Information Nation recently had the chance to catch up with James P. Stuckey, a real estate developer in New York City, who has taken a personal interest in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. In this exclusive interview, James P. Stuckey opens up about why this project is so near to his heart. According to James P. Stuckey, this small country might not have another opportunity to revitalize.
Information Nation: Thank you for joining us today, Mr. Stuckey.
James P. Stuckey: My pleasure. I am always happy to bring attention to this cause.
Information Nation: Let’s begin, shall we? Can you tell us what got the ball rolling to bring your attention to Haiti?
James P. Stuckey: It was the Clinton Global Initiative.
Information Nation: Why is it so important to get the area around Port-Au-Prince developed?
James P. Stuckey: After the earthquake, hundreds of thousands of survivors were forced to live on the streets or in tents
Information Nation: So this is a case where infrastructure is vital.
James P. Stuckey: Absolutely. The January 2010 earthquake killed over 315,000 people. If the quality of building had been better, the number of casualties would have been far less.
Information Nation: That is such an astounding thing to consider.
James P. Stuckey: Yes, it is. For me, as a builder, knowing that I could bring my talents to the area was at least some relief that we could help future generations avoid widespread loss of life.
Information Nation: There was a similar earthquake in Chili not long after the Haiti earthquake, correct?
James P. Stuckey: Yes there was. It was an 8.8 magnitude. Theoretically, the death toll should have been higher than the 500 it was.
Information Nation: And you believe it was the quality of structures that saved so many?
James P. Stuckey: I do.
Information Nation: Can you tell us of the unique issues facing the restructuring of the country?
James P. Stuckey: Well, the lack of provable ownership of the land, for one.
Information Nation: Haiti has changed governmental hands so much that proving who owns what is difficult?
James P. Stuckey: You got it. Only around 5% of the land is documented. That means that most of the country is effectively un-owned and anyone can claim they own it…Until the next “rightful owner” comes along.
Information Nation: The forcible eviction rate in Haiti is extremely high, too. We have heard something like 70%?
James P. Stuckey: Yes. Historically, whatever new government took control, it did as they wished with the land, including taking people’s homes.
Information Nation: What is your direct involvement with the “North Pole” project?
James P. Stuckey: After the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers, I was one of the first builders to say, “Hey, we really need to get back to business here,” and so I embarked on a mission to rebuild NYC. I had somewhat of an epiphany realizing that many builders were just plain not ready to get to work after a tragedy. At the time, I was the dean of NYU’s Schack Institute of Real Estate and began a course of study on post-catastrophe reconstruction.
Information Nation: Yes, and the students’ work there has really helped move things along.
James P. Stuckey: Yes, I’m extremely proud of them. You know the best way to do the most good is to jump right in. As a builder, I can put up walls anywhere, but helping an area re-gain its dignity after tragedy has the biggest sociological impact.
Information Nation: Very interesting. Thank you for your time. We appreciate your input.
James P. Stuckey: My pleasure. I would like to note that as horrible as the earthquake was, it has opened up a unique opportunity for Haiti to improve.
James P. Stuckey has a career that spans over 30 years. From his time working as a civil servant in NYC to his appointment as divisional Dean and Clinical Professor at NYU’s Schack Institute of Real Estate, James P. Stuckey has always professed that construction is vital to how people live their lives. Currently, James P. Stuckey heads Verdant Properties, LLC®, where he is CEO and President.