Staten Island? Staten Island!

Most of my project ideas at the moment revolve around Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts. Mayor Bloomberg’s administration completely bungled the execution of its “Built it Back” program, designed to provide homeowners with the funds to rebuild. As the New York Times reported in September:

From the outset, Mr. Bloomberg’s ambition was to forge a new model for disaster recovery, one that would provide help but also make certain that the waste and corruption that occurred in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 would not be repeated in New York. In response, however, his administration and their outside consultants created an application process so rigidly linear that it became nearly unworkable.

Two years after the hurricane, the result of those grand ambitions has been a morass of bureaucracy; 13,000 still-displaced families; and continued blight along the shorelines in Staten Island and the Rockaways. Mayor de Blasio, who managed to buy himself some time after first entering office, is starting to feel the heat. The investigative reporting around these issues has been quite good, but I think they’re missing the aerial view that would tie the facts together and communicate the scale of the challenge in places like this ghost town that are “going back to nature.”

There are lots of different directions to take a project like this one. Here are a few initial thoughts:

  • Look at the ghost towns that the Build it Back program has failed to serve.
  • Analyze the progress of reconstruction efforts in wealthy versus poor neighborhoods.
  • Explore the city’s efforts to fend off the next storm, through flood plain management and other environmental strategies.