W.O.R.C.s – Worker Owned Rockaway Cooperatives
May 21, 2013
Welcome to the Rockaways.
An exposed peninsula of Queens, New York, the Rockaways were one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy. When the storm hit in October, 2012, it flooded the neighborhood, destroying thousands of homes and businesses, displacing hundreds of families and disrupting daily life in the community for months.
Yet, the daily challenges of life in this impoverished community of color began decades before the storm landed. Residents explain that they have been weathering the slow hurricanes of poverty, unemployment, poor education and lack of access to healthcare for years. Hurricane Sandy merely accentuated the destruction wrought by these continuous crises.
Begun in the spring of 2013, Cooperativa Rockaways is an initiative to rebuild after Sandy in a way that addresses both the storm’s impact and the long-term systemic issues in the neighborhood. The program’s goal is to equip Far Rockaway residents with the skills and financing to launch small, cooperatively owned businesses that fill a need in their community. More than 40 residents have already joined the weekly, three-month training program–people who now work for others as babysitters, house cleaners, exterminators and upholsterers but dream of being their own bosses and keeping wealth inside their neighborhood. So far, the group has developed plans to launch five cooperative businesses: a construction company, a bakery, a health food store, an entertainment collective and a pupuseria. As the tourist season approaches, they are now in the process of turning these plans into realities.
Support the community of Far Rockaway by donating to the investment fund for these businesses. Successful cooperatives will re-invest back into the program to launch other worker-owned businesses, a cycle that will create a cooperative network that benefits every member business and the broader community.