Climate adaptation, particularly how to pay for it, was central to negotiations at the recently concluded United Nations summit on climate change in Paris. Policymakers wrestled with the major adaptation issues – not just funding, but also development in urban hubs, crumbling water infrastructure and more. To help follow reactions to the adaptation discussion at the UN summit, as well as how the adaptation debate unfolded, AdaptNY curated key moments from the summit. Read on.
One of the organizations frequently at the forefront of New York’s resiliency thinking is the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, a non-profit partnership of some 800 NGOs focused on metro-area waterways. Whether with a recently developed set of waterfront resilient building guidelines, or an about-to-be-released analysis of the long-term costs of resiliency, the alliance has delved deep into the complexities of protecting the city’s coastline from the risks of climate change.
The alliance holds its annual Waterfront Conference tomorrow, May 7. AdaptNY took the opportunity to interview Roland Lewis, the organization’s president and CEO. Read on, and watch for live Twitter coverage of the event tomorrow on @AdaptNY.
AdaptNY: We recently reported on the many open questions around New York’s planning for climate adaptation. How well do you think the de Blasio administration has done on resiliency, and with its recently released OneNYC sustainability plan? How does OneNYC compare to the resiliency plans outlined under the previous Bloomberg administration?
Roland Lewis: The mayor’s key policy platform of addressing equity within the overall plan was a welcome addition, and he should be lauded for combining worthy goals to promote both a just and sustainable city. Adding community benefits such as local hiring and workforce development programs, in addition to addressing trash equity issues, have long needed more attention.
We do think everyone is looking for more of the details that support the colorful and inspiring vision that they have used to re-launch PlaNYC to OneNYC. The release of the budget [expected May 7] and numbers that support these visions will be telling, and show exactly which projects advance the goals of OneNYC.
At one of many such meetings now taking place throughout the city’s waterfront, residents of Red Hook, Brooklyn, gathered recently at a local community center to hear about the dramatic expansion of federal flood zones in their area and what the new designation would cost them.
As in other coastal neighborhoods, Red Hook struggles with a variety of flooding-related issues. Area homes, businesses and public housing developments suffered heavy damage from a five-foot storm surge during Superstorm Sandy. Red Hook also has long-term stormwater drainage problems.
So as the March 31 meeting night wore on, and residents sat closely together staring grimly at maps of their neighborhood, their fatigue and frustration was palpable.
One described still not being back in his home more than two years after major damage during Sandy. Another, in exasperation, asked city officials and their Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who presided over the meeting, “What are you going to do? We are having meeting after meeting [about recovery and resiliency] and the neighborhood is still flooding.”
Red Hook is not alone. Similar issues and worries are being played out in waterfront communities throughout New York, from the Lower East Side to the Rockaways.
Problems like localized flooding will become all the more urgent as climate change progresses. But the threat to each neighborhood is different, depending on where it is located relative to the city’s 500-plus miles of coastline, and factors like socio-economic conditions, building stock, and critical infrastructure.
City officials are far from indifferent. Its strategy, in a nutshell, is to gradually strengthen the coastline, upgrade building stock and protect critical infrastructure.
Next week on Earth Day, April 22, the city plans to release a major progress report, the first in four years, on its multi-pronged sustainability framework, known as PlaNYC. As in the past, the report is expected to include discussion of climate resiliency, that is, the city’s ongoing and developing preparations to manage for the effects of climate change.
The PlaNYC update is the result of “an extensive engagement process,” city spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick recently told Capital New York, including meetings in every community board district, a survey available in seven languages, and an “expanded advisory board.”
In anticipation of the city’s report, AdaptNY and news partners Gotham Gazette and the NY Environment Report raised a series of key questions about resiliency planning with a group of planners, engineers, architects, elected officials, and other experts.
- What is the pace of preparations? And are there sufficient financial resources?
- Is the city using the best data possible?
- What’s the impact of expanding flood zones? And is retreat an option?
- Can we improve the decision-making process? Expand public engagement?
- What are the institutional obstacles?
- What are the social implications of resiliency planning?
The overarching question: can the process of becoming resilient make New York, in the end, a better city – more livable, environmentally sustainable and socially cohesive?
Among other key takeaways, we found: Continue reading →
Just over half of the deaths caused by Superstorm Sandy, 22 to be exact, occurred on Staten Island’s East and South shores, as the storm’s waves battered homes and swept some off their foundations.
Now the island is in a race against time to prepare for the next major coastal storm. Multi-million dollar resiliency projects are coming to Staten Island, from a sea wall on its East Shore to the expansion of innovative “natural drainage corridors.”
The projects are on target, say local officials, but the pace needs to be faster.
The island’s East Shore is directly exposed to the New York Bight, a coastline formation that can channel powerful storm waves and surges into areas within New York Harbor.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning to construct a “mega” sea wall that will protect over half of the East Shore, from the Verrazano Bridge to Oakwood, said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo in a phone interview.
The Army Corps will be releasing a draft feasibility study on the proposed wall to the public next month.
Oddo estimated that the wall would be completed by 2020 or 2021. The city and state are also assisting with its construction, he said.
“This is a different timetable than [the initial plans] we talked about,” added the borough president. “Help has been all too slow in coming…There will be several hurricane seasons.”
What happens between now and 2020 or 2021?
Mar 26, 2015 — More than two years on and David Velez’s battle with Hurricane Sandy is far from over. But, thanks to some help from the Attorney General’s office, Velez’s fight with his mortgage lender may soon be coming to an end.
The first floor of the retired NYPD officer’s home in Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn was destroyed by flooding during the hurricane, and without help from insurance he and his wife used their savings to rebuild.
Unfortunately, after the construction was complete an architect from the City’s Build it Back program deemed the residence structurally unsafe. Velez and his family moved out of the home this past October and were told that demolition would begin in November. Now March, Velez is still waiting for Department of Housing Preservation and Development contractors to begin construction of his home. While the program has gotten a shot in the arm under Mayor Bill de Blasio, the pace is still too slow for many.
Even living out of his home there is another reminder of the damage Sandy has done: Velez gets regular calls from Citibank representatives asking when he will catch up on his mortgage. “They even called me the day I had cancer surgery to remove a tumor,” said Velez who was advised like other Sandy victims that he could stop mortgage payments while his home was being rebuilt, only for his lender to demand missed payments immediately after the forbearance was over.
It is a call increasingly familiar to homeowners across the state who are behind on their mortgages, whether from unexpected disasters like Hurricane Sandy or thanks to the economic downturn of 2008 and subsequent recession. Even in 2014, New York City saw a 33 percent increase in first-time foreclosures compared to the year before, according to one recent study.
Mar 18, 2015 – New Yorkers were exposed to the harsh realities of climate change when Superstorm Sandy hit more than two years ago. Those living in coastal neighborhoods like Coney Island and the Rockaways are struggling to deal with the mounting impacts of climate change. But now it’s not just the storms they fear, it’s the rising cost of flood insurance that threatens to drown them.
Come next year, revised flood zone maps issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) go into effect, expanding the amount of land considered at high-risk of flooding. The new maps will include roughly 60,000 more buildings, according to an analysis by the City Comptroller’s office. The city’s high-risk flood zones will soon be home to 400,457 New Yorkers, an increase of 84% from the current 218,088.
The projected increase in flood insurance premiums is significant. For a typical home in the high-risk zones, insurance premiums could increase from around $1,000 in 2014 to nearly $14,500 by 2030.
Flood zones have expanded in every borough. The increase is particularly dramatic along the eastern and western edges of Staten Island, and in South Brooklyn and South Queens.
Sandy Anniversary Brings Outpouring of News & Analysis, Investigations & Remembrances
It’s been two years since Superstorm Sandy slammed the New York metro area, causing deaths, displacement and billions in damage. News coverage of all kinds was extensive.
Do New Yorkers believe, two years after Superstorm Sandy decimated the area’s coastline, that they’re safer from future storms and devastating floods?
The answer – according to 70 residents from around the city who spoke with our reporters and filled out our online survey – seems to be a resounding “no.”
City officials we interviewed argue that preparations are underway to protect New York from future climate risk. Yet some local City Council members confirm that the public sentiment we gathered is not misguided, acknowledging that more needs to be done to let New Yorkers know about resiliency efforts.
These were the findings of a team of nearly three dozen journalists conducting an investigation that ran several weeks and focused on two of the city’s worst storm-battered communities – Brooklyn’s Red Hook and Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The collaborative reporting project was conducted by AdaptNY, with partners Gotham Gazette, a public watchdog climate news site; the independent NY Environment Report, and the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
The “Are You Climate Safe?” project sent our reporters into the field earlier in October. There, we interviewed residents and business owners, and subsequently surveyed online dozens of others from these two high-risk neighborhoods and other parts of the city and metro area (see live coverage from Lower East Side and from Red Hook, plus a live reporting wrapup).
The overwhelming majority of those we contacted told us they thought they were no safer. Just a handful said they believed they were better off.
A significant number also said they were simply unsure what measures, if any, were being taken to protect their communities. That despite the fact the city appears to be working steadily through a massive and costly set of resiliency initiatives, even as it struggles to make progress in responding to disappointment over the slowness of its “Build It Back” housing recovery program.
The degree of public disengagement with city planning work on climate resiliency we uncovered echoes our previous investigative findings of a striking disconnect in communication between City Hall and some of the communities most affected by Sandy.
“I have not seen any evidence of preparation against climate risk in my community, except for the new NYC flood risk zones map,” said one retired Red Hook resident. “I don’t believe we are truly informed on what has been done,” said another.
The collaborative also spoke with city leaders, including City Council Members and high-ranking members of the de Blasio administration.
Other key findings from the investigation were:
- Many of the city’s large-scale climate resiliency projects, still in the planning phase, are essentially invisible to residents we reached.
- As a result, some prominent local officials argue that there needs to be a “clear, concise, understandable” version of the city’s resiliency plan, especially in these most vulnerable areas.
- But planning is clearly underway, such as with large-scale flood protection projects in Red Hook and the Lower East Side, both hard hit by Sandy-related flooding.
- Both communities are also about to see portions of $1.8 billion in FEMA funds for the permanent replacement of temporary boilers, installed after Sandy damage in the public housing complexes that many of their residents call home.
- Yet many residents, uncertain about broader resiliency measures being put into place by city officials, told us they are preparing personally for another catastrophic weather event. Some, especially in Red Hook, see themselves as more reliant on the efforts of fellow citizens in community groups and local community boards for protection from future climate extremes.
Resiliency Gap Between Residents, City
What will New York be like in 2050? Hot, wet and worried. Those are the findings of a week-long investigation into the effects of climate change on the city, conducted by public radio station WNYC and NBC 4 New York.
The multimedia-rich series highlighted the likelihood of deadly heat waves, heavy rainstorms flooding streets and taxing an aging sewer system, power shortages (video) and rising financial costs. Additional video reports covered experimental weather forecasting technology, flood-proofing public transit and public action to help.
In addition to short audio or video reports that accompany each main story, there’s also a 32-minute audio podcast that provides an overview of the series as a whole. And the package features an user-generated interactive that cleverly charts the range of community thoughts on climate change.
Find the full series on WNYC or on NBC 4 New York.
Q&A: WNYC Editor Shares Inside Story on ‘NYC 2050’ Climate Series
Lower East Side, Red Hook residents unsure whether their communities are prepared for future extreme weather
More than a dozen AdaptNY reporters hit the ground on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and in Brooklyn’s Red Hook on Thursday, Oct. 2 to kick off a special climate change crowdsourcing project. The effort will explore whether the most vulnerable New Yorkers believe themselves safe from the coming impacts of extreme weather.
The reporters, part of a 30-plus-member news team organized in partnership with the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, spent several hours combing the communities for insights from residents, asking “Two years after Sandy, do you think you’re safer?”
Red Hook and the Lower East Side (LES) were targeted because they were among the worst hit by Sandy in 2012 and remain among the most at risk for future climate-related damage from extreme weather and sea-level rise.