When Hurricane Sandy slammed NYC, hundreds of thousands were left without power, heat, and running water; NYCHA did not respond for a week, and to this day many public housing residents remain without basic services. On November 19th, exactly three weeks after the stormwaters swelled, NYCHA finally held its first hearing on the matter, in Red Hook.
As NYCHA lauded its own response, one woman asked why the first time she saw a NYCHA official at her door was when a representative knocked to inform her of the November 19th hearing. Hands high in the air, voices pitched, residents stood up and without exception decried the board's lack of swift response, concern, or accountability to their severe living conditions. “They’re telling us nothing, they’re wasting our time,” said one resident as she left.
Dozens of others left the hearing midway in disgust, heading instead to a Red Hook community assembly, organized by participants of Occupy Red Hook and Occupy Sandy, just down the street.
"How are we supposed to buy food and Christmas presents?” said one neighbor, “We need a rent credit for now, not January 1st."
"No services, no rent," another affirmed.
"When Obama won, I didn't hear any jubilation--because the projects were dark," noted another.
Residents agreed that local Red Hook residents should be employed during the rebuilding process. As one person exclaimed, "If you're talking about rebuilding anywhere in Red Hook, you need to rebuild everywhere in Red Hook,” all nodded; and another added, "We need a guarantee that we're not going to suffer like this again."
After about an hour, 50-some Red Hook residents had come to consensus, putting out a call for NYCHA residents from Red Hook and across the city to gather at NYCHA’s front doors and there demand cancellation of 2 months' rent.
This assembly of Red Hook NYCHA residents invites all NYCHA residents across NYC, as well as allies of affordable housing and community justice, to come together on November 27th to make the following demands:
- Immediate demand: Cancel 2 months’ rent for both November and December (speed up and extend NYCHA’s promised rent credit for January).
- From a list of Long-term demands: Hold moratorium on evictions. Increase and ensure sufficient federal disaster relief funding to NYCHA. Replace NYCHA board with a community-led board. Employ NYCHA residents for intensive building repairs instead of outsourcing jobs. Implement long-term alternative power and weather-prepared solutions. Enact general accountability and transparency to residents.
- Next step: pressure NYCHA board meeting on December 5, 10am, same location.
Join your neighbors across NYC on November 27th as we call for real changes at NYCHA!
Occupy Wall Street and Sandy
NYCHA has been deeply defunded under Governor Cuomo's tenure, and we have seen the results. Occupy Sandy and its many partners on the ground have filled the void through mutual aid, but we are not a band-aid movement and we are not here as a proxy for the State. This is the first instance of self-organization in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy that is calling out one of the roots of the problem -- austerity measures and the defunding of public institutions. The foundations of the so-called "austerity crisis" are in the bank vaults lining Wall Street. The root cause of the rising sea levels that led to Hurricane Sandy, can be found in Wall Street's bankrolling of fossil fuel companies and climate change.
In Hurricane Sandy, and in the State's failure respond, we see more than ever that all our grievances are connected. We must stick through this to assure that "disaster capitalists" don't charge in and distort the rebuilding process. The starting place for assuring that this does not happen, is in building still deeper and more meaningful alliances with the community members with whom we have already been working these three weeks.
That means supporting neighborhood allies as they take the lead in identifying their needs and their means of action. And that means contributing what it is that we as Occupy Wall Street have to offer, which is our relentless revelation of the role of Wall Street in tearing apart our public institutions, privatizing our public spaces and resources, devastating our natural world and displacing us from our homes.