Five Ways to Prevent the Next Sandy

New York Times: Hurricane Sandy woke up New York City to an existential crisis. It made clear that climate change — rising seas, more powerful storms and extreme heat spurred by burning fossil fuels — is no abstract idea to a city built on islands and swamps. Leaders promised bold action: not just to repair the damage, but to reshape New York to thrive in a chaotic climate.

A decade later, we are only just beginning to act, and the path forward is murky. The metropolitan area has seen billions of dollars committed to rebuilding and protecting hard-hit areas; sweeping new laws to cut emissions and build resiliency; a growing climate and environmental justice movement. Cutting-edge projects, like restoring wave-calming oyster beds and building “living breakwaters,” come with revived attention to the waterfronts that first made New York a great world city.

But the verdict is clear: We have not done enough. We are not moving fast enough. We do not have a comprehensive plan or a clear route to one, despite energetic efforts from leaders, agencies and communities. So say scientists, urban planners, officials and front-line residents, in scores of interviews and hundreds of pages of government, academic and advocacy reports.

Dauntingly, no single solution can protect the whole city. Each neighborhood has its own topography, architecture, demographics; thus its own needs. So, trying to grasp the whole, the photographer Jade Doskow and I explored five areas, each grappling with its own set of challenges.

The good news: Everywhere was a ferment of experiments, collaborations, innovations. Everywhere were people who since Sandy have changed their lives: A home health aide turned environmental researcher. An ex-contractor monitoring marsh grass. Retirees who, to protect others, let wetlands reclaim the only homes they’d known. A security technician taking Fridays off to problem-solve a shared predicament with strangers from faraway neighborhoods. Can all their dynamism add up to a solution? Read more>>