Coastal Resiliency: How to Plan for the Unpredictable

Jamaica Bay

Nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy caused devastation in our coastal communities, many cities and towns have returned to near normal--the storm’s widespread damage made invisible by power washers, new boardwalks and restored beaches. In other places, the legacy of Sandy is more apparent: homes that are still vacant or under construction, damaged community centers, and businesses that haven’t returned. 
 
Deciding how and whether to rebuild after a major storm is complicated. Under intense scrutiny, public officials and planners must juggle short-term needs to restore housing, transportation and business activity with longer-term goal of protecting populations from the next event.
 
Yet it is crucial that these decisions be made in a collaborative and deliberative way. Otherwise, we’re likely to wind up with solutions that exacerbate our vulnerability in the long run, while making poor use of very limited recovery resources. 
 
Recognizing this tension in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, RPA launched an effort to help cities and towns make reconstruction decisions that anticipate future conditions and build more resilient communities. We used an approach known as scenario planning -- a tool that factors in both the best available science and uncertainty in order to examine a range of potential conditions.
 
Read the full report, including recommendations for rebuilding from Hurricane Sandy and recommendations for using scenario planning for climate resilience. 
 
This project was developed in coordination with the New York City Department of City Planning’s Urban Waterfront Adaptive Strategies study and with the joint climate committee of the New York-Connecticut Sustainable Communities and North Jersey Sustainable Communities consortia.