Report details devastation, recovery, and resilience in New York and New Jersey

Home in Seaside Heights, New Jersey damaged by Hurricane Sandy
A home in Seaside Heights, New Jersey damaged by Hurricane Sandy. © Getty Images

A decade after Hurricane Sandy, a new report by researchers at the NYU School of Global Public Health’s Center for Public Health Disaster Science describes the long-term impact of the storm on 18 counties in New York and New Jersey.

The analysis reveals a story of short-term destruction and hardship, followed by robust recovery on many measures, suggesting that the lasting effect of Superstorm Sandy on the region and its population was muted.  

The immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy was dramatic: the storm damaged or destroyed 650,000 homes, took more than 150 lives, and generated nearly $82 billion in damage. The new report, “Ten Years After Superstorm Sandy: Charting a Region’s Recovery,” looked at the extent to which systems in the country’s largest metropolitan area were disrupted with enduring consequences over the next decade.  

“The New York and New Jersey areas most affected by Hurricane Sandy were remarkably resilient, likely due to their considerable resources, effective governments, and strong critical infrastructure. We found that even a massive storm such as Sandy did not fundamentally disrupt the systems for more than a year,” said David Abramson, clinical associate professor at NYU School of Global Public Health and the report’s lead author.  

“But just because there were minimal impacts at a system level does not mean there were minimal effects on a smaller scale. The consequences of a storm such as Sandy can vary tremendously from house to house, resulting in uneven recovery,” added Abramson, who was a principal investigator of the Sandy Child and Family Health study, which documented the well-being and recovery of New Jersey residents in the years after the storm.

“This work emphasizes the importance of social structures in people’s lives, particularly after a disaster,” said Alexis Merdjanoff, clinical assistant professor at NYU School of Global Public Health and an author of the new report. “That structure includes strong economic and housing markets, as well as effective government response. We have seen in our studies of residents affected by Katrina and Sandy how variable that is, but overall, the New York-New Jersey area displayed a robust recovery.” Merdjanoff was also an investigator on the Sandy Child and Family Health study and has continued to study post-disaster resilience of older adults in high-risk coastal areas.

Using publicly available data, the researchers examined critical dimensions of disaster recovery, such as population health, the regional economy, housing, education, and civic and social engagement. They included 20 years of data—a decade before and after Superstorm Sandy—to explore long-term trends.

Their analysis focused on 18 counties in New Jersey and New York as the areas most affected by Superstorm Sandy: Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Union in New Jersey; and Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), New York (Manhattan), Nassau, Queens, Richmond (Staten Island), Suffolk, Westchester, and Rockland in New York.  

Their key findings: 

  • New York City—particularly Manhattan—provided substantial financial stability to the region, thanks to highly skilled industries (e.g. Wall Street, media) scaling back up quickly after the disaster. The hurricane had only a small and short-lived effect on employment trends in the affected counties. The 2008-2009 recession and COVID-19 pandemic had much more pronounced economic impacts than the storm.
  • The hurricane did not have a measurable effect on measures of social and civic engagement, including crime and voting.
  • Hurricane Sandy had a mixed effect on the region’s housing. Foreclosures increased in the year after the storm; most homeowners were unprepared and underinsured for the flooding that occurred. However, in the decade that followed, home values in the coastal and urban areas affected by Sandy have actually increased by 50%, a greater rate than in the counties less affected by the storm.
  • The storm did not influence measures of health, including preventable hospitalizations for conditions such as asthma and pneumonia, nor deaths attributable to drugs, alcohol use, and suicide.

The researchers also compared the long-term outcomes of Hurricane Sandy with those of Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, revealing more sustained disruptions, hardships, and poor health outcomes in Louisiana and Mississippi following Katrina.

“The fact that the metropolitan New York economy was strong enough to withstand the worst systemic effects of a storm like Sandy should not lull us into complacency,” said Abramson. “Mental health effects of Sandy endure among a number of people who were exposed to Sandy, critical infrastructure is still not sufficiently resilient, and social vulnerabilities and inequities continue to persist. This report demonstrates what good fortune looks like, not good planning.”

Ten Years After Superstorm Sandy” is the first report in a larger initiative by the NYU Center for Public Health Disaster Science to measure the long-term recovery of populations and geographic areas following storms and other disasters using publicly available data.

About the NYU School of Global Public Health

At the NYU School of Global Public Health (NYU GPH), we are preparing the next generation of public health pioneers with the critical thinking skills, acumen, and entrepreneurial approaches necessary to reinvent the public health paradigm. Devoted to employing a nontraditional, interdisciplinary model, NYU GPH aims to improve health worldwide through a unique blend of global public health studies, research, and practice. The School is located in the heart of New York City and extends to NYU's global network on six continents. Innovation is at the core of our ambitious approach, thinking and teaching. For more, visit:

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