Limited Funding Remains Threat to Cultural, Social and Economic Recovery

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) Terms the Research Critical

Looking ahead to the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, seven independent studies supported by New York University’s Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response (CCPR) find a range of troubling after-effects.

Among the diverse findings:

  • Dislocated students attending schools throughout the United States are performing worse than those in their adoptive communities, and No Child Left Behind is leaving them behind; they are being left out of test score results reported by their schools.
  • Historical film and audio archives were extensively damaged by water and heat exposure, and without greater assistance to recover and preserve them, the threat of losing unique pieces of American culture is very real.
  • Powerful people - elected leaders at all levels, police and other authorities-viewed the unfolding disaster in a much different light than local citizens. Those in power were much more optimistic than those who were actually living through the events.
  • The loss of social networks and cultural identities in both communities that are rebuilding and among families who have been dislocated, reveals troubling trends for rebuilding lives and preserving the unique culture of New Orleans.
  • Personal and family disaster preparedness remains low.

In addition to the findings, a documentary film, Extended Stay, was produced by investigators at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, looking at evacuees living at hotels in New York City and providing a unique firsthand account of how FEMA policies affected those who lost everything and were forced to relocate to communities far from Louisiana.

The collected findings from these studies reveal how the effects of a major event like Hurricane Katrina are felt across all aspects of society and reach far beyond the immediate area of disaster. Each of the seven projects explores this paradigm in varying ways.

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) recognized the importance of NYU’s research as it relates to her work to help the Gulf States recover and to lead federal preparedness efforts. “The seven Katrina studies further highlight the ongoing recovery needs in Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast. Our people suffered through an unprecedented disaster, which requires an unprecedented recovery effort. As a Senator, I am working to make sure the federal response to the next disaster, be it natural or man made, is speedy, effective and comprehensive.”

CCPR’s director, Brad Penuel, echoed the Senator’s sentiments. “The work by CCPR’s investigators highlights the scope of devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina on multiple levels: personal, cultural, and political. Further, these projects shed new light on how existing policies may be doing a disservice to the very individuals they are meant to assist. The findings of these seven projects underscore the importance of university-based research for informing government policy.”

Judith Helfand and her team at the Tisch School of the Arts produced a documentary film, Extended Stay, which examines Katrina evacuees living in a hotel in New York City. David Dent, of the School of Journalism, also looked at evacuees, but did so in the immediate wake of the storm by conducting interviews at the Houston Astrodome which was used as a mass shelter.

Beyond evacuation, two studies looked at the efforts of rebuilding lives. Robert Hawkins in the School of Social Work compared evacuees that returned to New Orleans with those who did not, and contrasted their ability to integrate into the social fabric of their communities -either the devastated New Orleans or the new areas where they found a home.

Mary Driscoll at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development considered how dislocation affected students and educational policies played out. Frances Milliken and her team at the Stern School of Management looked at the effects of power on sense-making and communication; they analyzed television coverage in the wake of the storm and what was said by media figures versus what was actually happening on the ground.

Some projects looked to Katrina to learn how to prepare for future events. Howard Besser at the Tisch School asked how to save and preserve moving image and sound collections damaged by the waters and loss of power. Paul Light looked at community preparedness through surveys pre- and post-Katrina to uncover the characteristics of prepared organizations and communities. Additional details on the studies are available at or through (212.998.2337) or (212.998.2183).

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Robert Polner
Robert Polner
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