Lessons From Sandy and the WTC
"We're going to see more aggressive weather patterns," says Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy. That's bad news for real estate folks and the lawyers who represent them.
Jo-Ellen talked disaster recovery at an event Venable hosted this week at The New School. Along the Atlantic Coast alone, almost 60% of the land within a meter of sea level is planned for further development. At the same time, "Sea level rise projections say we're looking at feet, not inches." More than 8 million people in the country live in areas at risk for coastal flooding already. (Hurricane Sandy caused $66B in damages in 2012.) Jo-Ellen's office establishes the policy direction for the US Army Corps of Engineers; the civil works program for the Corps has focused on the development and protection of the country's water since the Revolutionary War. We snapped her flanked by Venable partners Gordon Davis and Bicky Corman.
We can't just keep replacing damaged seawalls and bridges, Jo-Ellen says. They're emphasizing resiliency (this month, US Army Corps of Engineers designated a resilience officer to oversee ongoing works), sustainability and efficiency. For the first time, The Corps has committed to awarding $12.5M in energy-savings performance contracts by the end of 2016. Jo-Ellen serves on the president's Interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, which directs more than 25 agencies.
Bicky, third from left, spoke about creating a permanent structure for future responsiveness, joined by Venable government contracts partner Diz Locaria, Milano School of International Affairs assistant professor Ana Baptista, HUD deputy assistant secretary Marion Mollegen McFadden, and Ironbound Community Corp community resilience coordinator Michael Molina.
When disasters happen, coordination is crucial. Venable's Gordon Davis moderated a panel with Federal Sandy Recovery Office senior regional interagency coordination adviser Irene Chang-Cimino (previously GC of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp, which got $3.8B in HUD disaster recovery grants), Venable counsel Susan Golden, AKRF COO Anne Locke, and Port Authority of NY and NJ assistant GC Timothy Stickelman. The panelists worked together on the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site. For Tim, his involvement was even more personal, as he'd been in Tower 1 when the plane hit.
One way multiple agencies worked together during the long process of rebuilding the WTC site was a timeline with explanations (put in place by the law firms) reminding why each date is set. The stakeholders also agreed to environmental performance commitments, which were crucial in working in a tight area surrounded by businesses and residents. There's a Unified Federal Review effort ongoing, says Irene, to align different federal agencies and their varying environmental review and permitting requirements so there's less work to be done disaster by disaster, and "we can hit the ground running when there's a devastating event."