After Superstorm Sandy’s Rain, Cooperatives Sprang Up Like Mushrooms

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy back in 2012, a grassroots relief effort growing partly out of Occupy Wall Street did its best to help the hardest-hit area of the Rockaways, a neighborhood located in the Queens borough of New York City. Networks grew up offering business assistance and loans, and gradually the “worker-owned Rockaway cooperatives” (WORCs) were born. Offering residents in this remote part of Queens, New York, a way to meet their immediate needs while kind of staving off what author Naomi Klein has described as disaster capitalism.

After all these years, how are those efforts faring? Is there, in fact, an alternative path for developers after disasters? And if so, what do the Rockaways have to teach? Do lessons also emerge from places like Florida after Hurricane Michael, or Puerto Rico after Maria? To talk about all this, we are joined by Lorena Giron, a Rockaways resident and co-owner of the La Miez Bakery. We are also joined by Brendan Martin, founder and director of the Working World, a nonprofit that provided free business development training and ongoing technical assistance to many of the Rockaways co-ops.

Laura Flanders: Brendan, help us describe the Rockaways. What are we talking about when we’re talking about the Rockaways, New York?

Brendan Martin: The Rockaways is in one of the corners of New York City, in what is the metropolitan area. There are summer homes out there, there are some vacation homes, but for the majority of people who live out there, it had a lot of endemic poverty, long before the storm happened. The storm helped to uncover some of that, and expose just how unprepared the infrastructure is in the poorer parts of our city when something bad happens. So again, you will see some beautiful homes out there right by the water and some nice places to go visit. But a lot of people have to work to serve those homes and vacationers. And they live in some of the poorer tracks in our city. It’s also below sea level. And so, when you…

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