Mark Di Ionno for The Star-Ledger
Lou DiGeronimo's Sandy recovery plan wasn't new. The Paramus architect is an old pro who believed in a common sense solutions: Come up with a few standard models, buy and construct in bulk, streamline the permit process and get people back home.
Rome wasn't built in a day, but Levittowns – soup-to-nut cities of 50,000 people – were built in three years or less. Why should this disaster recovery take so long?
History was on DiGeronimo's side. In April 1906, half of San Francisco's population of 250,000 was left homeless after a historic earthquake and fire. Within months, the U.S. Army and the city parks department hammered out 5,300 durable wooden shacks, first put in camps, then successfully moved to properties around the city. How durable? One just sold in Telegraph Hill for $765,000.
In this century, Marianne Cusato, a designer and professor of practice at Notre Dame's School of Architecture, did something similar after Hurricane Katrina. She designed 14 models of Katrina Cottages, ranging from 600 to 1,200 square feet. Three hundred permanent structures were built in Louisiana; a few hundred of her mobile units replaced FEMA trailers in Mississippi.
She's been lobbying for a national disaster "playbook" ever since.