Superstorm Sandy Research Initiative

In response to the Superstorm Sandy, which devastated New York City and countless other communities at the end of October, 2012, the Institute for Public Knowledge established the Superstorm Sandy Research Initiative, which supported ongoing efforts to better understand the impact of Sandy specifically, and climate change and cities more generally.

Projects in this initiative included:

Superstorm Research Lab 
Members: Max Besbris, Jessica Coffey, Daniel Aladana Cohen, Ned Crowley, Michael Gould- Wartofsky, Max Liboiron, Adam Murphree, Shelly Ronen, and David Wachsmuth
The Superstorm Research Lab (SRL) was a research collective working to understand the changes in how New York City policy actors, NGO leaders, activists, volunteers, and residents are thinking about social, economic and environmental issues following Hurricane Sandy. SRL researched discourses concerning climate change, inequity, resilience, and governance coming out of the Superstorm. They produced traditional academic articles, but also pushed the boundaries of what it means to do scholarly work founded on the desire to create change.

Rebuild Rockaway: Sustainability and Resilience after Sandy
Ofelia Mangen
Superstorm Sandy revealed an imperative to examine the dynamic interplay of the natural landscape and the built environment on the Rockaway peninsula, and to consider the role of sustainability and resilience in the ideation, design, and rebuilding of this urban coastal community. In this early stage of the process, Dr. Mangen’s personal experience and that of her neighbors revealed a dearth of governmental, informational, and economic resources for rebuilding our community sustainably and resiliently. How Rockaway rebuilt came to be both a reflection of the community’s priorities and capabilities, and a literal, physical foundation for what Rockaway can and will become. Understanding how these values were (and were not) included in this post-disaster recovery process helped to reveal avenues for future research; identified nodes for potential intervention (education, policy, urban planning, etc.); and informed formative assessments and summative evaluations of rebuilding efforts at the local, city, state, and national levels.

Sandy Social Impact Analysis
Jacob Faber
Hurricane Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record and resulted in an unprecedented weather event for New York City, in particular. The city’s transportation infrastructure was shut down, tens of thousands were left homeless due to flooding, and more were left without power for days. Dozens were killed. Previous research showed previously-marginalized populations (e.g. the poor, the elderly, and people of color) were particularly vulnerable to the consequences of severe weather events (Klinenberg 2002; Sharkey 2007). Initial reports corroborated this research, suggesting a disproportionate number of New York City deaths caused by the storm were among the elderly (Keller 2012). This project was a geostatistical analysis of the measureable aspects of Hurricane Sandy’s impact, with a focus on flooding in New York City neighborhoods. The project was interested in the social characteristics of the people who lived in neighborhoods in New York City most-severely affected by the storm surge and flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy. Specifically, how did the race, class, and age makeup of those who lived in flooded neighborhoods compare to the rest of New York City? This project also expanded the scope beyond Hurricane Sandy and examined which communities are at risk of damage and/or disruption from a more severe weather event. In the case of either a storm of Sandy’s magnitude that hits New York City directly or a more severe storm, which neighborhoods and demographic groups would be most affected? How well did the models of flooding reflect what actually happened?

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