Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

August 28, 2013

Rebuilding After Sandy

By David Reiss

My Property Law Colloquium this semester will address topics relating to climate change, resiliency and sustainability with a particular focus on how those issues affect post-Sandy New York City. I co-teach this class (which is also open to graduate students in urban planning and related programs at the Pratt Institute) with Brad Lander.  Brad is a NYC Councilmember, but more importantly for this class, he was the director of the Pratt Center for Community Development before being elected to the Council.

I will be blogging about the issues addressed in the class intermittently, particularly since hurricane season is back. I recently discussed NYC’s hurricane preparedness with the Christian Science Monitor in ‘Above Normal’ Hurricane Season Coming. Is New York Ready for Another Sandy?. The likelihood of another Sandy-level event is extremely low in the near term (because of Sandy’s perfect storm conditions: a full moon, high tide and bad luck as to where the storm hit land) but certainly those of us on the East Coast are right to feel wary.

The City and the federal government have been working to address short and long term issues relating to Sandy-like storms and they have issued a number of reports on this issue over the last few months. Most recently, the federal government’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force has issued its Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy (link to full report at bottom of the press release).

I was struck by how many of the Task Force’s recommendations were straight real estate and real estate finance issues, including

  • Prioritizing the engagement of vulnerable populations on issues of risk and resilience. [remember how public housing and adult home residents were particularly hard hit by Sandy]
  • Helping disaster victims to be able to stay in their homes by allowing homeowners to quickly make emergency repairs. Preventing responsible homeowners from being forced out of their homes due to short term financial hardship while recovering from disaster by creating nationally-consistent mortgage policies. [remember the images of people having to live in the shells of their homes after they were gutted to address mold and other damage]
  • Making housing units – both individual and multi-family – more sustainable and resilient through smart recovery steps including elevating above flood risk and increased energy efficiency [remember the images of safe raised homes next to destroyed ground-level homes]. (13-14)

I’ll follow up on these issues over the course of the semester, but for now let’s just hope that those perfect storm conditions don’t reappear for a long time.

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