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Superstorm Sandy devastated thousands of homes in some of the most densely populated areas of the country. It created extensive and diverse property losses in the Northeast, resulting in an unprecedented need for disaster recovery assistance in affected communities. As we pass the storm's two-and-a-half year anniversary, complex challenges remain for many of these households. This article documents how one law school has responded. It reflects on how we have approached our educational and public interest missions throughout the recovery process, and how these experiences have shaped our views of the future. Disasters know no boundaries, and coastal floods are not isolated events that simply inconvenience millionaires with beach houses. Major urban areas and population centers are facing increasing, and in some cases existential, flood risks.

Part II of this article documents how Touro Law Center formed its Disaster Law Program, starting with a Sandy hotline that addressed a diverse set of legal and non-legal inquiries in the weeks and months following the storm, and its expansion into a broader educational and public interest initiative. Part III discusses the role of legal-non-legal coordination in the recovery process and their benefits to students, the groups involved, and affected communities. This builds the foundation for Part IV, which discusses our experiences in the recovery process and its multidimensional frameworks, while expanding on the long-range need for nonprofit assistance.

This article concludes by recommending a comprehensive and in-depth policy-informing examination of our national approach to disasters, recovery, and resiliency, and its implications for the public interest. Lessons from Hurricane Katrina, and those emerging from Sandy, demonstrate why it is important to analyze these recoveries in a way that informs the policymaking process. For example, the report commissioned after Katrina's sweeping devastation was completed within approximately six months of when the storm made landfall. It was not designed to study long-range systemic challenges to recovery and resiliency. Rather, it provided an essential public lens for the dramatic breakdowns that occurred before Katrina struck and in the days and weeks that followed. The challenges faced by communities and households in the years afterward were still to unravel. Sandy, Katrina, and other disasters offer windows into the future as much as their study may benefit efforts to promote recovery and resiliency now. It is crucial to deepen our understanding of what terms like resilience and a fair and sustainable recovery mean in practice. These concepts lack meaning without grounding in the communities and lives that they touch.

Source Publication

26 Fordham Envtl. L. Rev. 345

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Disaster Law Commons