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Cities Bid to Learn From New Orleans

New Orleans Mayor Landrieu, riding in the "Zulu Parade" during this year's Mardi Gras
New Orleans Mayor Landrieu, riding in the "Zulu Parade" during this year's Mardi GrasPhotograph by Skip Bolen/Getty Images

When Hurricane Katrina slammed New Orleans in 2005, some predicted the city would take decades to recover. But the Big Easy proved remarkably adept at reviving its fortunes, even as it weathered more storms, both natural and man-made. What spurred the comeback? A determined population and federal aid obviously helped. But Mayor Mitch Landrieu points to a lesser-known factor: Judith Rodin and the Rockefeller Foundation. “They’ve been working with us since Katrina,” Landrieu said this week. “Really helping us figure out how to become more resilient.”

New Yorkers may recognize Rodin as the woman tapped by Governor Andrew Cuomo to help the state boost its resiliency after superstorm Sandy. In fact, the Rockefeller Foundation president was preaching resilience long before Sandy hit, and on Monday her nonprofit group let cities with at least 50,000 residents start applying for a chance to get the kind of help that New Orleans received. The goal: to create more shock-proof cities and spark a global conversation on how to prepare for unexpected disasters. The 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge, as it’s called, is the centerpiece of a $100 million push to promote urban resilience.