Some were standing, some were sitting, some with their backs to the altar on the thick red velvet cushions that are usually reserved for knees on Sunday morning. Tammy Shapiro, an Occupy Wall Street and Interoccupy organizer, faced several dozen volunteers and organizers who crowded to the front of St. Jacobi's church in Sunset Park for their nightly debriefing. It was Friday, November 2, and Occupy Sandy was wrapping up its third full day of work.
Incense and loud drumming filtered up into the chapel from the basement, where a community dance group was practicing an indigenous ceremony. Half the room was gazing intently at their phones, firing off text after email after tweet, while others looked tired. The church's pastor, Juan Carlos Ruiz, stood in front of the altar with his elbows on the wooden railing, presiding over the small gathering. He too was frequently startled by his ringing phone, which seemed to go off at regular intervals throughout the meeting. Everyone had a slightly crazed look in their eyes.
Shapiro ran through the agenda for the debrief: "We want to start mapping out our sites, where are we, talk about mapping out our roles, what we've had going on, but also what we need." Occupy Sandy , which began Wednesday as an amorphous effort by members of Occupy Wall Street, the environmental group 350.org, and a host of community groups to offer relief to devastated areas of the city, had taken a very definite form over the last 72 hours. Bases like Jacobi church were created to bring people together and concentrate efforts, while satellite locations were established in areas crippled by the hurricane, in Far Rockaway and in Staten Island. Both types of hubs had been wildly successful at collecting and distributing aid and mobilizing volunteers, and now the links between them were being strengthened.