Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Occupy Sandy continues outstanding recovery efforts, WBAI brings the word to the world

by Larry Geller

Hurricane Sandy is history for most local newspapers at this point. I’ve been following the recovery efforts in New York City and New Jersey by listening to the 6 p.m. (EST, M-F and Sunday) news on WBAI and the Occupy Wall Street program that follows at 6:30. If you know WBAI, you know that times are even looser at that station than Hawaiian time over here. So if you tune to the streaming audio, or if you go to the archives for the day’s news, just hang in there, the program will begin eventually

More on WBAI below.

The shining stars in this saga of destruction and recovery are the Occupy Sandy folks, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement, who have set up, and assisted communities in setting up, distribution and relief centers. They’ve also coordinated extensive and effective volunteer efforts. For example, some elderly folks or those with disabilities are still trapped on upper floors of high rise buildings without water, electricity or heat. They are helping to assure that water and supplies get up to them.

The Occupy folks certainly know something about spontaneous organizing, and their expertise is paying off. On one news program I heard that they had put together Costco-like steel shelving at a distribution point in a church, so that a larger inventory of relief supplies could be maintained at the facility. That’s thinking out of the [big] box.

The Red Cross, on the other hand, has been criticized for failing to even show up where it is needed. FEMA seems to be getting good marks generally, though some communities complained for some time that they didn’t see anyone around from FEMA at all.

High-rise buildings will be made to haul up their power transformers and other equipment from the basements to upper floors, a good idea, but it must be an architectural nightmare to figure out how to do that in each situation. The city’s tunnels will be provided with barriers so they can be zipped shut when another storm threatens. The cost of armoring New York City against future threats caused by climate change will be staggering.


For some reason WBAI is located at 120 Wall Street, in the high-priced financial district. In these tough economic times they’ve had to stage long fundraisers and lean on other Pacifica network stations to pay expenses, and they are at risk of losing their frequency spot on the FM dial, which is worth quite a bit on the market.

They were knocked out for some time after the storm—they reported that water rose to the 22-foot point at their location, right up to the traffic lights high above the street. The Stock Exchange, a few blocks away, is on high ground and of course was brought back on-line as soon as possible after the deluge.

WBAI engineers managed to keep broadcasting from their homes somehow. WBAI reporter Rebecca Myles was out there every day after the storm and broadcast from various hard-hit spots on the progress of recovery—even while the studios were knocked out of commission.

I used to volunteer at WBAI a bit, when they were located in an old church and the AFP teletype was in a bathtub. At some point Amy Goodman was news director, I don’t remember the personnel way back then. Now, Amy’s Democracy Now is on a more solid footing than the station itself, with a studio uptown and a world-wide following.

Go to for news and features that can’t be found elsewhere. WBAI is one of the Pacifica network stations—there are no commercials, no “underwriting” messages, and those who contribute become members and get to vote for the local station board. Wouldn’t it be radical if we had a say in HPR programming, or `Olelo or PBS? Listeners or viewers pay, but they have no say.

All of the Pacifica stations have outstanding features that can’t be heard anywhere else. Try Flashpoints on KPFA, for example. They have an RSS feed (for some reason WBAI abandoned RSS some time ago).


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