Two years ago today, Hurricane Sandy sunk New York with the largest flood in its history. Understanding the devastation Sandy wrought means understanding climate change. Portland State scientist, Stefan Talke, confirmed that climate change amplified Sandy’s impact through rising storm tides and sea level in New York Harbor by studying tide documentation from 1844 to 2012. More recent developments like deeper shipping channels and wetland destruction also made New York more vulnerable to Sandy’s wrath, he said. George Deodatis, a Columbia University civil engineer, told Mother Jones, “With the exact same Sandy 100 years from now, if you have, say, five feet of sea level rise, it's going to be much more devastating."
Recovery and mitigation efforts are well underway in New York. Between plans to revamp and waterproof the MTA, plant oyster-beds, build a levee network and a waterfront greenway, the city is willing to try anything to avoid future disasters. According to a Monmouth University poll, New Jersey residents are not satisfied with recovery efforts in their state either. The Sandy recovery alone cost Congress upwards of $60 billion.
Whatever financial woes the Federal Treasury feels, low-income citizens of New York and New Jersey have felt harder on a personal level as bills rolled in for reconstruction and higher rent and requests for assistance have been denied. Make the Road New York has found that undocumented immigrants, whose populations are dense in highly affected areas like Long Island and Staten Island, are ignored by disaster relief efforts. They are denied cash assistance from FEMA and unemployment benefits. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) reports that since the storm, median rent for households affected by Sandy has increased $200 and the median income of those renters is only $18,000.
Many people have come forward to tell their story of loss and resilience in honor of the two-year mark. Talking about the recovery brings up a lot of frustration and anger for many survivors; Ph.D. John Draper has recommendations for addressing the issue and supporting one another. Rockaway resident Carlos Cassel says, “I have to redo all the electrical inside and outside. It’s devastating but you have to look forward to the future. You have to look forward and rebuild.” Sandy Storyline has a wealth of personal accounts from survivors of Hurricane Sandy, and they also invite you to share your own story here. You can also show support by attending events in NYC and Staten Island this week.
Thanks to Caitlin Kauffman for help with this post.