After Sandy, Learning From New Orleans: D6 and Beyond

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After Sandy, Learning From New Orleans: D6 and Beyond

to undergo construction, residents of public housing started waking up and seeing a chain link fence erected between them and their development. [The residents started] seeing construction start on their development. These are people who, not only is it hard for them to find a job, they are structurally locked out of the economy, these are people who are workers; they are willing and able to work, they would wake up every day and watch the construction happen, and there was no work in the community. They had to start a campaign to embarrass contractors and the housing authority to actually get on the yard.

When they got on the yard we ultimately won forty jobs after a three-month-long public campaign. It turned out that all of those jobs were temp jobs and African-Americans were really mistreated on the yard. So we started a massive career ladder campaign, which is really a campaign led by public housing residents in New Orleans to win careers, not just jobs in the context of reconstruction.

What happened after Katrina was that a city turned into the biggest construction site in the country. I imagine that is largely what is happening in post-Sandy New York. Some of the things that were instructive about New Orleans was that firstly, we all have to know that disaster capitalism is going to happen, but in that context it is also possible to build a kind of disaster collectivism, people working together; people experiencing again what it means to struggle within community, these things are going to very important.

Secondly, 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. It’s up to communities to imagine what kind of city they want, what kind of state they want. In New Orleans the residents of BW Cooper are not just fighting for the next six months of work. They are trying to figure out how they can have long term training in the construction industry, how they can