Removing Obstacles on the Road to Recovery

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Release date: 
December 22, 2012
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70 percent of Hurricane Sandy’s 6 million cubic yards of debris has been picked up

Hurricane Sandy’s strong winds, heavy rain and storm surge brought down trees and power lines, damaged houses, schools and businesses and in its wake created an estimated six million cubic yards of debris in New York state. In the seven weeks since the hurricane made landfall, 4.2 million cubic yards, 70 percent, has been collected.

In New York City alone, Hurricane Sandy left an estimated 2 million cubic yards of debris. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City of New York Department of Sanitation have worked together to remove 1.8 million cubic yards, 90 percent of that debris.

“This has been a tremendous joint effort between FEMA, the Corps of Engineers, New York State, New York City and other local governments,” said Michael F. Byrne, FEMA federal coordinating officer. “Collecting and disposing of debris helps to clear the path for people to get back into their homes, schools to reopen and businesses to resume operations. “

After collection, debris is trucked to temporary staging areas where it is inspected and separated into categories. Items that can be recycled are prepared for reuse. Sand that was removed from roads near the shoreline is being sifted so it can be reused. Where practical, vegetative debris is ground and chipped. The remaining debris is disposed of in the safest, most cost effective manner possible. 

The FEMA Public Assistance program reimburses state and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations at least 75 percent of eligible debris removal costs.  The remaining 25 percent comes from non-federal funds.

For debris removal to be eligible, the damage must be a direct result of Hurricane Sandy, and the work must be necessary to:

  • Eliminate an immediate threat to lives, public health and safety,
  • Eliminate immediate threats of significant damage to improved public and private property when the measures are cost effective, or
  • Ensure the economic recovery of the affected community to the benefit of the community-at-large.

To date, the Public Assistance program has awarded more than $98 million to local governments to assist with the cost of debris removal. For more information on New York’s disaster recovery, visit,, and

Last Updated: 
December 22, 2012 - 15:46
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