What is the Sandy Regional Assembly?
The Sandy Regional Assembly is an association of environmental justice organizations, community-based groups, labor unions and our allies from Superstorm Sandy-impacted and storm surge-vulnerable areas in New York City, New Jersey and Long Island. Nearly 200 participants representing over 40 organizations participated in a January 2013 meeting to assess the aftermath of Sandy and the role of local communities in the Sandy Recovery process. Together we are advocating for a grassroots-led recovery that includes priorities of low-income people, communities of color, immigrants, and workers.
Superstorm Sandy devastated local communities and resulted in billions of dollars in damages. Coastal areas were particularly vulnerable to the unprecedented storm surge while communities located outside of the immediate impact areas experienced massive power outages, interruptions in food and transportation networks, gas shortages, hospital evacuations, and fires. Vulnerable coastal areas in New York and New Jersey are home to low-income, communities of color. As the Post-Sandy NYU Furman Center analysis revealingly reported, most of Sandy’s victims were low income New Yorkers. Sandy impacted nearly 20% of all NYCHA properties, (i.e., 402 buildings with over 35,000 units) and "nearly one-third of owners (29.9%) and two-thirds of renters (64.9%) directly impacted by Sandy had household incomes of less than $30,000 per year."1 Given those statistics, it is likely that further demographic analysis will show that people of color were disproportionately impacted by the storm. Sandy showed that when disaster hits, our communities are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather and climate change, like flooding, storm surge, erosion, high winds and sea level rise - which are increasing in both frequency and severity.
What is the role of community-based organizations & why do they need to be part of the planning process moving forward?
After Sandy, community-based organizations, neighbors, volunteers, and low-wage workers served as first – and last - responders and provided critical post-disaster support in impacted areas. Community-based organizations in NY/NJ have long demonstrated the capacity to work collectively to support neighborhoods from the ground up. Our resilience is built on decades of work establishing ties with our local communities, longstanding networks of volunteers, and effective organizing strategies. Sandy showed how communities that were resilient and organized before Sandy, were also the most resilient after disaster hit.
It is imperative that low-income and communities of color be an integral part of the Sandy Recovery decision-making process and help hold recovery projects accountable after funds are allocated. This means having a place at the table when recovery plans are made and funds are allocated; working to ensure that recovery efforts are coordinated locally and regionally; and demanding transparency from elected officials and appointed task forces. Low-income communities of color are on the frontline of climate change impacts - but we are also leaders in making our communities, homes, and workplaces safe and resilient now and in the future.
The Sandy Regional Assembly has identified the following common Goals and Recommendations in order to make sure that the priorities of vulnerable communities in the NY/NJ region are included in the Sandy Recovery process:
a. Develop community-based green infrastructure and climate adaptation projects.
b. Reduce vulnerabilities in critical energy, transportation, and food distribution networks by creating redundant, distributed, sustainable systems that serve the needs of our communities.
c. Strengthen resiliency in public housing, expand affordable
housing, and reduce displacement.
d. Secure local recovery jobs that pay wages and benefits at the established industry standards.
e. Create community oversight and inclusive decision-making.f. Prevent environmental hazards after disasters.
g. Assess environmental health impacts.
h. Mitigate industrial waterfront threats and update NYC’s Waterfront Revitalization Program.
i. Address the needs of vulnerable populations (communities of color, low-income communities, seniors, children, youth, persons with disabilities, patients requiring permanent medical assistance, immigrants, linguistically-isolated households, etc.)
j. Improve evacuation and disaster response planning.
k. Train volunteers & local CERT teams.
l. Support community hubs for climate resiliency planning & disaster response.
m. Support local climate resilience and community-based planning initiatives.
n. Support comprehensive community-based disaster preparedness plans using ground-up grassroots planning principles.
(Sandy Regional Assembly Recovery Agenda)