Dominic Massa / Eyewitness News
Despite making headlines for his apparent appointment to New York's Hurricane Sandy recovery commission, Ed Blakely will not serve on the committee, according to the group's co-chair.
Last week, Blakely, the former New Orleans recovery director widely panned for his work here, claimed in radio interview in Australia that he had been tapped to serve on a recovery commission in New York. The University of Sydney, where he now works, also touted his appointment in a news release.
Gambit, which first reported claims by Blakely and the University of Sydney, where he now works, confirmed in an interview Wednesday with Brad Penuel, the co-chair of the commission, that Blakely "will not be serving on the Commission."
An official press release released Wednesday afternoon by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office and listing the commission members made no mention of Blakely.
Gambit reported that Penuel made it clear to them that Blakely would not be one of them.
One familiar figure in New Orleans' disaster recovery who will serve on the commission is retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen. Allen 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.
Last week, Blakely spoke about the super storm and the work he said he would be doing in New York.
“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 would be 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.
-- with reporting by Maya Rodriguez