Superstorm Sandy not only revealed the massive class divisions in New York City, but also made them worse. As wealthier areas in Manhattan recover, poor and working-class communities in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island are still struggling.
Some New Yorkers have taken a decidedly illegal tack to solving this problem. From their press release:
Over the past two weeks, a group of concerned New Yorkers has been expropriating thousands of dollars worth of tools and materials from luxury residential developments across Manhattan and delivering them to neighborhoods devastated by Superstorm Sandy.
The confiscated materials, some of them never even used, include: shovels, wheelbarrows, hand trucks, pry bars, tarps, buckets, hard bristle brooms, industrial rope, contractor trash bags, particulate masks, work lights, work gloves, flashlights, heat lamps, and gasoline.
Liberated from their role in building multimillion-dollar pieds-à-terre for wealthy CEOs and Hollywood celebrities, these tools are now in the collective hands of some of the hardest-hit communities in the city where they are now being allocated and shared among the people who need them most. These expropriations will continue as long as the demand for them exists.
The project — can I call it a project? — has far bigger ambitions than just wheelbarrows.
Here is New York: a city in which people write rent checks by candlelight, huddle around gas ovens for warmth, and are housed in shelters that are literally prisons — this is a city in which the darkness and misery are indeed all too literal. Luxury up front, desolation behind: this New York is but a cruel Dickensian reboot of a city.
A cold winter is nearly upon us. In the coming days, Bloomberg will doubtless be seen doling out turkeys and vague promises at any variety of overflowing city shelters while the shutters snap away. As the rich and powerful ladle out their meager scraps and twist their faces into caring regard, those of us who envision a better world will be out in the streets, maneuvering in the dark, trying.
Another world is possible, but capital’s scraps won’t get us through this holiday season, let alone the long, hot future ahead.