A House Divided: The Meaning of Community Formation and Environmental Engagement for Effective Hurricane Recovery Efforts in Canarsie, Brooklyn

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John Wargo
Essay Abstract: 
Hurricane Sandy devastated the City of New York, particularly the Jamaica Bay region of Southern Brooklyn and Queens. The residents of Canarsie, Brooklyn, 84,000 predominantly African-American and Afro-Caribbean people, desperately sought assistance from FEMA, insurance agencies, and local government. The New York state government initiated NY Rising as an “innovative, community-driven” program to oversee the planning, commissioning, and execution of plan recovery and resilience projects spearheaded by a committee of local residents. The process has been slow and remains stalled in some regards. Community members remain largely uninformed of what progress is made. There are several individual residents invested in the progress of recovery and advocating for Canarsie, but they struggle to work together. By contrast, the community of Broad Channel has had significant success with their NY Rising program. This essay postulates that the root causes of the inefficiencies and failings of the NY Rising in Canarsie is a lack of cohesiveness related to the disconnection from the neighborhood’s greatest natural asset: Jamaica Bay, and that the means and distribution of power in Canarsie is too far from the hands of its residents for them to effect meaningful, structural influence.