Variety of Rebuilding Approaches Befuddle Sandy Victims

The lack of a single strategy for how to protect the areas devastated by Hurricane Sandy from future storms leaves residents to choose between two unappealing options: rebuild in place and risk future disaster or abandon their neighborhoods.
April 9, 2013, 11am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Recent articles in Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal reveal how two divergent post-Sandy rebuilding strategies - New York State's plan to compensate residents to retreat and the City of New York's steadfast support for rebuilding in place - are resulting in an uncoordinated, and often maddening, range of responses to the threat of future storms.

On Staten Island, James S. Russell finds confusion and anger about the options for rebuilding being considered. "Many Sandy victims want to rebuild what they had where they were," says Russell. "But if data still being collected show that houses cannot be raised high enough or that neighborhoods can’t be realistically protected, then it would be folly to allow or help people to rebuild."

"To me one thing was clear," he adds. "Planning for the future must begin now -- not after the city collects data. Too many people are stuck in rebuilding limbo, and many will lose otherwise recoverable assets if they can’t make decisions quickly, with greater certainty."

Meanwhile, in the Breezy Point section of Queens, Laura Kusisto finds a community committed to rebuilding in place, a strategy supported by the mayor and $350 million in federal funding. "'We think that virtually 99% of the people who live at the water's edge will want to continue to do that,' said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, at a recent news conference."

"Some, however, question the mayor's strategy, given the towering cost to future governments if natural disasters become more frequent as many scientists predict," notes Kusisto. "'If you approach it from a rational approach it's insane," said Klaus Jacob, a Columbia University professor who specializes in disaster risk management. 'We are setting ourselves up for ever more disasters.'"

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Published on Monday, April 8, 2013 in Bloomberg
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