LOWER MANHATTAN (PIX11) – Lower Manhattan looks a lot different these days than it did two years ago for Michael Premo.
On September 17, 2011 he was on the move. “I was heading down to Zuccotti Park,” he said.
It was there he became one of the first members of Occupy Wall Street. Although the movement never gained the traction he had hoped for, within a year Premo was back in action. However, the initiative this time was completely different. “As Sandy was approaching New York, we began to activate existing communications networks that had been developed through Occupy Wall Street.”
Hours after the storm hit, Premo and others found themselves in the quagmire that was Red Hook. Within the day he helped establish the first Occupy Sandy hub and by that weekend they had over 25.
Utilizing social media, Occupy Sandy mobilized more than 60,000 volunteers in the first ten days. During this stretch, they also served up more than 107,000 meals and established more than 120 donation drop off points in some of the city’s most affected neighborhoods.
In an interview with PIX11 News on Tuesday, Premo said, “I think that Occupy Sandy really expressed the values of what Occupy Wall Street was trying to do and made it relevant for a lot of communities that didn’t have the opportunity to come down to Wall Street or to Zuccotti Park.”
George Morafetis admits he didn’t know what the Occupy movement was about when it was headquartered in Zuccotti Park.
Now the 69-year-old describes the movement simply as, “my best friend.”
In the hours after Sandy, the entire block that Morafetis lived on was submerged. As the water moved out, Occupy Sandy moved in. “They don’t ask for anything. They just want to help,” he said.
To this day they sustain their productivity through relief supplies housed in a warehouse as well as relief efforts by some volunteers who never even felt a drop of Sandy. “There was a team even recently, I’m saying like maybe a month ago, down from Texas that came up to spend five days with me, helping to work in my house,” said Morafetis in front of two homes he’s trying to rebuild.
In most instances he’s adds, they’ve been much more productive than city, state, and federal agencies, because there has been “no red tape.”