Nov 292012

Occupy FEMA? Chepe of Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Sandy “training” FEMA workers on Staten Island (Image source:

More than a year after Occupy Wall Street first made international headlines by taking over Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, the activist group has reinvented itself as an effective disaster relief organization.

In an online article for news magazine the Nation, reporter Ayasha Guerin documents the relief work Occupy Sandy has been undertaking in the storm-ravaged Rockaways. Unbeknownst to many, a Sunset Park church within walking distance of Bay Ridge is serving as a crucial link in the Occupy supply chain.

In the weeks since the waters of Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean swept over the peninsula during Hurricane Sandy, Occupy has continually answered residents’ calls for help.

According to reports, the group showed remarkable perseverance and ingenuity, even at times when more conventional relief efforts proved less than effective – such as when Red Cross and FEMA suspended relief operations during a Nor’easter that occurred just days after Sandy struck.

“Ironically,” Guerin writes, “one year after its organizers were routinely rounded up by the NYPD for arrest, Occupy has turned out to be the most invaluable asset to New York’s largely unprepared first responders during this $42 billion crisis.”

While that sounds overly harsh, [and particularly unfair to police and firefighters who courageously came to the city's aid even as their families and homes were in immediate danger], Occupy organizers are asking the public to consider photos like this one, which reportedly shows an Occupy volunteer assisting FEMA workers with valuable information not provided by federal disaster officials.

Through it all, a critical distribution center for Occupy Sandy’s Rockaway bound volunteers and donated supplies could be found mobilizing just up 4th Avenue at Saint Jacobi Lutheran Church [5406 4th Ave].

“One of Occupy’s first major contributions to volunteer relief was to establish St. Jacobi Church in Sunset Park as a place where volunteers could self-organize carpools,” according to the piece. “At the end of each day, volunteers make sure everyone who makes the trip down has a ride back to Sunset Park before dark.”

From St. Jacobi, workers and goods travel to direct distribution hubs such as the YANA community center on Rockaway Beach Blvd, between Beach 113th Street and Beach 112th Street. Appropriately, YANA – a worker training facility which opened its doors a week before Sandy devastated the area – stands for “You Are Not Alone.”

Saint Jacobi will remain in operation as a relief distribution center through tomorrow. For further information about donating or volunteering, please call (347) 470 4192 or visit