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.
High-Risk Neighborhoods of Red Hook, Lower East Side Are Focus of Live Coverage, Climate Crowdsourcing
Streets and buildings flooded, power out, trains down, lives disrupted and taken. No, we’re not talking about the effects of Superstorm Sandy two years ago. We’re talking about New York’s future, with the kind of extreme weather experts warn could hit the city in the years ahead.
Given the forecasts and the lessons of Sandy’s massive impact, do residents in some of the most climate-vulnerable New York neighborhoods think they’re any safer than when Sandy hit? And what is the city doing to help make them safer?
To find out, we and a group of partners are launching a multi-faceted special project this week.
First, on Thursday morning, Oct. 2, we plan to send teams of journalists to report in real time from two of New York’s highest-risk neighborhoods – Red Hook in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Both communities were slammed during Sandy and are now bracing for more.
At the same time, we plan to launch a crowdsourcing initiative that will be asking all of you the same question: Do you believe you’re safer?
The AdaptNY project got some great attention again this year at the biggest annual gathering of journalism educators, held in early August in the francophone city of Montreal.
I presented twice – once about our work covering Sandy’s aftermath and once our outreach to community members – to some of the thousands of educators who are part of the Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, or AEJMC. Continue reading →
New Jersey Public Radio’s Scott Gurian and WNYC’s Matthew Schuerman’s report that New Jersey has gotten less than half as much Sandy aid from the Department of Housing and Urban Development as New York State and New York City combined. Their report, “How Did New York Get So Much Sandy Money?” Plus, see detailed interactive charts and tables of expenditures here.