Over nine months after Hurricane Sandy swept through the East Coast, President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force is working to coordinate rebuilding efforts across the region. A short-term entity headed by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary Shaun Donovan, the task force operates within the National Disaster Recovery Framework to unify regional recovery efforts. New York State Director Jamie S. Rubin spoke with MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman about progress to-date and future recommendations.
Part of the rebuilding process has included coordination between regional stakeholders to identify overlapping needs and deliver a comprehensive strategy. “One of the most confusing and difficult things to deal with after a disaster is that the federal government, which invests to recover, can be difficult to deal with,” said Rubin. “There are processes and procedures that not everybody can handle particularly after the chaos of a disaster, and our job was to try to help people forge their way through that.”
Of the more than $50 billion in Hurricane Sandy aid which was allocated by Congress in January 2013, roughly $10 billion has been spent on transportation, housing, and other programs in the region. The task force’s recommendations will guide the continued federal investment in the region and influence how the remaining $40 billion should be spent. “We have to spend with some deliberation, because frankly it’s the last money that we’ll likely get for this disaster,” said Rubin.
Part of this deliberation process includes long-term planning and mitigation for future storms. “We all recognize that the interaction of climate change and natural disaster is very close. So there are going to be future storms here and elsewhere,” said Rubin. Currently, the task force is in the research stage of a regional design competition, Rebuild by Design, which has invited innovative design proposals to increase resilience in vulnerable areas.
“The best thing you can do, honestly, is to mitigate,” Rubin noted.
The task force is expected to deliver a comprehensive series of regional rebuilding recommendations this August.