Nearly eight months after Hurricane Sandy destroyed almost three miles of historic boardwalk along the Rockaway peninsula at the southern end of New York City, the shore hums with sounds of $140 million worth of beach recovery: circular saws, jack hammers, and tractors. While construction continues around the clock, officials have reopened beaches in hopes that a vibrant tourist season will kick-start the local economy; on this hot June day, a handful of surfers catching breaks on the city's only legal surfing beaches is one tangible sign that the work to remediate 1.5 million cubic yards of displaced sand [PDF] has been successful.
Now, beyond immediate relief work and the big-ticket city spending -- the A train is finally rumbling along elevated tracks to Far Rockaway -- community organizers can rattle off a shopping list of daily small-dollar needs that don't usually get their own entries in big-name relief agency spreadsheets: community garden maintenance, recovering lost furniture, or hiring a killer grant writer to ensure the money keeps flowing.
As relief turns to long-term recovery, community activists have their eyes on a group they know has some money left unspent: Occupy Sandy.
After Superstorm Sandy hit New York last October, Occupy Wall Street -- the global protest movement against economic inequality that started in downtown Manhattan -- set up a new group, Occupy Sandy, and mobilized thousands of supporters to raise more than $1.37 million, according to finances made public on its website.
But here's the thing: Roughly $1 out of every $5 raised -- nearly $300,000 -- remains unallocated. According to interviews with Occupy Sandy organizers, it's been more than three months since the group began the process of giving this remaining money over to community groups in the hardest-hit areas. Only a fraction of the $150,000 that has already been allocated to the Rockaways has so far been disbursed.
Meanwhile, as Americans face an ever-increasing number of natural disasters and extreme weather events, more recent victims like those in tornado-devastated Moore, Okla., are looking to Occupy Sandy as a model to replicate, warranting a closer look at how the group balances its books.