When the power goes out, there’s nothing more powerful than the printed word.
A group of Occupy Wall Street-affiliated activists in Gowanus became publishers after Hurricane Sandy left many New Yorkers without power, internet access, TV, or phone service.
“The word we were hearing from people is that there was real shortage of information because of the power situation,” said Jesse Goldstein, one of the founders the print and poster collective Occuprint. “There was a need for analog information to be disseminated for those people.”
The collective — which previously made waves by publishing an all-poster edition of a mock newspaper dubbed the “Occupied Wall Street Journal” and creating much of the poster art for the social movement that swept the country in 2011 — sprung into action on Tuesday, producing more than 6,000 copies of a pamphlet filled with the vital information necessary for victims of a treacherous storm like Sandy.
The 12-page bulletin included sections on how to apply for disaster-related unemployment benefits, how to clean floodwater, how to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and how to stay warm — “heat up raw oats or rice in a pot (no water!) and then put them into a sock.”
But the pamphlet, like any publication worth its salt, also had lighter material as well, such as a word search, sudoku, and a maze with Mayor Bloomberg on one side and the Rockaways on the other titled “Help Mayor Bloomberg Find the Rockaways.”
Goldstein said the group, facing a tight deadline, originally thought they’d merely repurpose government information — but the content fell short of their editorial standards.
“We originally thought we should just republish a FEMA booklet, but we looked at what they had and we realized that we had to make something ourselves that was better,” he said.
Goldstein and partner Liz Knafo got to work on the content Tuesday morning with the help of a few other Occuprinters, printed the pamphlet that evening, and picked it up early Wednesday from their printer in Queens, which charged them only for materials in the spirit of helping out.
“It was the quickest thing we’ve ever made,” said Goldstein.
Occupiers working out of the movement’s Sunset Park hub at St. Jacobi Church have been distributing the bulletin in Coney Island and the Rockaways in Queens since then — and another print run of 6,000 is on the way.
And Occuprint was able to fund the effort due to some money left over from its Occupy Wall Street-related efforts.
“We’ve been sitting waiting to participate again when there was something again,” said Goldstein. “This is what’s happening in our city. The relief effort seemed like a natural thing for us to plug back in to.”