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Sandy recovery focus of regional meeting

Daniel Horn, co-chair of Operation Resilient Long Island,

Daniel Horn, co-chair of Operation Resilient Long Island, delivers his presentation during the Regional Recovery Working Group Workshop at the NYIT Old Westbury campus Monday, March 31, 2014. Credit: Barry Sloan

A senior HUD official Monday told more than 130 architects, engineers and planners that they must collaborate if they want to build stronger communities after superstorm Sandy.

Henk Ovink, senior adviser to HUD secretary Shaun Donovan, speaking at the New York Institute of Technology's Old Westbury campus, said, too, that it's critical for them to take the time they need with their plans.

"We need to go on sabbatical together," he said, adding later, "You are never on your own. Work collectively."

The NYIT workshop marked the second of four planned regional meetings organized by the American Institute of Architects and focused on Sandy recovery. The next will take place in May in Florham Park, N.J., and the last will be in 2015 in New York City.

Illya Azaroff, co-chair of the AIA Regional Recovery Working Group, said the region has an opportunity to define its future based on what it learned from superstorm Sandy, calling it "the imperative of the 21st century."

Frank Mruk, associate dean of the School of Architecture and Design at NYIT -- which helped organize the event -- said he hoped the meeting would allow participants to share information across borders, geographic or professional.

Building resiliency -- strengthening all aspects of a community -- must be folded into every architectural decision, he said. That first became obvious after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and was solidified during Sandy in October 2012, he said.

Mruk added that Long Island's recovery efforts are being watched regionally and internationally. "There are an array of opportunities that can evolve from these problems," he said, including raising homes, building dunes and creating parklands in high-risk areas. He also advocates increasing population density in some parts of the Island while relieving it in others.

"Long Island is a unique laboratory," he said, referring to its long coastline. "No one has parallel exposure like that."

Dan Horn, 24 and a 2013 NYIT graduate, was motivated to focus his career on resiliency after he watched his Lindenhurst community flood during superstorm Sandy.

Horn currently works for the NYC Build It Back program and helped establish a grassroots committee of young architects from Long Island and New York City to identify long-term resilient building and design solutions. The group's 3C Comprehensive Coastal Communities global design competition collected 300 entries from 20 countries. They don't have the funding to make the plans a reality, but learned through the process what it takes to build better.

James Russell, a journalist who writes about cities and architecture, said it's hard for homeowners to plan before knowing what mitigation efforts will be made in their communities. Russell, a speaker at Monday's event, said "Long Island has to decide to take its fate into its own hands."

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