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Keeping Pace with Climate Change

By: Carl Carlson

Last week the ASLA New York Chapter and the APA New York Metro Chapter hosted an interdisciplinary conference on Climate Change Resiliency, which was focused on changing climate patterns across a transforming urban landscape and preparing the city for future climate problems.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Bloomberg formed the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) to address climate resiliency issues in New York City. The event was the first opportunity for public discussion of the SIRR Report released two days earlier. Dan Zarrilli, Senior VP for Asset Management at NYCEDC and Director of Resiliency at the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, presented the SIRR report findings on the impacts of Hurricane Sandy, ongoing vulnerabilities of NYC and how these vulnerabilities will be affected by climate change, methods and models to balance risks and costs of resiliency strategies, and potential design solutions for NYC neighborhoods.

Key Report Takeaways

  • NYC cannot and will not retreat from the waterfront even in severely affected neighborhoods.
  • Storm protection and climate change planning will need to include complex combinations of hard and soft solutions tailored to each individual community.
  • There is no one solution that will work for every neighborhood in a city with a waterfront as long and varied as New York City’s.

Boat Tour of Hurricane Sandy Aftermath in NYC Harbor

A boat tour of the New York Harbor visited various areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. Designers and local business owners detailed the impact to different landscapes on a regional, neighborhood, and site-specific scale and discussed how each landscape typology was affected. They also described the immediate response to the storm and their plans to prepare for future severe storms.  The first stop of the boat tour was the South Street Seaport, where Mike Marrella from New York City Planning led a brief discussion about regional policies post Hurricane Sandy.

Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood formed Restore Red Hook to help rebuild their community.
Image courtesy of the Huffington Post.

Next, the boat toured Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, which is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy. Local business owners described how they worked together to support each other during the rebuilding process and identified what they believe are viable protections.

Following Red Hook, the boat toured Brooklyn Bridge Park where Regina Meyer, President of Brooklyn Bridge Park Alliance, discussed specific practices and actions used by the park’s designers and maintenance crews to mitigate the effects of tidal inundation during the hurricane. One of the design areas she highlighted was the tidal wetland designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and Great Ecology.

The boat also toured Williamsburg to understand specific climate change strategies that smaller sites can use to prepare for rising sea levels and stronger storm events. The Edge, a condo development on Brooklyn’s waterfront and the Bushwick Inlet Park, Williamsburg’s latest waterfront park, were examples of smaller sites designed with climate change and sea level rise in mind.

This conference on Climate Change Resiliency in New York City showcased cutting edge ideas and practices and emphasized the critical importance of ecological designs that plans for considers the effects of impending climate change.

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