Hurricane Sandy demonstrated that New York City is at risk from coastal storms. With climate change these risks are likely to increase in the future. There are currently 71,500 buildings and 400,000 residents in the 1% annual chance (1% annual chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year) floodplain. By the 2050s, those numbers are expected to grow to 114,000 buildings. Public outreach and engagement of local officials was a major element of this initiative. DCP convened local advisory committees that were instrumental throughout the process to develop proposals and keep the wider community up to date with the work. While the issues were complex, having an informed and engaged committee helped to foster broader understanding and acceptance of the risks of failing to implement land use changes.
The NYC Department of City Planning launched the Resilient Neighbourhoods initiative to develop locally tailored strategies in 10 neighbourhoods. The projects seek to reduce risk from flooding and sea level rise by enabling investments in measures that protect buildings from flooding, such as elevating living area, and by limiting growth over time in areas that face exceptionally high risks from future daily tidal inundation due to sea level rise. DCP has performed a coastal risk assessment for each of the study areas that analyses damage from Hurricane Sandy, risks from coastal storms, flood elevations, wave threats, future floodplains and sea level rise. Based on these 10 studies and additional research on industrial areas and retail corridors, in addition to monitoring floodplain construction and conducting additional outreach, DCP is developing recommendations across the city’s 520 miles of at-risk coastline.
New York City’s innovative approach to adaptation planning can be a model for coastal cities worldwide. Smart land use planning is necessary to promote growth in dense and connected urban areas that have minimal carbon footprints, while managing increasing risks that necessitate changes to urban design and development.
DCP's work has far-reaching implications. Not only will the work result in land use plans that will change the nature of development far into the future, but DCP’s engagement has already enabled community members to become local resiliency leaders. The DCP’s 2013 zoning amendment affects 71,500 buildings throughout the city, enabling those sites to make better resiliency investments. This includes 400,000 residents and 532 million square feet of floor area.
The project has large financial and environmental co-benefits. In addition to reducing risks from climate change, each neighbourhood study seeks to create vibrant communities, including supporting local retail corridors and job centres. Several neighbourhoods involved in the DCP study are aiming to limit infill development on vacant lots, choosing instead to utilise those lots for wetland restoration and stormwater management.