Sandy: One Year Later

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One Year Later: Communities, Local Professionals Take Ownership of Recovery for a Stronger New Jersey

LINCROFT, N.J. – As the State of New Jersey approaches the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, many communities along the Shore are focused on recovery efforts. Much of the planning efforts in these devastated towns and boroughs are based on the question: “What will our communities look like in one, five or 10 years?”

Young Seabright residents study a waterfront restoration proposal at a community workshopRumson, N.J., Oct. 9, 2013—Families visit project boards developed by Sea Bright community members at the Sea Bright 2020 second community workshop. The workshop allows residents to speak with Project Advocates and vote to resolve community issues following Superstorm Sandy. Rosanna Arias/FEMAThough many of the community leaders and their residents hold hopeful visions for the future, it may be hard for them to conceptualize these visions. With reduced technical capacity, often because of the destruction caused by Sandy, residents of municipalities such as Highlands and Sea Bright boroughs have requested assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Many communities have limited resources to pay for technical planning assistance, so to support local recovery efforts FEMA provides locally hired technical professionals who can provide a true cost-saving measure for these municipalities.

FEMA’s Federal Disaster Recovery Coordination is tasked with assisting communities in need with technical assistance ranging from planning, engineering, construction management and architectural design, to strategic goal-setting, resource identification and community development. The FDRC assigns Community Recovery Assistance teams to municipalities that have requested assistance. The teams combine experienced disaster response reservist personnel with local professionals brought in to provide the needed technical expertise.

“FEMA works closely with municipalities, helping them plan what the recovery strategy is going to look like and how they can take advantage of all the federal resources available,” said FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer in New Jersey Gracia Szczech.

Every disaster is different, and the response and recovery efforts must be tailored to the needs of the local communities affected by the event. With Sandy, the engagement of a large number of local

professionals has been a key part of the success of this recovery effort. Some of these individuals have suffered through the loss of their own home or property, which makes them even more invested in the success of the state’s recovery. More importantly, these professionals possess important skills and unique insights into the governing and community development processes of these municipalities.

Highlands, N.J., Aug. 7, 2013 -- A resident marks his residence on a map at the Highlands Long Term Community Recovery Strategy Workshop. The borough is collaborating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other organizations to develop a plan to recover from and mitigate future disasters like Hurricane Sandy. Rosanna Arias/FEMA“We made a special effort in hiring local residents in New Jersey who have special skill sets,” said Peter Gozza, Federal Disaster Recovery Officer.

These efforts are not just about the local technical professionals. Community leaders and residents along the Jersey Shore have volunteered and dedicated countless hours to assist in the recovery of their respective hometowns. In each engaged community, a Recovery Steering Committee was created to develop appropriate, resilient projects that will contribute to the recovery of their communities. Recovery from a storm as powerful as Sandy requires a combination of hard work, patience and creativity from all those involved in the process. These efforts have begun to   take hold in communities where the Community Recovery Assistance teams have worked with local leaders and residents.

In the Borough of Highlands, the Steering Committee has developed several project proposals including the creation of a “housing advocate.” The advocate would coordinate with borough officials and property owners to identify appropriate funding sources for rebuilding, restoring or developing appropriate mitigation measures for the borough’s housing stock. In this way, an important component of a community’s economic base can be maintained and leveraged for the benefit of the entire borough.

As local leaders and residents continue to work through the recovery process, some aspects of their community will look much different than they did before the storm. In the Borough of Sea Bright, Steering Committee members, who dubbed their program “Sea Bright 2020,” have proposed a project that includes a multi-purpose community center and unique streetscaping design elements throughout the borough.

All of the efforts of the recovery committees – and the local professionals who assist them – have given true meaning to the motto “Jersey Strong.” This collaboration has helped foster a sense of ownership in the success of the state’s recovery. Working together, residents, local and state leaders, non-governmental and nonprofit organizations, and federal agencies have forged vital bonds to help New Jersey recover from the devastation of Sandy.

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Last Updated: 
10/31/2013 - 08:57