On 5th Anniversary of Hurricane Sandy: Study on Neighborhood and Community Impacts

 

Contact: Amy Chester (achester@rebuildbydesign.org

On 5th Anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Rebuild By Design and the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU Release Study on Neighborhood and Community Impacts of Hurricane Sandy

Research Finds Community-Driven Relocation Supports Resident Recovery   

NEW YORK– Five years following Hurricane Sandy, Rebuild By Design (RBD) – in partnership with 100 Resilient Cities – and the Institute for Public Knowledge find that residents in communities that successfully organized for buyouts appear to have fared better psychologically. The findings come from research released today on the effects of relocation on New York and New Jersey residents from neighborhoods severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

Findings differed from conventional assumptions, indicating that voluntary relocation – which is often assumed taboo and politically fraught– can have lasting impacts on psychological recovery following disasters. As New York City, New York State and New Jersey continue to grapple with the impact of one of the costliest natural disasters, five years later, the findings released today show a variety of factors should be considered in aiding communities to better prepare for and respond to similar events. Outside research indicates that sea levels in New York City may increase as much as 21 inches by the 2050s and more than four feet by the end of the century.

“Sandy wasn’t just any storm – it left a devastating amount of damage that required a paradigm shift in the way we think about the future of this region,” said Amy Chester, Managing Director, Rebuild by Design. “As storms and hurricanes continue to grow stronger with climate change, communities are left increasingly vulnerable. Feedback from individuals and communities impacted by Sandy is incredibly valuable for identifying ways to help communities better survive, adapt and thrive in the face of future uncertainties.”  

“It's inevitable. As the seas rise and storms become more ferocious, millions of people who have settled close to the water will have no choice but to relocate to higher ground. Sandy was a warning shot to New York City. We are not immune to the threat of climate change, and some places we value are becoming unfit for human habitation” said Eric Klinenberg, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge, NYU. “This study suggests that managed retreat must not only be part of our conversation about climate adaptation, but also one of our policy options.”

 

The survey surveyed 225 respondents from 11 areas across New York City, New York State and New Jersey. The research tracked residents’ who moved from their affected neighborhoods after Hurricane Sandy, and those who stayed. The research led to five key findings:

 

  • Residents who participated in voluntary, community-driven relocation, through programs like buyouts, tended to benefit from this choice. Comparatively, community members who wanted to remain and rebuild reported comparatively higher levels of stress and less socializing, potentially due to the stresses of staying in a damaged or threatened neighborhood.  

 

  • In areas where community members ended up preferring to stay and rebuild, individuals reported having lived in their neighborhoods longer and were more likely to have community ties such as extended family near by compared to respondents who wanted buyouts.

 

  • Economic factors such as flood insurance and concerns around future financial security were reported as the greatest weighed factors that drove decisions around staying or leaving. Second-most considered were physical concerns like increased propensity for future flooding and threats to safety. These were followed by feelings of support to relocate– from both the government and a network of family and friends.

 

  • Community members are more aware of climate change post-Sandy. Survey results indicated that a majority of respondents believe climate change is at least partly caused by humans and that after Hurricane Sandy individuals were increasingly aware and accepting of climate change.

 

  • Following Hurricane Sandy, residents impacted by the storm reported declining levels of confidence in municipal, state and federal government. Overall, a large majority reported that the government should have done more to protect people from severe weather.

 

To read more, the full results of the survey are here.

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Rebuild By Design is reimagining the way communities find solutions for today’s large-scale, complex problems by processes for working with a mix of sectors - including government, business, and the non-profit community - to gain a better understanding of how overlapping environmental and human-made vulnerabilities Leave cities and regions at risk. Rebuild convenes local communities and experts to drive systemic change, transforming our built environment in ways that are equitable and design-driven.

 

The Institute for Public Knowledge (IPK) brings theoretically serious scholarship to bear on major public issues. Located at NYU, it nurtures collaboration among social researchers in New York and around the world. It builds bridges between university-based researchers and organizations pursuing practical action. It supports communication between researchers and broader publics. And it examines transformations in the public sphere, social science, and the university as a social institution as these change the conditions for public knowledge.