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A Plan for the Urban Resilience of New York City and Its Neighborhoods

Road to ResilienceSince the prescient events of Superstorm Sandy, which swept across the northeast coast of the United States in late October, 2012, the Municipal Art Society of New York has pulled together a number of convenings with coastal experts, local community leaders, and diverse stakeholders to discuss the lessons from this recent experience and to develop some key resilience principles going forward. For the third event in the series, MAS hosted Charting the Road to Resilience: From the Ground Up on Saturday, January 12.  Joining the wide array of New Yorkers were a handful of recovery-hardened New Orleanians, who arrived to offer their support and recovery experience from seven years post-Katrina.

Pulled together with over 80 partner organizations, the program included a day-long conference, preceded by site tours of affected neighborhoods on Friday, January 11.  Untapped Cities one of our event partners, posted this photographic summary of the conditions tour participants found.

The Saturday was a mix of plenary discussions and sixteen concurrent working sessions, pulled together to tackle the most pressing questions, including:

  • Do we need a revised zoning regime to deter development from vulnerable areas?
  • Have theses events provided us with an opportunity to re-address environmental justice issues?
  • How can we better support NYCHA and other city agencies in their rebuilding and future preparedness efforts?
  • What are the most effective ways to connect community-based responses (Occupy Sandy, neighborhood led initiatives) with the more formal efforts of the city, state and FEMA?
  • What are the opportunities going forward to place a higher priority on sustainable building practices?
  • How can we help neighborhoods bolster their own preservation and recovery?

Hosted and broadcast live by the New School, plenary discussions can be viewed here on their broadcast site.

The tone of this diverse group on Saturday was markedly positive and respectful. There was a careful balancing act between acknowledging the state of disarray that many in affected neighborhoods still face, and the longer-term imperative to plan to cope better with whatever the next challenge or shock may be. There was a mutual recognition that the storm events around Sandy may have provided NYC with a useful wake up call from what climate scientist Klaus Jacobs appropriately labeled a previous state of ‘risk denial’. Jaime Rubin, the NYC-based coordinator of the task force charged with coordinating federal departmental responses, cautioned attendees that he wasn’t simply a ‘wallet’, encouraging us to recognize that we needed to be developing integrated strategies to which resources and expertise from all levels of government could be directed. Enviro-justice advocate Eddie Batista echoed that in the afternoon plenary, repeating the adage offered by veteran New Orleanians advocate Carol Bebell in the working session on cultural resilience:  “If you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu”.

Going forward, MAS is now working with the group facilitators and resource people to collate the results from all of the sessions and identify common approaches. We will continue to roll out an ambitious convening and community-based response and planning initiative, which, together with the many initiatives from partner organizations that are emerging, will ensure that a more resilient New York continues to be not only our shared ambition, but a reality. Thank you again to all of our partners on these initial convenings:

596 Acres, AirBNB, American Society Of Landscape Architects, Arts and Democracy Project, Brooklyn Community Foundation, Brooklyn Public Library, Catherine Seavitt Studio, Center For Bioregional Living, Center For Social Innovation, Center For Urban Pedagogy (CUP), Cisco System Internet Business Solutions Group/public Sector, Manhattan Community Board 1, Community Solutions, Council on the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island (COAHSI), CultureNOW, Curtis + Ginsberg Architects LLP, The Design Trust for Public Space, dlandstudio, Eco-occupy, El Puente, Forum For Urban Design, Fourth Arts Block (FABnyc), Furman Center, Gans Studio, Good Old Lower East Side, GoshowArchitects, Gotham Innovation Greenhouse, government officials and staff from the Federal Hurricane Sandy Task Force, NYC Rapid Repairs, NYC Department of Environmental Protection, Office Of Emergency Management, New York City Economic Development Corporation, and various City Departments and Agencies including Planning, Cultural Affairs, Small Business, NYCHA, Parks and Recreation, and Long Term Planning and Sustainability; Green Map System, Hoffman Brandt Projects LLC, Hudson Square Bid, IDEO, Insight Associates, Institute for Urban Design, ioby, James McCullar Architecture, PC, Jee Won Kim Architects, JUDAH International Christian Center, Inc. (JUDAH), Kaese & Lynch Architecture and Engineering LLP, Land Of Opportunity (New Orleans), Local Office Landscape, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC), Margert Community Corporation, MAS Urbanists, Material For The Arts, Ned Kaufman Ph.D., Neighborhood Preservation Coalition of NYS, Inc., The New York Academy of Medicine, The New York Landmarks Conservancy, New York Restoration Project, NOCD-NY, NY Passive House, NYC Environmental Justice Alliance (NYC-EJA), Occupy Sandy Sustainable Development, InterOccupy and  Occupy Sandy; Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation, Perez, APC, PopTech, Queens Public Library, Red Hook Initiative, Respond And Rebuild, Rockaway Waterfront Alliance, Rogers Marvel Architects, Sandy Storyline Project, Solar One, Sound Science, students and faculty from NYU, Columbia, Hunter, Pratt Institute, The New School, CUNY, Lamont-Doherty Earth ObservatoryRutgers, John H. Daniels Faculty Of Architecture Landscape And Design University Of Toronto, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia, and the College Of Staten Island; Ter/re/form ONE, The National Coalition for Arts’ Preparedness and Emergency Response, The Nature of Cities, The New Orleans Institute for Resilience and Innovation (including the Ashé Cultural Arts Center, Beacon Of Hope, City-works, Newcorp Financial, Waggonner & Ball Architects), The Trust For Public Land, Time’s Up!, Untapped Cities, WXY Architecture and additional AIA And APA Members.