Legal Issues in Coastal Managed Retreat

March 28, 2013


In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, there is a debate on whether to rebuild the areas that were devastated and continue to be vulnerable. Both New York and New Jersey have announced limited programs to buy out certain homes, but these programs are extremely expensive and can lead to checkerboard patterns. This forum will not advocate any particular approach, but will explore these underlying legal questions:
1. What governmental actions in restricting development or reconstruction in vulnerable areas are “takings” that require compensation?
2. How would the government adopt a policy of managed retreat from the coastlines—through changes in zoning and building codes, restrictions on infrastructure, or other methods? What process would be needed?
3. What is the role of federal flood insurance and private insurance in shaping patterns of development or redevelopment in vulnerable areas?
4. Where has managed retreat been attempted in the past? What is the experience with these attempts, and what procedures were followed?


  • J. Peter Byrne
    Professor and Faculty Director, Georgetown Climate Center, Georgetown Law School
  • Vicki L. Been
    Boxer Family Professor of Law and Director, Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, New York University School of Law
  • Howard Kunreuther
    James G. Dinan Professor and Co-Director, Risk Management and Decision Processes Center, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
  • Anne Siders
    Associate Director, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School


  • Michael B. Gerrard
    Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice and Director, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School

Event Video:

Presentations of individual speakers available below: