Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg this morning unveiled a long-awaited federal Hurricane Sandy Recovery Task Force Report that warns of the need to rebuild in anticipation of future storms. Watch video of their press conference.
The Associated Press reported earlier this morning that the task force report included 69 recommendations for rebuilding the coast, “most focused on a simple warning: Plan for future storms in an age of climate change and rising sea levels.” Per AP, the report said coastal communities should expect more frequent flooding, so spend now on protective measures such as a more advanced electrical grid, better planning tools and community rebuilding standards.
AP says the task force didn’t prescribe what kind of infrastructure might best protect shorelines, but it did endorse greater use of natural barriers on a regional basis. It also recommends streamlining federal agency reconstruction review processes, making further improvements to the Small Business Administration disaster loan program, and revising federal mortgage policies to speed homeowner insurance checks. In addition, it seeks further study of reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program.
Public radio station WNYC also reported on nine key findings of the report:
The multi-agency task force was created by President Obama in the wake of Sandy’s devastation. In an essay coinciding with the report’s release, Donovan wrote: “[N]othing prepared me to come back home to New York City last October and look in the eyes of my friend who lost his daughter to Hurricane Sandy. Nothing prepared me to see neighborhoods—many of which had served as the backdrop of my childhood—completely unrecognizable.”
In recent months, according to HUD, the task force has already promoted federal initiatives, such as a flood risk reduction standard for federally funded rebuilding projects in the region, partnering with the Small Business Administration on a data sharing agreement with state/local governments, releasing toolkits for model homeowner rehab, buyout and counseling programs, and extending home loan relief.
Donovan said Monday the rebuilding strategy “will protect families, small businesses and communities across the region, and the taxpayers’ investment in them,” reports USA Today. HUD also released supportive statements from representatives of two dozen non-profits, academic institutions and community groups.
The Press of Atlantic City, in a detailed analysis, notes that despite months of work by a task force including representatives from 16 agencies and six states, as well as local officials from 37 towns and counties in the 6 states hit hardest by Sandy, its recommendations have no certainty of successful implementation. For instance, a similarly extensive multi-agency report following the 1993 Mississippi River flooding has resulted in little progress in preventing floods.
WNYC notes the task force recommendations are non-binding, but could guide future federal aid money for towns, residents and business owners still recovering from the storm. New Jersey, for instance, still lacks a statewide plan to address future storms and sea level rise, the public radio station report adds.
CBS Radio in New York reported that what one Long Island homeowner wanted out of the Task Force report was, “How to go about getting help from the government faster.”