By Christian Flinn
In June of 2015, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro announced the 40 finalists invited to compete in Phase II of the HUD’s National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC). Designed to allocate the remainder of the almost $1 billion in funding from Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs) authorized beginning in 2011, Phase I of the NDRC consisted in communities and states that experienced a Presidentially-declared major disaster in 2011, 2012, and 2013 applying for consideration. Each applicant submitted comprehensive resilience plans (CRPs) for their communities and explanations of why those plans would be effective at mitigating damage from natural disasters and improving resilience. The plans were developed in conjunction with the Rockefeller Foundation, which helped provide education to improve applicants’ CRPs for flood protection and resilience through so-called Resilience Academies. For Phase II, the 40 finalists mentioned above were then instructed to develop proposals for specific projects that would advance their CRPs and in turn compete for grants worth a minimum of $1 million.
Of the almost $1 billion available, $181 million were set aside for projects in New York/New Jersey from the beginning. On January 18, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that New York City would be awarded $176 million of the allocated funding to stormproof a stretch of land in Lower Manhattan. Another official announced that New York State would be receiving $35.8 million for a housing project in Nassau County. The project in the city would include fortifications along the shoreline from Montgomery Street on the Lower East Side to the northern tip of Battery Park City. Other possible improvements include adding sea walls, raising elevation levels along the coast, installing levees, constructing grass berms, and potentially adding temporary flood walls for emergency use.
The project was originally envisioned in response to Hurricane Sandy in 2012, when it became clear that the West Side waterfront was much better protected than the East Side. The inequality was so blatant, in fact, that in August 2015 New York Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged $100 million toward flood protection in Lower Manhattan, an amount that will be pooled with the award from the NDRC. Sen. Schumer had this to say on the matter, “the Lower East Side waterfront is almost a wasteland compared to the West Side waterfront, and this should make them much more equal.” The project would be built adjacent to the $335 million project awarded to the city in 2014 as part of the Rebuild by Design initiative, also sponsored by the HUD, which stretches from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street.
It is expected that through these and similar projects, cities like New York and Miami, both with high levels of funding and at risk of suffering from climate change and sea-level rise, will become examples of effective planning for resilience.
Regarding competitions such as the NDRC and the collaborative opportunities they provide, HUD Sec. Castro said, "Climate change is an urgent matter that requires greater collaboration between public and private partners.”
Dr. Judith Rodin, President of The Rockefeller Foundation, added, "resilience is a journey, not a destination, and the time to build resilience is now, through a focus on…making smart plans for communities through collaboration across sectors, so that investments - particularly in infrastructure - will yield multiple benefits…NDRC finalists share this vision.” These statements could indicate the possibility of additional competitions in the future as well as a focus on increasing community collaboration with non-government interests to better plan and prepare for the risks associated with climate change.
For more information, contact Christian Flinn at firstname.lastname@example.org.