Saturday, November 3, 2012

From: Marjorie Stamberg <>
Sent: Thu, Nov 1, 2012

Red Hook faces racist Katrina-like treatment
Having been to housing projects in New Orleans, post-Katrina, where authorities were trying to force residents out by cutting off essential services, what's happening in Red Hook, post Sandy, has an eerie familiarity.

Beyond the DOE's nasty harassment, making teachers "prove" and "appeal" why they can't get to school in the middle of a catastrophe where the trains aren't running into the most-affected areas, Brooklyn is sealed off, people are trapped in their flooded homes in Jersey, Long Island is still without power, NYU Hospital and now Bellevue are evacuated because of failing back-up power, and we in lower Manhattan are still living in the Nether World of Darkness, the New Yorkers who are suffering most terribly right now are in Red Hook.

To get the people in the Red Hook NYCHA projects to leave, the city gratuitously turned off their electricity, water and gas before the storm -- this was not a result of Sandy but a deliberate attempt to force them out.  Many decided to stay anyway as they needed to project their property and did not have family or friends in other places.

Now, four days later Red Hook project residents still have no heat, no gas, no electric.  Many cannot shop in the small bodegas that are open in the area, because these stores require cash only, and many folks do not have cash, but food stamps.   According to NPR, food stamps are not being accepted because the system is down.

The city did truck in Meals-Ready-to-Eat tonight, after they practically starved everybody out.  With all the mutual praise and back-slapping over this city's response to this catastrophe (which engineers have warned of for years), the nightmare in Red Hook, a deliberate man-made disaster, is being virtually ignored. As one gentleman said on the radio today, there's racism, and then there's Hurricane Racism.

And let's not forget that this is the same area where the DOE, Bloomberg and mega-billionaire hedge-fund operators have been trying to destroy community schools like PS15 with their charter school co-locations.  It's all about class and race.

P.S.  Although many people have been incredibly accommodating in these trying times, yesterday I ran down to the World Financial Center because I heard they had power.  They did.  I plugged in my phone until the security guard came by and stopped me. "Oh, you own the electricity here?" I said. "This is a emergency situation and you won't let New Yorkers use your outlets?"  The answer reinforced by a burly supervisor was "No."  The WFC is managed, he told me, by Brookfield Properties.  This is the same outfit that got Bloomberg to get the cops to run Occupy Wall Street out of Zuccotti Park so that it would be "accessible" to the "public" and then surrounded it with double and triple barricades to keep everyone out. 


Evangean Pugh, far right, talks on a phone as she waits in line to apply
for recovery assistance at a FEMA processing center in Coney Island,
in the Brooklyn borough of New York


Please do not forget NYCHA on Coney Island! There was little or no reporting regarding that area in the news media.The electricity, hot water and elevators were deliberately turned off on Monday; after the mayor ordered mandatory evacuation. This area is inhabited mainly by disenfranchised people of color! Talk of blatant racism by Bloomberg and his cronies!

Akilah Toure
Retired Pedagogue


An NYC Activist-Teacher's Update on the Impact of SuperStorm Sandy

Dear Substance News ( Comrades,

My family and I are doing fine.  We live on the lower east side in Manhattan, below 34th st where power, out since Monday evening,  started to come back on Friday around 5PM.  Power outages remain in some lower Manhattan areas particularly large buildings where the basements flooded. In the other boros and towns in NJ, Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk counties some folks will remain without power until trees are removed and power lines can be repaired.  The 8 foot tidal surge wiped out some sea level communities.  Subways are still not running in lower Manhattan as of last night.  I am just catching up with email.  Julie Cavanagh, MORE's candidate in the upcoming UFT elections emailed reports on the Red Hook projects in a low lying Brooklyn area by the harbor where her school PS 15 is located. 

The area was badly flooded and residents were still without power and water as of last night.  Another teacher, Marjorie Stamberg wrote that the city was saying that power at the Red Hook projects may remain out until 11/11 and she warned that folks should be on the look out for efforts by the city housing authority to use this disaster to push out public housing residents as was done in New Orleans.  I read similar reports from the projects in Coney Island. 

The scenes from the gated community, Breezy Point, which lies at the tip of the Rockaway peninsula have been widely publicized by the media.  NYC Teachers were instructed to return to work on Friday even while the subway service was only partially restored and buses were jammed.  It took me three hours to get to work and the same to return. For many teachers it was just impossible to get in.  It remains to be seen whether the city will require teachers to use personal leave time if they were unable to return on Friday. 

Schools are slated to be reopened on Monday. I think it is obvious that the feds responded better in NYC than they did in New Orleans. This is partially due to the difference between the administrations but also due to the housing pattern in NYC where for example you can find a million dollar condo located across the street from a public housing project. This grates on the real estate interests to no end and they will be looking to revamp infrastructure while at the same time speed up efforts to turn Manhattan into the ultimate gentrified gated community for the wealthy surrounded as it is by water. 

A young woman helps bag Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs) for distribution to the
residents of the Lower East Side who remain without power due to Superstorm
Sandy, Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, in New York. In Manhattan, where 226,000 buildings,
homes and business remain without power, Consolidated Edison says they should
have service restored by Saturday.

The heroes of this disaster are the working class people who supported each other and worked tirelessly to restore essential services.  Thank the working class for the public sector.  No private charters or privatized transportation companies would respond to human need as a fully funded public sector can.  There were very few reports of looting or violence even though people were without food and water and had no access to cash machines or open supermarkets. 

The Daily News today carried a report of 11 arrests outside a Coney Island supermarket across from a housing project.  One of the men arrested holding toilet paper, water and candy pleaded with officers saying 'I'm no criminal, what am I supposed to do let my grandmother go hungry.' 

Similar to Katrina, if you are white you are "foraging" for essential supplies, if you are a Black or Latino you are "looting." Bail was set for $20,000 and the Brooklyn DA says that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 

The climate change disasters have opened up  new arenas of class warfare as the rich seek to guard their wealth and power even as the ship is sinking.  It seems clear to me that public sector workers and our unions will increasingly  emerge as the true leaders of society to the extent that we identify our working conditions with the living and working  conditions of the working class and society as a whole.   We in NYC enter into another season of struggle against school closings and privatization with this heightened awareness. Thanks again to the CTU which has pointed the way.  

A queue of people forms behind a fence as they wait for distribution of food, water, and other
supplies intended for residents of the Lower East Side who remain without power due to Superstorm
Sandy, Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, in New York. In Manhattan, where 226,000 buildings, homes and
business remain without power, Consolidated Edison says they should have service restored
by Saturday.

One final observation, Richard Grasso, former head of the stock exchange was on Bloomberg radio all day Thursday patting himself on the back for waiting to reopen Wall Street out of consideration for the people operating the exchange.  'Sure we can trade electronically but what about the people', he repeated.  The financial sector doesn't need the real estate, but the NYC real estate industry does and I think the latter group in particular has the jitters about climate change. 

Romney and his financial sector clowns can dismiss climate change but it will prove to be a political dead end.  This is an interesting and potentially significant fissure in the ruling elite that may pressure the so called "radical" and liberal think tanks and non profits to reassess their slavish non political subservience to their funding sources.  A historic opportunity presents itself. If the "white" led unions, affordable housing groups, and parent groups can break through their historic indifference to racial equality and demand justice for all and not just the so called "middle class" (which I think is often used as a code word for all those "white" Reagan democrat males now wondering what went wrong), a real mass based alternative to the oligarchy will continue to grow.

Sean Ahern
NYC teacher, parent and CPE Member

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