A Cascade of Emergencies: Responding to Superstorm Sandy in New York City Harvard Case Solution & Analysis

A Cascade of Emergencies: Responding to Superstorm Sandy in New York City Case Study Solution

In the wake of the devastation brought by Hurricane Sandy, New York City's government is looking to better prepare its public services and infrastructure for future emergencies. To do so, the city is conducting a study to analyze and assess the costs associated with superstorm Sandy's damage and recommend ways to better prepare the city's public services.

Problem Statement

For the uninitiated, Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on New York City in 2012. It was the deadliest windstorm in the north-eastern United States for more than 40 years. In addition to leaving 43 dead, the storm caused over $19 billion in damage. The city and state government invested billions of dollars in rebuilding critical infrastructure and supporting recovery efforts for affected residents.

Superstorm Sandy had the effect of exposing the vulnerabilities of New York's coastal communities. The storm caused flooding that cut off backup electricity to a significant number of households. In addition, it forced the closure of several health care facilities.

New York City spent more than a billion dollars in its first year of recovery. However, much more work remains to be done. This two-part case study looks at how the city responded to the effects of the superstorm.

One example is the American Institute of Architects New York's Post-Sandy Initiative. The program grew out of a collaboration with the NYC Department of City Planning. By the time it wrapped up in April 2013, more than 500 organizations had signed on to its mission. These partners included a wide array of professional and civic organizations, as well as public agencies, including New York's Public Service Enterprise Group.

As one of its first major projects, the Post-Sandy Initiative helped elevate the city's mechanical systems to a safer height. As a result, 80 percent of subway service was restored by mid-November.

Case Study Solution

This two-part case study provides an overview of New York City's response to Superstorm Sandy, which devastated the city's coastal communities in October 2012. We'll examine how the City's response to the storm affected public health and safety, and how lessons learned can inform future adaptation plans and infrastructure projects.

The scope of the storm surge and the magnitude of the damage were unprecedented along the Jersey Shore and in New York City. In addition to causing billions of dollars in damages, Sandy also destroyed thousands of homes and caused a number of deaths.

New York City responded by implementing billions of dollars in new resiliency infrastructure and recovery initiatives. Most of these projects are the first of their kind in the city. As a result, they require specialized technical expertise, complex coordination with existing utility lines, and complicated legal agreements with private property owners.

Despite these efforts, many agencies faced challenges in the initial scoping process. For example, many did not have sufficient documentation to prove damages before and after the storm. Some of these challenges were exacerbated by supply chain issues, causing backlogs of construction materials.

After the storm, more than 8.5 million customers were without power for days or longer. Many areas also experienced flooding and downed wires. It was a chaotic time for local governments, hospitals, and emergency medical services.

One of the most impacted areas was Red Hook, Brooklyn, a neighborhood with a high rate of poverty. Residents were exposed to cold temperatures, hypothermia, and upper respiratory infections.

Porters Five Forces

There are many different methods and programs to address post-Sandy recovery. Some have been criticized, while others have been lauded. But while the government has put a lot of money and effort into the recovery process, there have been few if any proactive initiatives to build community resilience.

This report seeks to identify the most important lessons from the planning efforts of Superstorm Sandy and other major natural disasters. The first focus is on the New York metropolitan area. For example, the Resilient Neighborhoods Initiative, a collaboration of city agencies, uses CDBG-DR funds to conduct detailed planning studies in ten vulnerable neighborhoods. It also seeks to provide affordable housing assistance to communities hardest hit by the storm.

Another noteworthy effort was the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy, which was published in August 2013 by the aforementioned HSRTF. It was a comprehensive plan containing more than 450 recovery projects. Its main message was that communities should be prepared for a new normal.

A similar initiative was undertaken by the Governor of New York. He created the Office of Storm Recovery to centralize community recovery functions. His administration also launched the New York Rising Community Reconstruction program. These efforts focused on building community resilience by empowering local governments to develop plans and implement strategies.

In the end, it appears that the most efficient way to mitigate the effects of a major hurricane is to be prepared. To that end, the New York City Department of Buildings has begun drafting emergency building code changes.

PESTLE Analysis

The Hurricane Sandy superstorm of 2012 had a large impact on New York City's public housing residents. Many suffered from flood damage and widespread power outages. As a result, many were forced to deal with a wide range of health and safety concerns.

However, the storm's toll was not without its own set of problems. For one, many of the city's high-rise, high-density public housing complexes were built in locations that were not conducive to enduring a major coastal storm.

Additionally, many of these structures are located in low-lying areas, exposing residents to flood damage and water intrusion. These conditions can result in long-term property damage, mold growth, and pest infestation.

While there was some debate about the magnitude of the storm's effects, the hurricane did prove to have some notable impacts on the lives of those living in NYCHA complexes. Among the most significant were injuries and deaths. Some residents had to take advantage of financial assistance to help them through the rough ride. Others feared they would be evicted if their apartment was found to be substandard by city inspectors.

Among the more obvious storm-related health and safety issues were displaced residents and disruptions to care. Power outages were widespread and many nursing and long-term care facilities lost power. Various medical devices including heart monitors, oxygen concentrators, and respirators went dark.

Another important consequence of the storm was its ability to wreak havoc on the building infrastructure. Many NYCHA residents experienced flooded streets, blown-out electrical outlets, and the loss of elevator service.

Financial Analysis

The Comptroller's Office has released a new report analyzing New York City's response to Superstorm Sandy. This two-part case study focuses on the financial aspects of the city's preparation for the storm.

The report uses several data sources to assess the City's performance. Among them is the City's Financial Management System (FMS), which is its internal budgeting and accounting system. In particular, the FMS reveals that only 0.3% of the total program funds have been liquidated.

While the FMS is a useful tool for tracking actual expenditures, it does not provide the complete picture of funding allocations. For example, the tracker does not convey the total project budgets or anticipated completion dates. Moreover, it does not provide the Sandy Funding Tracker, which includes the Sandy Funding Plan and all the relevant federal grants.

There are numerous lessons to be learned from the city's response to Sandy, but the financial analysis demonstrates that the city's budgeting and planning has been hampered by several key shortcomings. Some of these include the lack of sufficient documentation prior to the storm, as well as the ongoing staffing deficits across all city agencies.

Another glaring oversight is the lack of a comprehensive city-wide Capital Projects Tracker. As part of the City's 2020 agenda, legislation is required to develop such a tracker. However, such a tracking tool would also help the city increase accountability.


When Hurricane Sandy struck New York City ten years ago, it caused a large number of fatalities and billions of dollars in damage. Now, New York is still recovering. A task force developed a set of Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategies to ensure that New York City continues to be resilient.

The strategies address several policy areas, including: resilience of buildings, infrastructure, and neighborhoods; accountability; and coordination across levels of government. They also align with President Obama's Climate Action Plan.

In June 2013, the New York City Task Force on Recovery and Resiliency released a report with 33 recommendations. Half of them are already being implemented. Nonetheless, there are many more that are needed.

For example, the City's Emergency Medical Services faced serious challenges during the storm. Sixty-two percent of NYCHA residents had to wait for repairs for six months or more.

The city has provided over $3 billion in federal assistance for low-income homeowners. However, there is a lack of funding for a comprehensive, long-term disaster preparedness and recovery plan.

One of the most important steps is to develop resiliency policies. This will involve involving communities in the planning process. Coastal cities with diverse urban populations will need special consideration.

The new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has shown an interest in the city's long-term disaster preparedness and recovery plan. He is planning to create a committee on resiliency, with 15 members to be appointed by the City Council.

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