Donovan Chairs Hearing Examining Disaster Response and Resiliency
Staten Island, NY—July 11, 2016....Congressman Dan Donovan (NY-11), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications, today hosted a Congressional hearing at Staten Island University Hospital. The hearing examined how to improve post-disaster response and planning, and whether New York City is better prepared to withstand future storms after billions of dollars have been invested in disaster resiliency projects.
Congressman Donovan said, “It’s a missed opportunity to repair and rebuild after Sandy without making our communities better able to withstand future storms. Today’s hearing was about protecting lives and property. After the multi-billion dollar rebuilding process ends, neighborhoods will see a hodgepodge of housing types: elevations, demolitions, in-kind repairs – is that the best outcome? Have the billions invested in infrastructure projects to reduce flood risk made our coastlines safer?”
Brad Gair, who directed the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations after Sandy and developed the Build it Back program, described changes that could improve federally-funded disaster repair programs in the future. After a major storm, jurisdictions like New York City receive billions in federal relief funds but must create from scratch the programs that will deliver the aid to residents. Gair said the current federal process is “a series of patchwork programs that more than anything else confuse, frustrate and demoralize both those in need of aid and those trying to provide it.” Gair’s testimony explained the importance of developing off-the-shelf recovery programs that cities like New York can implement quickly after a disaster, rather than building a multi-billion dollar operation on the fly.
The hearing also examined the challenges facing New York City’s recovery because of its unique housing stock, particularly attached homes that cannot be elevated. Donovan emphasized the importance of rebuilding homes in a more flood-resilient manner, but pointed out that inflexible federal standards do not provide useful mitigation options for attached homes. Dan Zarrilli, New York City’s Chief Resilience Officer, further emphasized the need for better options for urban areas like New York City.
Representatives from HUD and FEMA described a new federal emphasis on improving resiliency during the rebuilding process. For example, HUD dedicated more than $1 billion in disaster relief funds to support major flood protection projects, including several in New York City. For every dollar invested in risk mitigation and resiliency work, approximately four dollars are saved in recovery and rebuilding after a disaster.
Donovan committed to turning the information gathered during the hearing into actionable legislation. He concluded, “Since becoming chairman of this subcommittee, every hearing I’ve held has resulted in legislation – this will be no different. My staff and I have a lot of work to do, but we’ll be diving into all of the information presented today and determining the best next step.”
Testimonies from each witness as well as a full recording of the hearing are available at homeland.house.gov.