The Innovation Trail checked in with Occupy movements across New York to see how they're fairing. We begin in Albany, where Marie Cusick reports that protestors are determined to voice their frustrations with the state of the economy, and the state of New York.
"Things are getting truly
desperate in the rural and urban ghettos of New York, and they have been for
decades. And we're bringing it directly to steps of city and state government."
That's Siobhan Burke, a 28 year old woman who's been part of Occupy Albany since it began over a month ago. She and other protestors say they're committed to living outdoors through winter, so they can be here when state legislators return in January.
Colin Donnaruma is another occupier who says one of the main goals of Albany's occupy movement is to pressure lawmakers into extending the so-called millionaire's tax which is set to expire at the end of the year.
"We want to really highlight that and show that the governor and the New York State Senate are siding with the one percent rather than the 99 percent," Donnaruma says.
Although they say they feel strong support for their broader message about income inequality, the protestors still believe it's important to maintain a physical camp, despite the threat of cold temperatures.
Rachel Dash is part of the group's winterization committee:
"What we have decided as a group at Occupy Albany is that we need both.
We need to show people that we're here in the camp, because it's a physical
presence, but also we need to survive ideologically."
Dash says group intends to buy a large military tent, and they're working on plans to rent a space nearby, like an empty storefront, which could be used for meetings and as a warming station.
In Albany, I'm Marie Cusick.
And I'm Zack Seward in Rochester.
While Occupy Albany is taking on issues of state policy, Occupy Rochester is taking a different approach.
"We here at Occupy Rochester do have kind of a local focus."
That's occupier Susan Spencer, and she says Occupy Rochester is increasingly
focusing its efforts on reforming city schools and fighting illegal
But while Occupy Rochester is taking on city issues, Spencer says it's also been able to smooth out relations with the city itself.
"We are very firm on our first amendment rights but we also recognize public
safety and health issues and try to take those into account every single day."
To make sure those concerns are addressed, the City of Rochester and Occupy have entered into a 12-point contract that lets the movement maintain a 24-hour encampment in Washington Square Park until at least January 12th.
The agreement was even recently cited by a lawyer representing Occupy Wall Street as a model approach.
It comes after initial conflict with the Rochester Mayor's office led to about 50 arrests on the grounds of trespassing—and as major eviction fights in New York and L.A. have thrust the Occupy movement back into the headlines.
"This one over here we call the comfort tent."
But at the Rochester encampment, all is well. Spencer, who serves as one of
Occupy's liaisons with the city, says 25 to 30 full time occupiers sleep over
Spencer says the point is to make sure Occupy Rochester's presence remains felt.
"This is not about camping. The reason why we want to be in parks and why we want to maintain a 24 hour presence is we believe in vigorous discussion, public debate and the reawakening of the public forum."
As for the upcoming winter, the full-time engineering PhD student at RIT says Occupy Rochester is getting ready to hunker down.
"We are going to be very brave first of all. And also we're going to try to be
In Rochester, I'm Zack Seward.
And I'm Daniel Robison in Buffalo.
For just the fourth time in 120 years, Buffalo has seen no measurable snow before December. But that run of mild temperatures has bought time for Occupy Buffalo to plan for winter.
After all, they're in it for the long haul, says John Rossman.
"Many of us are natives here, that grew up in this town. A little snow never hurt any of us. In fact, we're looking forward to that day."
But the camp hasn't really been tested yet by bad weather. The two dozen tents - and now a 20-foot teepee - look unprepared to handle what's typical this time of year. But organizer John Washington says the camp envisions using the snow to their advantage.
"The next step is, a lot of us are learning how to build igloos. We know [the city] will pile up snow here. The Eskimos have been doing this for thousands of years, so we should be able to figure it out."
Where their camp sits in Niagara Square is exactly where the city piles up snow, by the ton. That will be used as building material, Washington says, and they've even checked out a few books from the local library about it. Warmed with body heat, the inside igloos can reach temperatures in the 50s. But whether Occupy Buffalo will allow them to do this is another story.
"We've been told that may be a health concern and a reason to have us removed,"
Marco Marreo says occupiers will try to prove the igloo plan can work before
the city moves to evict.
"We are worried about health. We know we can't help the movement if we're not taking care of ourselves, so we're trying to stress that to people."
Recently, protestors set up a hospital tent. Veterans and boy scouts stopped by recently and doled out tips to insulate tents, most of which are not rated for winter. There's talk of stacking hay bales to block chilling wind gusts, which whip in from Lake Erie less than a mile away. Regardless of what city and police think, protesters are planning to be here when spring comes.
"So someone will be here all winter? Yes. Most definitely."