Earth Institute Research Projects

Enabling Urban Residents to Adapt to Coastal Flooding: Evidence from New York City Neighborhoods

Lead PI: Dr. Malgosia Madajewicz

Unit Affiliation: Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR)

September 2019 - August 2021
North America ; New York City, NY
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: The ocean is a bountiful resource for the urban centers along the northeastern coast of the United States, but frequent coastal flooding poses a management problem that is becoming more challenging as sea levels rise. Even in New York City (NYC), which is devoting billions of dollars to coastal protections, densely populated areas will remain unprotected, and the protected areas will remain at risk of flooding from extreme surge events. A gap in preparations for flood risk is the capacity of residents in urban coastal neighborhoods to take adaptation actions. The sustainability of livelihoods depends on actions that residents take to address their vulnerabilities. Homeowners in coastal NYC have invested substantial resources to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy, while rebuilding their homes as they were before Sandy, increasing their vulnerability to future flooding. Awareness that flood risk is increasing and understanding of the tradeoffs between adaptation actions and costs of not adapting are low among residents.

The project has two objectives: (1) build the capacity of coastal residents to use existing resources to adapt to coastal flooding, (2) evaluate if, how, and for whom the proposed approach contributes to adaptation compared to other initiatives, and assess the value of flood risk predictions. The approach is a co-production process, in which scientists, educators, community leaders, and residents in coastal NYC will collaborate through a series of workshops to understand current and future flood risks, which are specific to the communities and occur on time frames relevant to decision making. The participants will identify adaptive actions and calculate the costs and benefits of those actions, taking into account costs of not taking adaptation actions. The workshops will build on and broaden the impacts of existing NYC and federal programs, which provide information that can guide adaptation decisions.
The evaluation will use methods, which are new in the study context, to rigorously assess the benefits of the approach, enabling a credible cost benefit analysis. We will document how to adapt the approach to different contexts based on evidence from diverse study neighborhoods.