NYU public health researchers chart the region’s recovery

A decade after Hurricane Sandy, a new report by researchers from the NYU School of Global Public Health’s Center for Public Health Disaster Science describes the storm’s long-term impact on 18 counties in New York and New Jersey.

The analysis reveals a history of near-term destruction and hardship, followed by a solid resumption of many measures, suggesting that the lasting effect of Storm Sandy on the region and its population has been mitigated.

The immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy was dramatic: the storm damaged or destroyed 650,000 homes, claimed more than 150 lives and generated nearly $ 82 billion in damage. The new report, Ten Years After Storm Sandy: Charting a Region Recovery, examined the extent to which systems in the country’s largest metropolitan area were disrupted with lasting consequences over the next decade.

“The areas of New York and New Jersey hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy have been remarkably resilient, possibly due to their sizeable resources, effective governments and robust critical infrastructure. We found that even a massive storm like Sandy’s did not stop. basically systems for more than a year, ”said David Abramson, an associate professor of clinical practice at the NYU School of Global Public Health and lead author of the report.

“But just because there have been minimal impacts at the system level doesn’t mean there have been minimal impacts on a smaller scale. The aftermath of a storm like Sandy’s can vary enormously from house to house, resulting in uneven recovery, “added Abramson, who was a lead investigator of the Sandy Child and Family Health study, which documented well-being and recovery of New Jersey residents in the years following the storm.

“This work underscores the importance of social structures in people’s lives, particularly after a disaster,” said Alexis Merdjanoff, assistant clinical professor at the NYU School of Global Public Health and author of the new report. “That structure includes strong economic and real estate markets, as well as an effective government response. In our studies of residents with Katrina and Sandy we saw how variable it is, but overall the New York-New Jersey area has shown a solid recovery. ”Merdjanoff was also a researcher on the Sandy Child and Family Health study and continued to study the post-disaster resilience of the elderly in high-risk coastal areas.

Using publicly available data, the researchers examined the critical dimensions of disaster recovery, such as population health, regional economy, housing, education, and civic and social engagement. They included 20 years of data, a decade before and after Storm Sandy, to explore long-term trends.

Their analysis focused on 18 counties in New Jersey and New York as the areas most affected by Storm Sandy: Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union in New Jersey; and Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), New York (Manhattan), Nassau, Queens, Richmond (Staten Island), Suffolk, Westchester and Rockland in New York.

Their key findings:

  • New York City, especially Manhattan, provided substantial financial stability to the region, thanks to highly skilled industries (eg Wall Street, media) that grew rapidly after the disaster. The hurricane had only a limited and short-lived effect on employment trends in the affected counties. The 2008-2009 recession and the COVID-19 pandemic had far more pronounced economic impacts than the storm.
  • The hurricane did not have a measurable effect on social and civic engagement measures, including crime and voting.
  • Hurricane Sandy had a mixed effect on homes in the region. Foreclosures increased in the year following the storm; most homeowners were unprepared and underinsured for the flood that occurred. However, over the next decade, housing values ​​in coastal and urban areas affected by Sandy actually increased by 50%, a higher rate than in less storm-affected counties.
  • The storm did not affect health measures, including preventable hospitalizations for conditions such as asthma and pneumonia, nor deaths attributable to drugs, alcohol use and suicide.

The researchers also compared the long-term results of Hurricane Sandy with those of Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, revealing more prolonged disruptions, difficulties and negative health outcomes in Louisiana and Mississippi after Katrina.

“The fact that New York’s metropolitan economy was strong enough to withstand the worst systemic effects of a storm like Sandy’s shouldn’t lull us into complacency,” Abramson said. “Sandy’s mental health effects persist in a number of people who have been exposed to Sandy, critical infrastructure is not yet sufficiently resilient, and vulnerabilities and social inequalities continue to persist. This report shows what good luck looks like, not good planning. “

“Ten Years After Superstorm Sandy” is the first report of a broader initiative by NYU’s Center for Public Health Disaster Science to measure the long-term recovery of populations and geographic areas following storms and other disasters using publicly available data.

About the NYU School of Global Public Health

At NYU School of Global Public Health (NYU GPH), we are preparing the next generation of public health pioneers with the critical thinking skills, acumen and entrepreneurial approaches needed to reinvent the public health paradigm. Dedicated to employing a non-traditional interdisciplinary model, NYU GPH aims to improve health around the world through a unique blend of global public health studies, research and practice. The school is located in the heart of New York City and extends to NYU’s global network across six continents. Innovation is at the heart of our ambitious approach, thinking and teaching. For more information, visit: publichealth.nyu.edu

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