2013-02-08 / Top Stories

RWA Workshop Shares “Lessons From New Orleans”

By Dan Guarino


Nick Master (l) and Leigh Graham lead RWA’s “Protecting Our homes: Lessons From New Orleans” workshop on Sunday February 3rd. (Photo by Dan Guarino.) Nick Master (l) and Leigh Graham lead RWA’s “Protecting Our homes: Lessons From New Orleans” workshop on Sunday February 3rd. (Photo by Dan Guarino.) On Sunday February 3rd, the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance brought together members of the community and experts for a “Protecting Our Homes: Lessons From New Orleans” workshop in the community room in Ocean Village. This is the second in a set of free presentations in RWA’s Action Agenda resiliency series.

Drawing from the examples of Hurricane Katrina and also 9/11, presenter Leigh Graham, Assistant Professor of Urban Policy at John Jay College, offered, “There is a chance for positive transformation here. I think that story sometimes gets lost.”

Graham, with decades of experience in disaster recovery, including five years in New Orleans and also work in post- 9/11 New York, shared an overview of housing recovery options.

She focused on how the hurricane hit the area of Treme Lafitte, New Orleans, socially, physically and economically and what conditions were before the storm.

“If you’re thinking about recovery,” she said, “you want to have a sense of what things were like before the disaster strikes.”

She illustrated her talk with slides of New Orleans homes and housing complexes months after the hurricane, and discussed how government programs, private initiatives and community organizations and even population shifts have all played a part in recovery.

Graham cited the example of the introduction of affordable mixed income housing units as a successful model.

She also noted, “The recovery span is close to a 10 year period.”

“But not everyone (in the Rockaways) is in that recovery mode yet,” she added.

Co-presenter Nick Master, Director of Programs for the Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation, focused on Rockaway’s post-Sandy experience. His agency provides community referral help with jobs, services, housing recommendations and training.

Noting how the clients he worked with where holding up after the storm, he said “I was looking at a resilient population.

“We all had to learn to adapt.”

Master explained that for some in the area Sandy just added to the difficulties they already had. But he added that the help provided by increased relief efforts gave them resources they did not have before.

He cited problems like lack of communication after the storm and coordination between needs and resources. Audience members also mentioned issues with security, organization of relief efforts and distribution of food, supplies and services.

Said Master, referring to these issues and more that were brought to light by the storm, “These are all learning lessons.”

The RWA resiliency workshops, designed to provide a forum for community dialogue and input from key experts, will take place every other Sunday through March 17th.

All are free and open to the public.

The RWA’s previous “Environmental Resiliency” presentation drew more than 200 people.

Said RWA Executive Director Jeanne DuPont, “We hope to continue to foster a dialogue about environmental resiliency within the Rockaway community and beyond.”

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