OCCUPY THE FRANKENSTORM: By the time election day arrived one week after Hurricane Sandy, many residents of New York City were frustrated by the lagging federal aid and assistance from agencies like the Red Cross. Though the Defense Department dispatched 24 million gallons of fuel to the region, many hadn’t seen the military since the storm hit. And while FEMA workers were spotted here and there, other residents of Staten Island found help from an entirely separate source: Occupy Wall Street.
Occupy Sandy, as the effort was dubbed, arose in the aftermath of the storm, creating community hubs from Brighton Beach to the Lower East Side to dispense water, food and aid, and forming groups to help pump floodwater from houses and clean up the rubble. “People were sorting donations, feeding hungry people, [helping] local residents…get things they need,” said Lopi LaRoe, an Occupy volunteer assisting the recovery efforts in Far Rockaway and Staten Island. She said the residents seemed thankful that anyone was willing to help.
“People are traumatized out there. They’ve come through some really intense stuff. They’ve lost their homes, some of them lost family members and pets, and they’re really emotional…. The aid we were giving was largely material aid, but now we’re moving into trauma support and setting up places where people can tell their stories.” For more on Occupy Sandy, visit TheNation.com. ALLISON KILKENNY
Allison Kilkenny blogs regularly at TheNation.com. Her latest dispatch is “Occupy Sandy Highlights Need for Solidarity, Not Charity.”
VOTING AFTER SANDY: In Moonachie, one of the most severely ravaged areas of New Jersey, residents were provided shuttle buses to vote in nearby Teterboro. Mike Macalintal, 19, and his mother, Maria, said firefighters on “rubber boats” had rescued them when the flood hit. Both voted on November 6—Mike for Obama, while Maria declined to say.
Meanwhile, dozens of “chaplains” with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team roved around Moonachie, having come from central Florida shortly after the storm hit. Vincent Gaccione, a disabled resident, was grateful for their help; he said no one ever mentioned religion. His car had been destroyed, so he rented one to go vote.
Small towns like Moonachie managed their extraordinary situation with greater ease than urban centers like Hoboken. Resident Nick Calicchio characterized the voting predicament as “mass chaos,” especially at a school whose auditorium, usually used for voting, had been converted into a shelter.
One City Clerk’s employee said the office had received complaints about voting problems. Though just one out of the city’s forty polling places was inoperable, the employee said, he anticipated legal problems over the absentee and provisional ballots lost or destroyed in the floodwaters. He also said the makeshift vote-by-e-mail system instituted by the secretary of state would inevitably “end up in court.” MICHAEL TRACEY