Green Infrastructure for Coastal Protection in the Post-Sandy Context

Welcome to the Climate - Smart Cities: New York City Portal. This project is funded in part by a Coastal Resilience Networks grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


The extreme devastation wrought on New York City's waterfront communities by Superstorm Sandy followed significant damage inflicted by Hurricane Irene just a year earlier. These events created heartbreaking images of the storm's immense impact on people's lives, and demonstrated the vulnerability of New York City's homes, businesses, transportation networks, sewer systems, power grid, and natural resources in its low-lying areas. More events like this are likely to occur. Based on the effects of sea level rise projections alone, what is now a 1-in-100 year flood is anticipated to occur five times as often by the 2050s.

The Climate-Smart Cities Pilot Project is a collaborative effort of The Trust for Public Land, City of New York Department of Parks and Recreation and Department of Environmental Protection, Columbia University's Center for Climate Systems Research, and the Consortium for Climate Risk in the Urban Northeast, including CCRUN-affiliated researchers from Columbia University and Drexel University. Through this venture we developed human and technical networks to research, plan, and create protective green infrastructure along the City's waterfront. Ranging from wetlands and other natural systems to new waterfront parks that integrate innovative storm protection measures, this green infrastructure will help absorb the brunt of storms and sea level rise to protect New Yorkers for generations to come.

Green Infrastructure Performance Assessment

Principal Investigators: Franco Montalto and Stephanie Miller, Drexel University

The purpose of this study was to investigate what role NYC coastal green infrastructure (GI) played in building damages during Sandy. Specifically, the researchers wished to determine whether damages can be adequately predicted using only discrete physical relationships, such as topographic, distance to the coast, or proximity to a green space. The researchers were also interested in which green features of NYC's coast were most strongly related to damages, and specifically in what way. This study looks at three case study sites - Coney Island, Brooklyn; Rockaway, Queens; and the South Shore of Staten Island. At all three sites the researchers hypothesize that predicting damages without including a property's relationship to GI would be insufficient. The researchers also hypothesize that NYC's coastal GI, despite being small and fragmented in many places, offered some protection to people and property during Hurricane Sandy.

Evaluation of NYC's Coastal Vulnerability and Potential Adaptation Strategies in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy

Social Resilience Research

Principal Investigators: Malgosia Madajewicz, Columbia University

This study analyzes determinants of vulnerability to coastal flooding based on the recovery from hurricane Sandy in two neighborhoods in NYC: the Rockaways and the southeastern shore of Staten Island. The two locations bore the brunt of hurricane Sandy, experiencing very similar intensity of the storm. The two neighborhoods have rather different socio-economic and institutional landscapes, presenting a comparison that has the potential to illuminate different aspects of resilience and vulnerability. Both neighborhoods are still recovering from the storm. We adopt a mixed method approach, combining evidence from in-depth interviews of community leaders, people involved in the recovery, and residents with data from surveys of residents in the two neighborhoods.

Vulnerability to Coastal Storms in New York City Neighborhoods

Modeling Future Scenarios for Coastal Threats

Principal Investigators: Stuart Gaffin and Daniel Bader, Columbia University

Sea level rise and climate-driven changes in extreme weather patterns mean even greater future threats to the City's waterfront. These future scenarios must be integrated into resilience planning. Building on the updated future climate projections from the New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC2), this grant supported Columbia's Center for Climate Systems Research researchers to develop updated projections of sea level rise, storm surge penetration, stormwater inundation and storm return times under future climate scenarios. Outcomes of this research are captured in the New York City Panel on Climate Change 2015 Report. We call your attention in particular to the two chapters below:

Chapter 2: Sea Level Rise and Coastal Storms
Chapter 6: Indicators and Monitoring

Strategic Site Selection for Climate Resilience

The Trust for Public Land developed an online GIS planning portal, which integrates the future scenario data with myriad other vulnerability data, such as vulnerable populations and critical infrastructure. The purpose of the online portal is to help users identify priority sites for creating protective green infrastructure for the City's people, waterfront communities, and natural systems. The portal provides a "functional assessment" of high priority locations for green infrastructure investment. Data was collected and modeled in the following categories: risk of coastal flooding, including present and future coastal flood risk, critical infrastructure, and social vulnerability. Additional contextual data such as existing green infrastructure features, priority areas from various plans, and green infrastructure suitability indicators is also included. Finally, the specific parcel lines are overlaid to enable the user to prioritize the most strategic sites for green infrastructure demonstration projects.

  • Risk of Coastal Flooding
  • Social Vulnerability
  • Critical Infrastructure
  • Stacked Priorities

Web Application

Climate Smart Cities New York City:

A web portal that delivers the results from the New York City Climate Smart Cities analysis. The site includes an interactive map viewer that allows you to view and / or investigate the results from the analysis as well as create reports for individual parcels.

Project Criteria Matrix:

Climate Smart Cities New York City criteria matrix.

Disclaimer: These environmental data and related items of information have not been formally disseminated by NOAA and do not represent and should not be construed to represent any agency determination, view, or policy. Failing to share environmental data and information in accordance with the submitted Data/Information Sharing Plan may lead to disallowed costs and be considered by NOAA when making future award decisions.