On the roof of a construction site in Greenpoint, Brooklyn Monday, U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan announced the release of a new report outlining 69 rebuilding strategies designed to both help Hurricane Sandy–ravaged communities and to serve as a model for coastal regions across the country that are vulnerable to storm surges and rising sea levels. Close to the waterfront, the site overlooked the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant—one of the few sewage treatment facilities to survive Sandy intact. It was a fitting place for Secretary Donovan, who also serves as chair of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, to introduce this bundle of new recommendations that address both immediate and long-term needs of coastal communities, including resilient and region-wide approaches to rebuilding and infrastructure investment. A number of the initiatives in the report, such as HUD’s “Rebuild by Design” competition, are already underway.
“And today, less than a year after the storm, we’ve already provided help to over 250,000 families, and thousands and thousands of businesses across the region,” Secretary Donovan said at the announcement. “FEMA alone has provided more than $12 billion of help. But we are not just focused on speeding relief to families and communities, we’re also focused on protecting communities from the risks of a changing climate.”
While the task force has mapped out a range of far-reaching initiatives, it will refrain from dictating how local communities should use those resources. Secretary Donovan recalled that President Barack Obama told him, “No big foot,” in one of their first post-Sandy meetings. “And what he meant by that, this is not about the federal government coming in and telling communities what they should build or how they should build. It is about us supporting local visions,” Secretary Donovan continued.
The funding, which is tied to different recommendations in the report, will come from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act (Sandy Supplemental) and will be allocated and managed by various agencies and federal departments. Secretary Donovan said that the next “tranche” will focus primarily on infrastructure and is to be used at the city’s discretion.
A buyout program will be available to residents who live in coastal areas that are at particularly high risk, but the secretary said that this group makes up a small minority and most waterfront communities will be able to safely rebuild.