Sandy Build It Back: Workers Rebuilding Their Own Communities

This white paper is focused on New York City’s Build it Back program following Hurricane Sandy, highlighting its commitment to equity in the rebuilding of residential neighborhoods. The Sandy Build it Back program set a precedent for local hiring resulting in career-track jobs for low-income Sandy-impacted residents. The paper relates the context and a vision for equity in recovery, describes Build it Back’s primary successes, and offers key lessons learned and areas of improvement.

Understand the value of creating a program governed by a Memorandum of Agreement for local hire and a Project Labor Agreement stipulating benefits and worker safety standards. 

The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy exposed significant inequalities facing low-income residents and communities of color in NYC. For example, 41% of impacted housing units were low-income, subsidized, or rent-stabilized housing. 55% of storm surge victims were very low-income renters. Nearly 20,000 undocumented immigrants lived in Sandy-affected areas, and many are excluded from relief. More than 600,000 residents (mostly people of color) live in storm surge zones within a half-mile of polluted industrial areas.

Some major accomplishments of the Built it Back program include:

  • The 20% local hire goal has been met, with at least 21% of workers from Sandy-impacted communities.
  • 90% of applicants received reimbursement and/or commenced construction under Mayor Bill de Blasio.
  • 38% of approved contractors for Build it Back are minority or women business enterprises.
  • More than 100, primarily disadvantaged, residents were recruited, trained, and placed in rebuilding jobs with Community Development Block Grant funding.

Examples of areas for improvement of the Build it Back program include the need for the City of New York to fund and support translation of outreach materials; tutoring for the Department of Labor’s Test of Adult Basic Education; and accompanying GED classes.


Publication Date: October 27, 2016

Related Organizations:

  • ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Best practice
  • Policy analysis/recommendations
  • Progress report

States Affected:


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