The Department of City Planning has produced two studies to help New York City and other urban waterfront communities to improve their resilience to coastal flood risks and promote livable, sustainable neighborhoods. Both reports were announced by City Planning Commissioner Amanda M. Burden on June 18th, 2013.

“While New York City is unique in many respects, the challenges we face are shared by numerous communities in the region, as well as elsewhere around the world. These studies illustrate that we can increase the resilience of coastal cities while transforming urban waterfronts in ways that make cities not only safer, but also more vibrant, healthy, and prosperous.” –Amanda M. Burden, FAICP

This report identifies key design principles to guide flood-resistant construction in urban area. It provides an overview of regulatory requirements for construction in flood zones under the National Flood Insurance Program, and explores the impacts of flood-resistant construction standards on built form and the creation of a vibrant streetscape and public realm. The report also lays out recommendations for how zoning can incorporate these principles to enable more versatile and desirable design solutions for flood-resistant construction.

Designing for Flood Risk strongly shaped the Department’s proposed PDF Document Flood Resilience Text Amendment, which would enable buildings to be constructed and retrofitted for flood resilience based on the latest flood maps issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), while mitigating the potential negative effects of elevated buildings on ground-floor activity and quality of the streetscape. This proposal began the public land use review process on May 20, 2013.

The study's PDF Document urban design principles have also been incorporated within A Stronger, More Resilient New York, the report of Mayor Bloomberg’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR), released on June 11, 2013.

Urban Waterfront Adaptive Strategies is a resource to help guide planners and policy makers in New York City and beyond in identifying and evaluating potential coastal protection strategies.  As evidenced by Hurricane Sandy, urban waterfronts face risks from coastal hazards today, and these risks will only increase with future sea level rise.  The city and region’s coastal zone is vast and diverse, and different areas face different hazards and risks and require different approaches. The report identifies a range of potential adaptive strategies, including interventions inland, at the shoreline, and in the water, and analyzes each for its ability to protect waterfront communities by reducing flooding from storm surge and high tides or absorbing destructive wave forces. Potential costs and benefits associated with each strategy are examined, both in terms of risk reduction and financial costs as well as the impact on, or benefit to, the city’s livability and sustainability. The report also lays out a framework by which communities can narrow the list of strategies to consider for a given geography and identify which strategies provide the greatest range of benefits with respect to direct and indirect costs. This information is intended to provide guidance for the challenging decisions coastal communities face about how to foster resilient communities that can withstand and recover from climate hazards with minimal harm, while retaining a vibrant economy and a high quality of life for their residents.

The study informed the analysis and recommendations for coastal protection in A Stronger, More Resilient New York, the report of Mayor Bloomberg’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR), released on June 11, 2013.

The two studies, begun prior to Hurricane Sandy, were funded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant to the New York - Connecticut Sustainable Communities Consortium. These studies support the six Livability Principles of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, and complement the rest of the consortium’s work program, which seeks to promote transit-oriented development along the regional transit network, much of which is located within or near the coastal area.

Both studies informed A Stronger, More Resilient New York, the report of Mayor Bloomberg’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR), released on June 11, 2013, shaping the analysis and recommendations for coastal protection and providing urban design principles to guide the implementation of recommendations for buildings.

For more information on the Sustainable Communities Climate Resilience Studies, please email SC_CLIMATE_DL@planning.nyc.gov. Learn more information on climate resilience.