Theses Master's

Are Resiliency Plans Addressing Climate Change in an Equitable Way?

Shannon, Sarah

Climate change is a phenomenon that is beginning to have numerous implications for us as a society, one of which is that is furthering the divide between the “haves” and the “have nots.” Based on recent natural disasters, and particularly Hurricane Sandy which struck New York City in 2013, we can see that the impact of storms like this is greater for those residing in low income areas than for those who are well-off, and live in areas where resources are more readily available. In recent years, we have heard a great deal about the impact of climate change and associated initiatives for countries in the developing world. Essentially, these countries feel disadvantaged because their practices have not contributed to climate change yet they are being asked to participate in solutions that have economic consequences for them. But what about initiatives in the developed world and specifically, developed cities? When climate change related disasters strike there is little attention paid to the economic disparities and lower-income neighborhoods where citizens have less personal capacity to cope, and local support is less available. Rather, these populations are just grouped into the city plans as a whole.
This paper will explore equity issues within climate change and resiliency plans in developed cities by evaluating New York City’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Recovery (SIRR) through the use of two case studies: Lower Manhattan and the South Bronx. In order to evaluate in terms of equity, this report will look to assess the level of vulnerability facing Lower Manhattan and the South Bronx by using Caroline Moser’s asset adaptation framework. This approach will first look at the types of socio-economic vulnerabilities of the groups most affected by climate change related disasters. It then seeks to identify a range of “bottom-up” climate change strategies at the individual, household and community levels, while also assessing “top-down” interventions of external actors at city and national levels. Understanding the connection between vulnerabilities, assets, and the various adaptation or resilience strategies allows for the development of recommendations to support the urban poor.
For planners, this is important to address because climate change is a crosscutting issue. It affects local economic development, building infrastructure, land use and transportation sectors. Resiliency plans, such as the SIRR, are going become part of regular planning strategies and planners have the opportunity to make them more equitable through additional participatory measures; making sure communities and populations that are often marginalized are brought to the forefront. Overall, my findings show that the SIRR does not provide adequate measures to address the vulnerabilities facing the South Bronx and parts of Lower Manhattan. And based on these findings, I present recommendations for how the city, and planners, can better approach future resiliency planning.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Irazabal Zurita, Clara E.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 10, 2014