After Sandy, Learning From New Orleans: D6 and Beyond

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After Sandy, Learning From New Orleans: D6 and Beyond

to San Francisco (you can see pictures and a full account at OccupyOurHomes.org.)

Even more noteworthy, in many ways, is the ongoing work that's been continuing in the Sandy-hit neighborhood of Red Hook in Brooklyn, where residents with the help of Occupy Sandy and the Red Hook Initiative have been responding to immediate needs while simultaneously organizing for political power. Frustrated and angry with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), the Red Hook residents recently drew up a list of demands. Among those were an extension of the moratorium on evictions, a suspension of rent, employment for local residents in repair work, and the creation of a community-led board. After their first meeting with residents (and a good amount of pressure from local politicians), NYCHA authorities actually met some of the Red Hook Assembly’s requests last week, but the community-led board and transparency in decision-making are still off the table. 

The spotlight on housing needs to say firmly fixed. And Katrina survivors might be useful experts to bring to the negotiations. It’s not just jobs that local residents need, Soni says, but jobs with potential for advancement and a say in planning. It’s not just immediate relief but long-term, strategic community organizing that the city needs.

“A story that is very instructive to post-Sandy New Yorkers, I think, is what happened years after public housing was initially brought under the wrecking ball,” says Saket Soni (below.)

“We can’t just have a fight to stay in our communities and get access to work in the context of a recovery. We have to make this recovery an opportunity to imagine what kind of society we want to live in, because that’s exactly what the corporations are doing, that’s exactly what politicians are doing.”

Our conversation was recorded at Facing Race 2012 in Baltimore.

Saket Soni: My name is Saket Soni. I am the director of the National Guestworker Alliance and I am also the director of the New Orleans Worker’s Center, which was founded very shortly after Hurricane Katrina. In the aftermath of Katrina there was a landscape of severe exploitation and in that context we built a worker center that could organize in African-American and immigrant communities, and build