Trade Center site in order to continue to provide electrical service to the damaged area and other parts of the city. Zimmerman gauged New York’s recovery by citing a number of positive indicators used by the New York City Office of the Comptroller and others, including population growth, job increases, low office vacancy rates, increases in the market value of property, and the development of new transportation designs. In contrast to today, these features of the city were quite grim following the attacks. In spite of the progress, there are areas of concern that need to be addressed, according to Zimmerman. She indicated, for example, that according to recent Census information Manhattan continues to have one of the highest income disparities in the country, creating the concern that rebuilding is going to be skewed towards upper-income communities. Another remaining concern, noted Zimmerman, is how to effectively gauge the health of responders and workers who were at the disaster site and how to devise the best strategies to maximize their chances for long-term recovery. And although advances have been made in emergency communications, much remains to be done to give confidence that the city’s communication system will function as effectively as needed during any future catastrophe.. A concluding observation made by Zimmerman was that the New York experience will continue to provide valuable lessons for coping with natural, technological, and human-induced disasters for years to come, including lessons on how to make public services more disaster resilient.
Gavin Smith, principal at PBS&J, offered a framework he is developing for understanding the challenges faced by stakeholders with roles in disaster recovery. His perspective comes from experience working on recovery in Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina and in other locales and his review of the scholarly literature on the subject. Smith noted that three kinds of resources are needed to further recovery in disaster-struck communities: financial and technical assistance and effective policy. Unfortunately, too often these resources do not become available in a coordinated fashion, according to Smith, thereby reducing the impacts that they might otherwise have collectively. Smith suggested that it is essential that planners play a key role in coordinating both pre- and post-disaster planning for recovery in order to meet the needs of communities in a more holistic fashion and to maximize the provision and utilization of recovery resources. He further noted that in mobilizing and planning for recovery, while financial assistance is crucial, much more attention needs to be focused on increasing the capacity of stakeholders to effectively participate in the recovery process.
As reflected in his experience in Mississippi, Smith characterized disaster recovery systems as multilayered, consisting of federal, state, and local stakeholders and nonprofit and newly formed groups which are not always well connected. He noted that federal agencies often can provide the greatest financial resources, but that they can be handicapped by a lack of knowledge of the needs of the local communities they intend to assist. A challenge for state, local, and nonprofit and newly formed groups is that they may have a better understanding of regional and local needs but without the resources of federal players. Also, without coordinated planning, the multiplicity of organizations that participate in recovery can work at cross purposes. Other barriers to more effective disaster recovery noted by Smith include the lack of a national recovery strategy, insufficient capacity at the state and local levels to engender more self reliance, and inadequate problem-solving and resource-allocation strategies, which planners can help design when included in the decision making process.
Shirley Laska, professor of sociology and director of the Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology at the University of New Orleans, began her presentation by stating that recovery is very complex and multifaceted and therefore no single assessment can tell the complete story. In her view, mixed signals of recovery progress are often observed. She gave the example of articles in a local newspaper that presented opposite sides of the post-disaster recovery situation in New Orleans. One story