Leigh T. Graham, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and in Environmental Psychology at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her research focuses on the contentious politics of urban redevelopment, specifically concerning climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Leigh’s most recent work looks at racial disparities in community resilience outcomes in NYC’s climate adaptation planning after Hurricane Sandy. Her work has been published in planning, development and environmental policy journals, and she is a frequent speaker on community resilience and disaster risk reduction in New York City.
Dr. Graham will discuss her work on tensions within community and neighborhood development politics, drawing on her research in post-disaster settings in New Orleans and New York City.
In New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the community development sector was stymied in its conventional role as a private sector partner to the state given the federal government’s hostility to their anti-poverty efforts. Given devolution and privatization, if non-profits don’t have a willing state partner, it’s very hard for them to fulfill their organizational aims. At the same time, pro-poor activists were too far to their left to be a partner either. In New York City after Hurricane Sandy, community organizations on the Lower East Side skillfully participated in post-storm redevelopment politics due to decades of organizing against gentrification. Rockaway, in contrast, which was for decades politically and geographically isolated at the City’s eastern edge, and economically stagnant, lacked political and organizational capacity to engage in recovery