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Home Breadcrumb | Stories | Hurricane Sandy Recovery

Hurricane Sandy Recovery


Causing widespread destruction and displacement, Hurricane Sandy spurred efforts to fortify low-income communities against climate disaster. Lending knowledge gained through our recovery and rebuilding work in the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina, Enterprise sought to help Sandy-hit communities receive vital funding; redevelop affordable housing in vulnerable areas into sustainable, resilient properties; and create disaster-readiness resources for the affordable housing sector. To inform our work, we published a series of maps and reports illustrating the housing devastation and demographics of Sandy-affected communities. With more than a quarter-million low-income households living in the storm surge, Enterprise's technical and grant support have proven critical in the ongoing aftermath of the nation's largest and second costliest Atlantic storm.

Enterprise's role

Enterprise informed the allocation of billions of dollars in federal recovery resources for Hurricane Sandy victims while working with local government and community development partners to help access those resources. We also worked to enact critical legislation to provide additional resources for affordable housing in the impacted region.

In 2013, Enterprise secured $6.3 million from private and public sources to help housing organizations address the operational disruption and financial hardship that Sandy wrought. Our wide-ranging response included hands-on technical support, an international design competition and the launch of the Enterprise Learning Collaborative for Multifamily Housing Resilience, whose 12 area participants collectively own and operate 14,600 homes. Enterprise also created a resiliency assessment tool, deploying engineers and architects to assess 56 vulnerable buildings in the Sandy-affected region. These efforts promise to inform and shape an emerging body of knowledge guiding low-income communities as they mitigate and adapt to climate change.

New York

With more than a quarter-million low-income households living in the storm surge, Enterprise's Sandy-related technical and grant support have proven critical.

New York

Enterprise is helping to shape an emerging body of knowledge guiding low-income communities as they mitigate and adapt to climate change.


American Institute of Architects, N.Y. Chapter; BTMU Foundation; Citi Foundation; Community Preservation Corporation; Freddie Mac; Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy; Goldman Sachs Gives; Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; JPB Foundation; Kendeda Fund; Mayor's Fund to Advance NYC; NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development; New York State Governor's Office; J.C. Penney Company Fund; Surdna Foundation; NYC Housing and Neighborhood Recovery Donors Collaborative (AARP Foundation, Altman Foundation, Bank of America, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Capital One, Citi Foundation, Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, Goldman Sachs Bank USA, Hearst Foundations, HSBC Bank USA, JPMorgan Chase, Mayor's Fund to Advance NYC, New York Community Trust, Robin Hood Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Foundation and Toyota Foundation); and the Enterprise Learning Collaborative for Multifamily Housing Resilience (Asian Americans for Equality, Bailey House, CAMBA Housing Ventures, Carroll Gardens Association, Community Investment Strategies, Fifth Avenue Committee, Jersey City Housing Authority, Jewish Association Serving the Aging (JASA), Lott Community Development Corporation, Lower East Side People's Mutual Housing Association, Services for the UnderServed and Triple C Housing)

The Poem is Mightier than the Storm

Shyrell Wisdom grew up on the island of Jamaica, where her father worked in construction, building homes big enough for two families. Today, Shyrell's home is a single room on a peninsula in Queens. Her tiny space bursts with the bright pink hues of her Caribbean birthplace.

"Welcome to my domain," Shyrell says, arms spread open as she leads a tour of her compact efficiency.

The recently redeveloped apartment building suffered $4 million in damages during Hurricane Sandy. Shyrell originally came to live in this Far Rockaway community with the help of Services for the UnderServed (SUS). She arrived by way of a homeless shelter after her life had spun out of control and her family ties and medical billing job unraveled as a result of an unchecked mental illness.

With an accurate diagnosis, the proper treatment and an affordable place to live, Shyrell reconnected with her loved ones and began to pursue her passion: writing. Encouraged by her counselor, she started a writing workshop for her peers.

But in October 2012, Sandy tore apart Shyrell's world again, forcing her to evacuate to temporary housing in the Bronx set up by SUS. Her building had endured a 7-foot storm surge and the majority of belongings she had left behind became infested with mold and insects.

"The extent of damage was unfathomable," says Mike Whelan, SUS chief financial officer. SUS, a member of the Enterprise Learning Collaborative for Multifamily Affordable Housing Resilience, provides housing and vital services for people with complex challenges across New York.

With Enterprise's support, SUS was able to hire a recovery coordinator to lead the rebuilding of Shyrell's apartment building, which celebrated its grand re-opening in spring 2014.

"Enterprise was one of the first to mobilize and lead in a real and meaningful way," says Mike. That Enterprise also sought answers and shared critical updates "all while we were ripping out drywall and filling up dumpsters was invaluable," says Mike.

For Shyrell, adjusting to temporary housing in a new borough proved challenging. Still, her positive outlook helped her thrive. Seven months after Sandy, Shyrell self-published a book of poems that echo her gusto and yearning for accomplishment. "The pen is my tool," she says. "And the power of the pen is, 'Yes!'"

Now back home in Far Rockaway, that same spirit propels Shyrell forward. She has plans to publish a second book, enroll in college and become a certified financial planner.

"If you want something, you have to go and get it," she says. "I'm taking care of business."

"We're Not Leaving Our Home"

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The pre-storm preparations are etched in Elaine Rockoff's organized, quick-witted mind. Senior centers distributed prepared meals. Case managers urged elders to secure important documents. Housing managers sealed apartment buildings. The list continues. But what Rockoff recalls most vividly is the residents' impassioned refusal to evacuate.

"They said they'd lived through the Czar and World War II and they weren't leaving their home," relays Elaine, a 20-year veteran of the Jewish Association Serving the Aging (JASA), where she directs community-based programs.

One of 12 groups in the Learning Collaborative for Multifamily Affordable Housing Resilience created by Enterprise's New York office in spring 2013, JASA provides services and affordable housing to low-income seniors in some of the most isolated areas along the shoreline regions of Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island.

Forty-eight hours after the storm, all eight JASA housing sites had lost power, although more than half of its 2,000-plus residents hadn't left their apartments. In Brighton Beach, the storm surge blasted across the boardwalk, bursting into the housing site's front doors. In Manhattan Beach, where power was out for 33 days, water entered from the bay and ocean, flooding the building's basement up to the ceiling. Meanwhile, JASA staff returned after the storm to find waterlogged offices, destroyed computers and frozen paper files.

The storm "severely strained our infrastructure," says Donald Manning, JASA's housing director. Enterprise helped JASA complete resiliency assessments of seven buildings and strengthen its emergency planning toward becoming a model for organizations serving seniors during severe weather events.

"We know this will happen again but we need back-up systems so we can minimize the disaster and remain a safe haven and a community hub," says Donald.

Donald adds: "I don't think we'd be this far along without Enterprise's leadership and support."

Asked to describe the darkest moment during Sandy and its aftermath, Elaine Rockoff is dismissive. There was no time for dwelling, she says. Just resilience.

Putting personal losses aside, Elaine and her colleagues sought out and distributed blankets, flashlights and medical supplies for residents. JASA's outreach went as far as Michigan, where staff located a temporary boiler for their Manhattan Beach senior housing property.

Elaine still recalls leaving her post in Far Rockaway after a string of 16-hour days, the streets dark, cold and eerie.

"That was our routine for two weeks," said Rockoff. "But you went home feeling like you'd made a difference."