The difference in self-promotional strategies and pre-Sandy visibility led some people and groups to get more media coverage and then more resources than others working as hard or impacted as badly or worse.
The blind spots in media reporting fed into this dynamic as aid resources and policy recommendations follow reporting.
There was no media coverage of how Sandy shut down Fine Fare, the huge supermarket next to and used by Red Hook NYCHA residents. The media used the re-opening of the upscale Fairway Market as a metric of Red Hook recovery; but the overwhelming majority of Red Hook residents live in NYCHA, did not shop at Fairway; and their supermarket Fine Fare never reopened. Mayor Bloomberg came to the reopening of Fairway, but on that trip did not stop in front of Fine Fare to say "this supermarket must re-open!"
Another blindspot in the history telling was how major recovery actors could be totally ignored by the media. For example, IKEA's work was not covered by the media at the point PortSide gave them a surprise Good Neighbor Award in October 2014 (two years after Sandy) to reveal their work and thereby foster greater understanding of how recovery was actually accomplished.
PortSide's preparation for Sandy and subsequent recovery work earned us a White House award and honors from the NYS Senate but was barely mentioned in the media.
The original link in Tidal magazine has gone dead, we found the article via archive.org here.
Photos and video below by Carolina Salguero/PortSide NewYork
Occupy Sandy running food pantry at RHI
Meeting for small business owners at Kentler Gallery on 11/2/12
Visitation Church aid center.