Queens Hurricane Relief Task Force reflects on lessons learned for future recovery and resiliency


As her tenure draws to a close, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz reported on the work of her Hurricane Relief Task Force, a group of government agencies, elected officials and community leaders who collectively developed and implemented solutions to problems that had previously hindered and plagued the borough’s recovery from Hurricane Sandy. Katz prioritized the recovery efforts by forming the task force within weeks after taking office in 2014.

The group first met nearly 16 months after the storm wreaked havoc across the borough. The objective was to regularly and correctly address what many found to be an excruciatingly slow process for repairing the damage wrought by Sandy and for getting thousands of displaced Queens residents back in their homes.

The Hurricane Relief Task Force connected communities most impacted by the storm directly and regularly with city, state and federal agencies and elected officials on the multi-year recovery effort. This helped to ensure a reliable channel of communication between officials and the community residents who had “on-the ground” knowledge of recovery-related problems.

The Task Force also facilitated interagency cooperation by empowering community leaders to create innovative ways with elected officials to enhance the efficacy or recovery and resiliency efforts.

“The community-driven Task Force model should be used as a guide for how we respond to future major disasters, especially in this time of climate change,” Katz said. “A natural disaster of Sandy’s unprecedented scope requires a coordinated response that minimizes bureaucratic red tape and empowers impacted communities to work directly with government to launch and complete the Herculean task of recovery.”

Since February 2014, the Queens Hurricane Relief Task Force has inspired a citywide zoning amendment to facilitate reconstruction of Sandy-damaged homes, streamlined issuance of necessary permits, cleared roadblocks regarding the U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loan applications, spearheaded outreach to Build it Back applicants, and improved coordination between the Broad Channel street raising initiative and the Build it Back program.

The Task Force also helped to reduce delays in elevating homes, supported legislation to speed up the Buildings Department’s permitting process, prompted the aggressive investigation and resolution of construction delays.

“Our deepest thanks go to all of the members of the Hurricane Relief Task Force who did such a great job of delivering much needed help to those impacted by Superstorm Sandy,” Katz said.

She will be inaugurated as Queens District Attorney on Monday, Jan. 6, at Carnesecca Arena at St. John’s University beginning at 5:30 p.m.