David Lessinger: From Recovery to Resilience: Planning in Post-Katrina New Orleans

David Lessinger (M.R.P. '07) is the chief of staff to the deputy mayor/chief administrative officer and chief resilience officer for the City of New Orleans. Lessinger supports the chief administrative officer in managing the budget and operations of city government with a focus on critical projects and priorities. Within the resilience portfolio, he works to establish resilience as a business practice across city government and interfaces between the city's Office of Resilience and Sustainability and other city departments and agencies. Formerly, Lessinger served as the director of planning and strategy at the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) where he worked to enhance NORA's neighborhood revitalization strategies and managed resilience planning and its connection to NORA's mission of delivering affordable housing, commercial development projects, and the creative reuse of vacant land. Previously, Lessinger was a deputy director in the City of New Orleans Code Enforcement and Hearings Bureau where he directed research and analysis.

Lessinger first became involved in recovery planning in New Orleans as a graduate student in Department of City and Regional Planning at AAP where he and a team of graduate and undergraduate students developed components of the Unified New Orleans Plan. After graduating from Cornell, Lessinger was a Rockefeller Foundation Redevelopment Fellow at Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans working on blight reduction and neighborhood revitalization.

Lessinger holds a bachelor's degree in biology and environmental studies from Oberlin College, a master's degree in regional planning from Cornell University, and a certificate in urban redevelopment from the University of Pennsylvania.


As New Orleans began its long road to recovery from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures, each step in the process was an opportunity to not only rebuild what had been but to reimagine what could and should be. Twelve years later, New Orleans is pivoting from looking back to looking ahead, planning for the risks and opportunities of the future, and seeking to become a model for adapting to climate change.

Sponsored by Russell Van Nest Black Lecture Fund.