|AnnMarie Willis and her husband, Bob, have decided to rebuild in Breezy Point
The big thinkers have emerged in force since Hurricane Sandy. Environmentalists and academics call for a retreat from rising tides and vulnerable seashores. FEMA pores over flood photos, redefining the areas of highest risk. And city engineers and lawyers revisit building and zoning codes. All hope to ensure that whatever rises from the debris can survive future assaults by extreme weather.
But for all the policy debates, the actual decisions that will shape these communities are already being made by individual homeowners across New York and New Jersey, providing reason to be skeptical that any cohesive, unified vision of a rebuilt coastline will eventually emerge. Unable to wait for updated guidelines, let alone far-reaching plans — or unable to afford the new costs they may entail — many families and business owners are already acting in ways that will determine whether those more ambitious goals can be met.
Their responses range from faithful reconstruction to fatalistic retreat — and embody the essential tension of post-disaster recovery: rebuilding quickly, or rebuilding right.