Crane Clearing out sand after disaster on beach

Maximizing Recovery: HUD CDBG-DR Expert Emily Thompson Joins Hill International’s Resiliency and Disaster Recovery Team

Vice President Emily Thompson has joined Hill International, bringing nearly a decade of long-term disaster recovery expertise combined with more than 20 years of total experience in the legal field. As part of the company’s Resiliency and Disaster Recovery practice, Emily will lead Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grants—Disaster Recovery (HUD CDBG-DR) assignments, working with clients impacted by disasters to rebuild their communities sustainably and efficiently.

Emily Thompson

“Standing up a recovery office in the aftermath of a disaster is a challenging but exciting time,” she explains. “Communities struck by disasters need all the support they can get to design programs that will benefit residents, businesses, and everyone impacted—and do so as quickly as possible.”

However, Emily adds that, through her work overseeing New York State’s $4.4 billion Federal allocation following Superstorm Sandy, she knows first-hand that verifying compliance with recovery and resiliency regulations can be a difficult but necessary part of the recovery process.

“Developing and implementing compliant housing recovery, property buyout and acquisition, resiliency, and community planning programs are important steps to rebuilding with compassion and consideration,” she says. “I want to help our clients navigate these steps smoothly and effectively, while keeping decision makers informed and in control.”

To achieve these outcomes for Hill’s clients, Emily will leverage her work as a member of the Executive Team of the New York Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR). GOSR, the entity responsible for overseeing the distribution of funds from HUD CDBG-DR, repaired and mitigated storm damaged infrastructure and critical assets, including low-income residences, and water and sewage treatment facilities affected by Superstorm Sandy.

While at GOSR, Emily advised on compliance and helped to grow the agency to 200 staff members. This included personally leading 50 legal professionals who provided procurement and contract administration counsel, monitoring and compliance management, and regulatory review, as well as leading the communications and intergovernmental affairs team.

Emily also oversaw the redesign, procurement, and construction start of the Staten Island Living Breakwaters project. This groundbreaking project was part of the HUD-funded Rebuild by Design initiative that leveraged a design-led approach to long-term resilience and climate change adaptation. The project utilizes a layered resiliency approach to reduce flood risk through erosion prevention, wave energy attenuation, ecosystem enhancement, and social resiliency. Emily’s oversight was instrumental in securing additional State funding to supplement the $60 million CDBG-DR grant necessary to implement the project along the Tottenville section of the South Shore of Staten Island.

A key lesson learned from GOSR and Rebuild by Design Emily brings to Hill’s clients is the importance of strong risk reduction components in their recovery programs. “We can’t just keep rebuilding the same way, disaster after disaster,” she says. “Rebuilding resiliently, with a plan for the next event, is how to mitigate the impacts of disasters for the long-term.”

She adds, “I think Hill, with its 50-year history of construction management success, is a great partner for grantees looking to protect their communities for tomorrow while rebuilding them for today.”

Andy Robinson, who leads the Hill RDR team, says of Emily: “She brings a skillset to our team much in demand but perhaps not fully understood by many in our industry. CDBG-DR grantees are in an enviable position, as they have needed support to help return their communities to normalcy, but also under real pressure to meet a whole slew of requirements and regulations. Emily will help grantees get the most out of their funds, all while making sure they do so within bounds.”

Emily holds a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the Brooklyn Law School and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Tulsa. She is admitted to practice law in the State of New York.

To learn more about Emily and how the Hill RDR team can help your community, contact Andy Robinson at [email protected] or 703-967-7613.