OneNYC 2050 : Volume 7 of 9 : A Livable Climate

Strengthen communities, buildings, infrastructure, and waterfront to be more resilient

Hurricane Sandy forever changed the face of our city, starkly highlighting our physical and social vulnerabilities to coastal storms and extreme weather events. As climate change continues to worsen, we can expect more powerful and destructive storms that will threaten residents, communities, and our economy — along with higher temperatures, increased precipitation, and rising seas.
To ensure New York City is prepared, we will advance an innovative, multilayered plan that enables a just and equitable transition to citywide climate resiliency. This strategy will mitigate the physical risks of climate change, empower New Yorkers to take climate-smart adaptation measures, and streamline and transform our policies and governance structures to support climate resiliency.
Mitigate Physical Risks Posed By Climate Change By Delivering Critical Projects

New York City is making changes to its physical environment to promote resiliency and mitigate the most dangerous and destructive climate impacts. This includes hardening stormwater, wastewater, and other critical infrastructure to withstand climate impacts, and advancing nature-based solutions, such as wetland and forest restoration, to stabilize shorelines, reduce erosion, act as carbon sinks, and mitigate urban heat island effects. The City is also working with federal partners and making significant investments to mitigate neighborhood coastal flood risks, with a series of projects.

  • Mitigate neighborhood coastal flood risks
    The City will implement coastal projects designed to protect vulnerable coastal areas. These projects will be located in Lower Manhattan, Red Hook, the Rockaways, Jamaica Bay, the East Shore of Staten Island, and other at-risk areas. 
  • Mitigate physical risks to critical infrastructure
    The City will collaborate with local utilities to strengthen their energy and telecommunications assets against the impacts of climate change, and ensure climate risks are incorporated into system planning and design. The City will also harden transportation services, wastewater treatment plants, and sewers to provide critical services in the face of climate change.
  • Advance nature-based solutions to mitigate physical risks posed by climate change
    The City will increase the health and resiliency of green and natural infrastructure that provide vital services through stormwater management, coastal protection, and heat mitigation, as well as provide spaces that offer opportunities for education, engagement, and stewardship, and foster community interactions and togetherness that lead to neighborhood trust and social resiliency.

Partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The City is continuing to work closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), which is leading several projects that will reshape New York City’s shoreline and could forever change New York Harbor and the surrounding region. This partnership has already resulted in new protections for New Yorkers, including nearly 5 miles of new dunes across the Rockaway Peninsula.

The City is currently working with the Corps on more than $1 billion worth of funded resiliency projects on Staten Island and in Queens. Construction of the Staten Island Levee project, which will mitigate flood risks along 5.3 miles of Staten Island’s East Shore, will begin in 2020, with full completion expected in 2024. In Southeast Queens, the City and the Corps are working on a multilayered plan that will include a new tapered groin field and reinforced dune on Rockaway Beach combined with a system of berms, floodwalls, and nature-based features to increase resiliency for bayside communities. The Corps has set the goal of beginning the first elements of construction on this plan in late 2019.

The City, along with other state and local governments, is also collaborating with the Corps on the New York and New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries Study, which examines comprehensive resiliency solutions for the New York Harbor area. Depending on the scale of the projects recommended by this study, these efforts could take decades and billions of dollars to construct. As climate threats are here now, and will only continue to mount, the City will continue advancing its own coastal protection strategy while working with federal partners on additional long-term resiliency projects.

Empower New Yorkers To Take Climate-Smart Adaptation Measures

New York City will build capacity and provide the necessary tools and information to enable individuals, community groups, civic organizations, and businesses to prepare and plan for climate change.

  • Expand flood-risk awareness, flood-insurance uptake, and resiliency retrofits citywide
    The impacts of climate change on the city’s built environment will be exacerbated over the coming years by sea level rise, torrential rainfall, and more powerful storms. We must build awareness and enable resiliency retrofits among all property owners and renters in the floodplain. The City is developing resources for property owners and renters to understand their flood risk and invest in flood mitigation to adapt — and build resiliency — to climate change. As the City’s flood risk increases, flood insurance is a critical tool to ensure financial resiliency. The City will partner with FEMA and community organizations to increase the number of flood insurance enrollments.
  • Promote community-led emergency preparedness and planning, and increase civic engagement in response to climate change
    Civic engagement and community-led emergency preparedness and planning help strengthen communities and encourage neighbors to help one another before and after climate-related disasters. Promoting volunteer opportunities, building volunteer capacity in nonprofits and agencies that provide services to at-risk New Yorkers, and engaging a diverse cross section of city residents as volunteers to address the city’s greatest needs are all critical steps to building resiliency.
  • Encourage community organizations and small businesses to take climate-smart adaptation measures
    Community groups and small businesses can provide vital services in neighborhoods in times of disaster. Assisting small businesses with developing emergency and continuity of operations plans — and providing support for them to make climate-smart investments — increases overall community resiliency.
  • Promote climate health preparedness for heat-vulnerable New Yorkers
    As summers become hotter and our population ages, it is critical the City continues to engage New Yorkers in extreme-heat preparedness. Stewarding street trees and green infrastructure; coating roofs white; and checking in on at-risk family, friends, and neighbors are all critical steps to increase community resiliency and promote equity.
Be proactive to protect against sea level rise and the effects of increasingly powerful hurricanes.
– Resident of Yorkville, Manhattan

Our scientific understanding of climate change has deepened significantly over recent decades. The government’s response to climate risks has not kept pace. Important tools are embedded in the City’s legal and regulatory frameworks, including the zoning resolution, building codes, and others. By undertaking strategic regulatory reforms, the City can improve these tools, integrate climate resiliency features into future City capital projects, and help streamline ongoing resiliency projects. In developing new policies and reevaluating and modernizing governance structures, New York City will streamline and improve the planning and management of its multilayered resiliency plan in cooperation with state and federal partners.

  • Explore establishing a waterfront management structure for new and existing infrastructure
    City-level legislation, regulation, and governance structures play an important role in helping public entities, households, and private businesses prepare for the impacts of a changing climate. The City is exploring establishing a management structure that will address oversight, inspections, and ongoing maintenance and operations of flood-control infrastructure such as floodwalls, berms, and levees, as well as existing waterfront infrastructure such as bulkheads and piers.
  • Continue to refine the Climate Resiliency Design Guidelines
    As climate science continues to evolve and resilient design matures, the City will continue to refine and strengthen the Climate Resiliency Design Guidelines, which help architects and engineers integrate future-looking climate change data into the design of buildings, landscapes, and infrastructure. The City developed these guidelines as a tool to help prepare our municipal facilities for the impacts of climate change. The guidelines can help the City increase the resiliency of essential services New Yorkers rely upon and save taxpayers money by reducing damages from future storms and chronic climate stresses.
  • Advocate for local, state, and federal legislation, regulations, and policies that support climate adaptation and resiliency
    The federal government and New York State are critical partners in ensuring New York City is prepared for the impacts of climate change. The City must continue to partner with state and federal authorities to facilitate the massive transitions that are necessary, including developing updated and accurate floodplain maps, securing funding for resiliency projects, and achieving key legal and regulatory changes. At the local level, the City will propose updates to the city’s building code in conjunction with developing and adopting flood maps that delineate future conditions based on the best available and actionable climate projections to ensure the safety and functionality of all new buildings built in locations with current or future risks associated with sea level rise. The City will also advance a citywide zoning text amendment to accommodate proactive investments in resilient building design that are informed by sea level rise projections.
Use The Best Available Science To Inform A Multi-Hazard Approach To Climate Adaptation

While there is overwhelming agreement that climate change is occurring now and is caused by human activity, climate science remains an evolving field. Climate impact projections are affected by and are inseparable from worldwide efforts to curb GHG emissions. We must continually study emerging climate impacts and modify our adaptation planning to reflect the best available science.

  • Study emerging climate impacts to better understand New York City’s built environment and communities
    The City continues to expand its understanding of the multiple hazards posed by climate change. Examples of this work include a citywide study on flooding from extreme precipitation and a project that collects baseline neighborhood-level outdoor temperature data across 14 New York City neighborhoods with high heat vulnerability. The City will also continue to work with key partners, including local utilities, transit agencies, community groups, and private developers, to ensure resiliency planning is transparent and based on the best available science and environmental monitoring data.
  • Create a Climate Adaptation Roadmap 
    Building on recent NPCC findings and other scientific evidence, the City will develop a Climate Adaptation Roadmap that will incorporate successes and lessons learned from the post-Sandy recovery and rebuilding period, while also planning for the next generation of climate hazards. This roadmap will identify the greatest climate-related threats facing New York City, and recommend a prioritized sequence of climate adaptation measures for the short, medium, and long-term, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable New York City residents and neighborhoods.