Ed Blakely, Andrew Cuomo, NOLA and NYC Hurricanes

One example of New Orleans’ recovery. Lakefront of Pontchartrain near the 17th street levee breach has been left to rot. Once full of boats, bars and restaurants, seven years later it is is a rubble heaped ghost town.

UPDATE:  No one at Cuomo’s press office has confirmed Blakely’s appointment. 

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE (1:40 pm Wed. Nov. 28):  Blakely is not on the commission.  Not even a little bit (see press release way, way, way at the bottom:


Wed. Nov. 28 9:30 ish –

Matthew Wing, of Mr. Cuomo’s press office, spoke with me four times over the course of two days (Monday, November 26 – Tuesday November 27).   This after previously speaking with three other comm. reps over the weekend – none of which were helpful until I told a young woman on the other end of the line I would gladly report how unresponsive Mr. Cuomo’s press team was about such an important issue.

The net is they wouldn’t confirm or deny Blakely’s appointment.  I forwarded Mr. Wing the Sydney University press release (listed below in my notes) – where Blakely holds an honorary position – announcing his appointment.  Additionally, I discussed the NOLA press which has been all over this story.

I was to have answers last night.  However, was told by Mr. Wing I would have answers this morning.  But, Wing has been unavailable – his phone at turns busy or endlessly ringing – and no return emails.  This is significant as he was incredibly responsive between Monday afternoon and last night.

So – I can make a few educated assumptions and give you an idea of what probably happened.

Blakely – because on the surface he appears to be the right guy for the Sandy recovery job, was asked to come to NYC to aid in the Sandy recovery effort.  No one in the Cuomo office did their homework on who Blakely really is, his most recent failure post Katrina, his hateful comments about New Orleanians, etc., and extended what was likely to be a lucrative disaster capitalist’s dream come true:  major devastation in the majorist of US cities.  Then, New Orleans press (rightfully) flipped out, and calls started hitting the Cuomo PR machine.  The original announcement of the commission positions was then pushed back and pushed back as Cuomo’s office pulled the rug out from under Blakely. Now, he was never going to be on the commission, I am sure.  But, a major university (Sydney) doesn’t make an announcement lightly or one that is uninformed.  Someone from NY contacted Blakely (or as he did in NOLA, Blakely offered his services, lobbied for the position) and the deal was struck, the press release was issued and that was that.

Again – that is based on my informed assumptions about this whole shit-show.  Why is this important?  Because, New York must do its homework when putting together such a vital commission.  New Yorkers must stay diligent when it comes to Sandy recovery – it is going to get super-privatised up in here in the coming months – be on guard protecting your (and NY’s) recovery interests.

I have a call into the press office in Sydney (yes, I know it is three am-ish) to find out what went down on their end.

The two simple questions I asked Mr. Wing were:

1.  Confirmation of Mr. Blakely’s appointment to the Respond team

2.  If Blakely is on the team – why?  Did anyone do research into the controversy he left behind in New Orleans?  His failure in New Orleans?   His profiting off his experience by writing a book called My Storm which has been panned and proved to have numerous inaccuracies (see notes with links to NOLA.com) about his experience with Katrina?


This is my original post – with a laundry list of notes and full postings from the NOLA press:

Governor Andrew Cuomo  has appointed Ed Blakely (according to Mr. Blakely) to lead the New York State Respond Commission.  Don’t know Ed Blakely?  Here’s a brief primer.  Blakely was put in charge of the NOLA “recovery” by the notorious Mayor Ray Nagin. He presented this in a 17 point plan (“Target Zones”) that essentially let the entire Lower Ninth Ward (arguably the most visceral proof of Katrina’s concentrated destruction) go to sod. (although that wasn’t what was originally supposed to happen – rebuilding the lower 9 was one of the first of the 17 zones slated to be “rebuilt”).

He ignored entire neighborhoods instead focusing on what kind of money could be made off of rebuilding the touristy areas, not the actual infrastructure of New Orleans, not crafting a plan to actually get people back to their homes – whether remediated or rebuilt.  Blakely was first seen as a possible savior to the people of New Orleans.

But that changed when instead of focusing on recovery, he was more interested in hanging out with Nagin and his City Hall pals at fancy New Orleans restaurants, saying the city should hand out birth control as a means to control the growth of New Orleans, as it is essentially a third-world nation.

Blakely is notorious for saying wacky, awful things.  This is from a 2009 Times Picayune piece by David Hammer titled Ed Blakely lambasted New Orleans, saying its residents are racist, lazy:

“He [Blakely] then said white New Orleanians saw the turmoil after Katrina as an opportunity to regain political power.

“Now, the white community, there’s blood in the water, and they can recapture the political apparatus and kind of put their foot back on black people’s throats,” he said.

Blakely went on to predict that race riots are likely.

“Unless the next mayor is very clever, it’s going to explode and there are going to be race riots.”

In the past, Blakely has directed at least one racially charged comment at black residents, when he expressed disdain that black city workers seemed incapable of taking orders from white superiors.”

And then there was his book.  Blakely penned My Storm: Managing the Recovery of New Orleans in the Wake of Katrina in which he takes credit for New Orleans bounce back.  It is also rife with errors as noted in a January 2012 posting at NOLA.com.  It is disaster capitalism at its finest.  WWLTV in NOLA characterized Blakely in the same category as Nagin when it comes to “attempt[ing] to make speaking and consulting on disaster recovery a career.

I lived in New Orleans for a handful of years in the mid-90s.  I missed Katrina but good friends in the city did not.  I watched in horror from afar as the country did; not only in those first chaotic days but, as the months and years ticked by and nothing seemed to change in “real” New Orleans.  By real I mean those neighborhoods not groomed for tourists.  I mean the Lower Ninth Ward, Back of Town, the decimated Pontchartrain lakefront near the 17th Street levee breach, the shell of Charity Hospital still surrounded by yellow caution tape and chain link fences.

New Orleans has a selective recovery, one catering to the tourist trade and private construction deals.  What do you think, sprawling casino instead of a rebuilt Long Beach?  Don’t think it can’t happen.

Repeated calls to the Cuomo press office have not been returned. 


Big shout out to NOLA press (Gambit, NOLA.com and WWLTV for chasing this story)

He did time at NY’s New School post 9-11 developing subway plans, helping determine WTC site usage, etc:

Scholar sent to aid Hurricane Sandy recovery

The University of Sydney (USyd) has sent Honorary Professor in Urban Policy, Edward Blakely, to New York to help its recovery efforts caused by October’s monster storm Hurricane Sandy.

Professor Blakely, an American academic working at USyd’s United States Studies Centre, is a seasoned veteran in dealing with disaster recovery efforts after he earned the unofficial title of ‘Recovery Czar’ within the New Orleans Office of Recovery and Development Administration for his efforts to ameliorate the destruction inflicted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

His experience also extends to the responses following the terrorist attacks in Manhattan on 11th September, 2001 and the 1989 Oakland-San Francisco earthquakes.

Professor Blakely’s expertise is expected to assist the state managing the aftermath of large scale catastrophes.

As part of the recently formed New York State Respond Commission, he has been selected to examine New York’s emergency response capabilities including planning, training and resource commitments that are required to apply the necessary people and resources as a consequence of a storm.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the formation of the Commission last week. It is one of three bodies created to better prepare the state for emergency situations following the hurricane.

Professor Blakely said the formation of the Commission is an opportunity for New York to lead the world in disaster preparedness.

“Natural disasters are the new normal so what we have to do in New York is to build a city that can adapt to this new circumstance,” Mr Blakely said.

He said what New York does will shape how cities all over the world respond.

Plenty of documentation has been done about Blakely.  Here is a local blog that has a timeline of some highlights with useful links:  http://librarychronicles.blogspot.com/2008/04/come-crane-with-me-ed-blakely-timeline.html

Wikipedia overview of  Blakely:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_Blakely

from WWTLV in New Orleans:  

Former New Orleans recovery czar Edward Blakely, widely panned for his work in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, has been recommended to a commission aimed at helping New York recover from Hurricane Sandy, according to the Australian university where he now works.

Blakely’s appointment to the New York State Respond Commission, was first reported Friday by Eyewitness News’ reporting partners at Gambit.  Blakely is not mentioned in a news release from New York governor Andrew Cuomo.

One familiar figure in New Orleans’ disaster recovery is mentioned in Cuomo’s statement – retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who was involved in the federal response to Katrina, Rita and the BP oil spill.  Allen is co-chair of the New York State Respond commission.

Blakely, now in Australia and working as an honorary professor in urban policy at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, discussed his work with the New York recovery in a radio interview in Australia.

“It’s incredible.  I didn’t realize water had that kind of force,” he said, describing the damage to New York and New Jersey.

Blakely told the interviewer his work is to help prepare the region for future disasters.

“My role in this is to make sure that they’re prepared for what’s likely to be another one soon.  Because the preparation here was so faulty.  It was not a Katrina-like situation, the federal government came in very soon, but on the ground there was a lot of chaos, emergency equipment wasn’t where it should be…there was no volunteer corps.”

A news release from the University of Sydney quoted Blakely as saying the appointment is “an opportunity for New York to lead the world in disaster preparedness”

“’Natural disasters are the new normal so what we have to do in New York is to build a city that can adapt to this new circumstance. What New York does will shape how cities all over the world respond,’” Blakely is quoted as saying.

Former Mayor Ray Nagin, who like Blakely has attempted to make speaking and consulting on disaster recovery a career after leaving office in New Orleans, appointed Blakely as recovery director the year after Hurricane Katrina.  He resigned from the post in 2009, criticized for calling the city “a third world country” and its residents “buffoons” in various interviews.  In a 2009 interview, he said New Orleanians were lazy and virulently racist.  He often said his comments were misquoted or misinterpreted but also acknowledged he had done little to advance the area’s recovery.

University leaders in Sydney have a somewhat different view of Blakely’s work, according to their statement.

“Blakely is a respected veteran of multiple disaster recovery efforts. Following the 2005 devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, he served for two years as executive director of the city’s Office of Recovery and Development Administration, becoming known as the Recovery Czar. He was also involved in the responses following September 11 in Manhattan, and the 1989 Oakland-San Francisco earthquakes.”

Full List of Appointees:  

State of New York | Executive Chamber
Andrew M. Cuomo | Governor

For Immediate Release: November 28, 2012

Links to Biographies for Members of Commissions Below

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced appointments to three commissions – NYS 2100, NYS Respond, and NYS Ready – charged with undertaking a comprehensive review and making specific recommendations to overhaul and improve New York State’s emergency preparedness and response capabilities, as well as examining how to improve the strength and resilience of the state’s infrastructure to better withstand major weather incidents. 

“These three commissions have been tasked with a significant responsibility, and we need the best and brightest professionals to serve on them,� Governor Cuomo said. “These appointments consist of experienced men and women who have the skills and backgrounds necessary to review and make recommendations for New York State to improve its preparedness and response capabilities as well as to strengthen the state’s infrastructure for the future. I look forward to working with each and every one of these members to make our state a safer place for all New Yorkers.�

Additional appointments may be made to the commissions. Today’s appointments are listed below:

NYS 2100 Commission

The NYS 2100 Commission is tasked with finding ways to improve the resilience and strength of the state’s infrastructure in the face of natural disasters and other emergencies. The Commission will be co-chaired by Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Felix G. Rohatyn, former Chairman of the Municipal Assistance Corporation. In addition to President Rodin’s leadership and expertise, the Rockefeller Foundation will provide both staff expertise and other assistance in developing the Commission’s report and recommendations. The Commission’s preliminary recommendations are due January 3, 2013.

Specific areas the Commission has been charged to review and make recommendations on include:
· Strategies to protect existing transportation, energy, environmental, and other infrastructure systems to withstand natural disasters and other emergencies;
· Priority projects to replace damaged infrastructure or to diversify or make more resilient our infrastructure; 
· Long-term options for the use of barriers and natural protective systems; 
· Opportunities to integrate infrastructure planning, protection and development into New York’s economic development strategies; and 
· Reforms in the area of insurance and risk management related to natural disasters and other emergencies.

· Judith Rodin, President, The Rockefeller Foundation (Co-Chair)
· Felix Rohatyn, Senior Advisor to Chairman and CEO, Lazard (Co-Chair)
· Richard T. Anderson, President, New York Building Congress 
· Dan Arvizu, Director and CEO, U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewal Energy Laboratory 
· Walter Bell, Former Chair, Swiss Re America Holding Company
· Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Advisory Member)
· Isabel Dedring, Deputy Mayor for Transport, London, England
· Lloyd Dixon, Senior Economist, RAND Corporation 
· Mortimer L. Downey, Vice Chair, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
· Clark W. Gellings, Fellow, Electric Power Research Institute
· Patricia Hoffman, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (Advisory Member)
· J. Robert Hunter, Insurance Director, Consumer Federation of America
· Sudhakar Kesavan, Chair and CEO, ICF International
· Roy Kienitz, Former Under Secretary for Policy, U.S. Department of Transportation
· Timothy Killeen, President, SUNY Research Foundation and SUNY Vice-Chancellor for Research 
· Fred Krupp, President, Environmental Defense Fund
· Sylvia Lee, Water Manager, Skoll Global Threats
· Joe Lhota, Chair and CEO of the Metropolitan Transit Authority 
· Miho Mazereeuw, Lecturer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
· Guy J.P. Nordenson, Partner, Guy Nordenson and Associates
· John Porcari, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation (Advisory Member)
· Robert Puentes, Senior Fellow Brookings Institute
· Gil Quiniones, President and CEO, New York Power Authority 
· Jack Quinn, President, Erie Community College
· Scott Rechler, Vice-Chair, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 
· Jonathan F.P. Rose, President, Jonathan Rose Companies
· Lisa Rosenblum, Executive Vice-President for Government and Public Affairs, Cablevision 
· John Shinn, USW District 4 Director, United Steelworkers
· Mark Tercek, President and CEO, The Nature Conservancy
· Robert D. Yaro, President, Regional Plan Association (also member of the NY Works Task Force)

NYS Respond Commission

The NYS Respond Commission is tasked with finding ways to ensure that New York State is ready to respond to future weather-related disasters. The Commission will examine and make recommendations to improve the planning, training and resource commitment that must occur before the next major weather event in order for the appropriate deployment of people and resources to take place during and after the emergency or disaster occurs. The Commission will be co-chaired by Thad Allen, Senior Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton, and Admiral (US Coast Guard, Retired), and Brad Penuel, Director of the Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response at New York University. The Commission’s recommendations are due to the Governor by January 3, 2013.

Specific areas the Commission has been charged to review and make recommendations on include ensuring that:
· sufficient trained personnel can be activated for emergency response and recovery efforts
· the health and safety of hospital patients and other vulnerable persons are protected during an emergency
· the public is provided with reliable and timely information
· every locality has planned and is prepared for a disaster
· emergency responses are effectively coordinated across all levels of government
· adverse events are rapidly responded to and post-emergency needs such as shelter, food, water, electricity and essential appliances are identified and met

· Thad Allen, Senior Vice President, Booz Allen; Admiral (US Coast Guard) – Retired (Co-Chair)
· K. Bradley Penuel, Director, Center for Catastrophe Preparedness and Response at New York University (Co-Chair)
· Doug Barton, Director of Planning & Economic Development, Tioga County
· Patricia Bashaw, EMS Coordinator, Essex County 
· Bradford Berk, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences & CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Center
· LaRay Brown, Senior Vice President, Corporate Planning, Community Health and Intergovernmental Relations, NYC Health & Hospitals Corporation
· Major General Doug Burnett, Florida National Guard (Ret.) 
· James Burns, President, Firemen’s Association of the State of New York
· The Reverend Frederick Davie, Executive Vice President, Union Theological Seminary in New York City
· Peter J. Davoren, President and Chief Executive Officer, Turner Construction
· Grant Dillon, President, Global Preparedness and Mitigation
· Eli Feldman, President & CEO, MJHS and Elderplan
· Peter Gudaitis, President, National Disaster Interfaiths Network
· Tony Hannigan, Executive Director, Center for Urban Community Services (CUCS) 
· Jerome Hauer, Commissioner, New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (Advisory Member)
· Scott Heller, Director of Emergency Management, Albany Medical Center
· Tino Hernandez, President & Chief Executive Officer, Samaritan Village, Inc. 
· Bart Johnson, Executive Director, International Association of Chiefs of Police
· Timothy Manning, Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness, FEMA (Advisory Member)
· Mike McManus, President, New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association
· Thomas Mungeer, President, New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association
· Chris Renschler, Associate Professor of Geography, University of Buffalo
· Marilyn Saviola, Vice President, Advocacy and the Women’s Health Access Program, Independence Care System
· Jennifer Schneider, Professor & Russell C. McCarthy Endowed Chair, Civil Engineering Technology, Environmental Management & Safety Department, Rochester Institute of Technology
· Mark J. Solazzo, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, North Shore-LIJ Health System
· Harry L. Weed, II, Superintendent of Public Works, Village of Rockville Centre 
· Sheena Wright, President, United Way of New York City

NYS Ready Commission

The NYS Ready Commission is tasked with finding ways to ensure critical systems and services are prepared for future natural disasters and other emergencies. The Commission will be co-chaired by Ira M. Millstein, Senior Partner, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, and Dr. Irwin Redlener, Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. The Commission’s recommendations are due to the Governor by January 3, 2013.

Specific areas the Commission has been charged to review and make recommendations on include:
· addressing vulnerabilities in the State’s health care, energy, transportation, communications and other systems
· ensuring that new, modified and existing construction is resilient
· ensuring the availability of adequate equipment, fuel, food, water and other emergency supplies
· ensuring that first responders and other critical personnel are able to communicate efficiently and have access to adequate resources
· ensuring the availability of reliable real-time information for decision-makers
· ensuring that lines of authority are clear and officials have the authority to react rapidly to emergency situations.

· Ira Millstein, Senior Partner, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP (Co-Chair)
· Irwin Redlener, Director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University (Co-Chair)
· William Acker, Executive Director, NY-BEST
· Scott Amrhein, President, Continuing Care Leadership Coalition
· Robert Atkinson, Director of Policy Research, Columbia Institute for Tele-Information at Columbia University
· Guruduth Banavar, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Global Public Sector, IBM
· Donald Capoccia, Managing Principal & Founder, BFC Partners
· Mae Carpenter, Commissioner, Westchester County Department of Senior Programs & Services 
· Gerry Cauley, President & CEO, North American Electric Reliability Corporation
· Mary Ann Christopher, President & CEO, Visiting Nurse Service of New York
· Arthur V. Gorman, Jr., Lieutenant Colonel, US Marine Corps (Ret.) 
· Patricia A. Hoffman, Assistant Secretary of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, U.S. Department of Energy (Advisory Member)
· William Hooke, Senior Policy Fellow and Director, American Meteorological Society
· John Kemp, President & CEO, The Viscardi Center
· Kit Kennedy, Counsel to the Air & Energy Program, Natural Resources Defense Council
· Steven Levy, Managing Director, Sprague Energy
· Robert Mayer, Vice President – Industry and State Affairs, US Telecom
· Daniel McCartan, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, Western New York Regional Resource Center & Erie County Medical Center 
· John Merklinger, 9-1-1 Coordinator, Monroe County, and President, New York State 9-1-1 Coordinators Association
· Cynthia Morrow, Commissioner of Health, Onondaga County 
· Major General Patrick A. Murphy, Adjutant General of New York State (Advisory Member)
· Kyle Olson, Founder, The Olson Group
· Walter Parkes, Chairman, O’Connell Electric Company, Inc. 
· Cynthia Rosenzweig, Senior Research Scientist, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University
· Howard Schmidt, Former Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator
· Denise Scott, Managing Director, LISC
· D. Gregory Scott, Senior Vice President, Terminal Operations & Petroleum Distribution, Gulf Oil
· S. Shyam Sunder, Director, Engineering Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) 
· Major General (Retired) Joseph J. Taluto, Former Adjutant General, New York State
· Anthony Townsend, Associate Research Scientist, Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, New York University
· Russell Unger, Executive Director, Urban Green Building Council
· Susan C. Waltman, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) 
· William “Bill� Wilson, President & CEO, Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company of New York
· John E. Zuccotti, Co-Chairman, Brookfield Office Properties

For biographies of commission members, please go to:

###Additional news available at www.governor.ny.gov
New York State | Executive Chamber | press.office@exec.ny.gov | 518.474.8418

Performance * Integrity * Pride

One thought on “Ed Blakely, Andrew Cuomo, NOLA and NYC Hurricanes

  1. Dotsy Maher says:

    Gov. Cuomo….I am a survivor of Katrina/Rita….I was HERE…. I saw it from beginning to end…. the tragedy of Sandy made me morbidly sad . PLEASE do not bring down a fraud like Blakely on the already suffering people in NY.

    Katrina (and 3 weeks later Rita dumped more on us).. were some of the most harrowing hours I have spent in my life….however, the aftermath ….a US city and suburbs and coast patrolled by machine gun mounted helicopters….occupied by troops in camo and M-16’s in a neighborhood that had been statistically ( according to the Sheriff) the safest place in the universe only hours before Katrina.

    I was fortunate to live in Metairie, a safe high-taxed good infrastructure suburb with the best cops and firemen and ems in the world…in 24 hours it was the stone age….it was a third world country for 2 years.

    Metairie had the credit to begin cleanup immediately and it was still a hideous struggle for the parish and the individual citizens….we had our own problems and many of the opportunists started weasling in while the water was still upon us….it never stopped…the biggest shock after Katrina was the insanity (much of it blamed on Bush) but those who were here saw the BS of a pycho incompetent gov who had been elected only because of her gender who almost destroyed the whole area because of her incompetence which she blamed on the President….it is said of war that the first casualty is truth….well it is the same for castastrophes….the first and last casualties are TRUTH……please….BLAKELY IS A FRAUD…appointed not because of his gender but because of his race…..he collected a LOAD of money, made a universe of promises, rode his bike around pretending to want to get a close look, shot his mouth off …..THEN…after doing nothing took credit for any good accomplished by mostly volunteers and the few conscientious public servants….DON’T DO THIS TO NY….it will take years for the people to recovery emotionally…I’m still not there…..and many people I have talked to locally have gotten very emotional over Sandy…sorrow for the people and admitting we still can’t really put Katrina/Rita behind us….

    Fortunately for Metairie Blakely was a NOLA problem…..HE IS A CON ARTIST!!! DON”T VISIT THIS MONEY GRUBBING FRAUD ON NY!!!

    God Bless NY you are going to need all the blessings you can get….BLAKELY IS A CURSE

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