Our guest bloggers today are Holly Leicht, HUD Region II Administrator; Jerome Hatfield, FEMA Region II Administrator; and Colonel David Caldwell, District Commander for the US Army Corps of Engineers.
In the wake of any disaster, anniversaries serve as moments to take stock of how far we’ve come, and how much we have left to accomplish. On October 28, the third anniversary of Superstorm Sandy focused public attention on continuing efforts to rebuild homes and businesses, and to restore a sense of normalcy for communities and people whose lives were upended by the storm.
And though recovery never occurs as quickly as we would like, Sandy catalyzed a transformation in the federal government’s approach to rebuilding, particularly infrastructure – and the outcome will likely rival some of history’s most visionary feats of civil engineering.
The region-wide reconstruction and strengthening of the New York and New Jersey coast and tributaries will result in a series of resilient projects that are being coordinated among federal, state, county and local government agencies in an unprecedented way. And across the region, this new level of cooperation and data-sharing is already driving real efficiencies and results.
Locally-based senior leadership from HUD, the Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of the Interior are meeting regularly to streamline, troubleshoot, and integrate infrastructure goals throughout New York and New Jersey.
This high-level interagency coordination has resulted in, among other achievements, a comprehensive database of all six agencies’ projects allowing us to drill down to the community and even neighborhood level, examining intersections and gaps among more than 500 projects being pursued with a combined $40 billion in federal investment.
Through this lens, we are able to identify synergies and potential conflicts, and make adjustments to maximize the impact of taxpayer dollars. Separately, groups of interdisciplinary technical experts from these and other partner agencies review project scopes and specifications to streamline federal review and permitting processes and expedite completion timelines.
In the three years since the storm, thousands of people across the Sandy region have moved back into new or refurbished homes and businesses. Indeed, to mark the 3rd anniversary of Sandy, HUD Secretary Castro joined New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in Breezy Point, NY to present the Cunningham family with keys to their rebuilt home. And like the Cunningham’s home, these homes and neighborhoods are often built stronger, with increased levels of protection and resilience to withstand the next storm. For those of us charged with finding new ways for government to work together to build a more resilient region, a successful story is already taking shape and there remains a strong sense of urgency. This is what local communities and American taxpayers expect and deserve.