The Occupy Wall Street movement is undergoing a public transformation, thanks to Hurricane Sandy, as the activists who took over Zuccotti Park are now pouring their energy into relief work and improving the group's public image at the same time. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
For many New Yorkers, the word "Occupy" refers to only one thing: The activists who took over a park near Wall Street last year to protest the growing gap between rich and poor.
But these days, the Occupy folks are up to something else. Occupy Wall Street has been replaced with Occupy Sandy. It is a grassroots relief effort to help people in need after the hurricane.
"I sometimes get emotional talking about it, because it is just this human miracle that is happening," said Kristian Nammack, a member of the Occupy Sandy movement.
Occupy volunteers were among the first to respond after Sandy hit. Their work has since grown. They now operate distribution centers, including one in Clinton Hill.
"Maybe it will turn around the public's view of Occupy," said one volunteer.
They are using social media and the Internet to collect supplies and recruit volunteers. They even set up their own registries to make it easy for donors to purchase specific items online.
"We go into communities, we connect with them on a grassroots level, and we listen," Nammack said. "We talk just a little bit to get them talking, and then we listen and we ask them what they need."
Some volunteers were connected to the Occupy movement before Sandy. Others were not.
"I'm from Texas and I'm visiting my son who lives down on Clinton," said volunteer Linda Rose. "I wanted to do something direct while I was here."
Ed and Judy Nelson drove this trailer filled with supplies up from North Carolina. They were not big fans of Occupy Wall Street.
"We don't particularly care for it," Ed Nelson said. "But when I heard this, I thought, 'those people are just fantastic.'"
Not everyone teaming up with Occupy Sandy is entirely comfortable with the arrangement, however. In Red Hook, Rev. Donald Gray, a local pastor at the Red Hook Pentecostal Holiness Church who opened up his church to Occupy volunteers, admitted to us that he has some misgivings.
"As my grandmother used to say, 'Eat the meat and spit out the bone,'" Gray said. "That's basically what I'm doing with Occupy Wall Street right now."
He said he is just concerned about feeding people in Red Hook, and Occupy Sandy had the food.