Theses Master's

Resilient Streets: Cloudburst Management and the Right-of-Way in New York City

Ho, Hilary

Cloudburst events are occurring with increased frequency in New York City, posing serious flooding risks to residents. The city must find ways to work across agencies and coordinate governance processes to ensure that cloudburst management remains a priority in all major infrastructure decisions moving forward.

Building upon two policy windows, the 2022 announcement of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) cloudburst management plan and the New York City Department of Transportation’s (DOT) 2022/23 commitments to expand the greenway network and bike infrastructure, this capstone—written in conjunction with Regional Plan Association—explores the possibility of integrating cloudburst management strategies within the right-of-way. In particular, the capstone explores the feasibility of interagency coordination surrounding climate resilient bikeways, constructed with the capital budget.

To investigate this topic, the capstone employs a mixed-methods approach: a precedent analysis of cloudburst management projects in the right-of-way from cities beyond New York City; semi-structured interviews with city agency representatives working at the intersection of stormwater management and right-of-way planning; and a spatial analysis of where new types of climate resilient bike paths could be located in New York City.

Key findings from a precedent analysis emphasize the importance of networked right-of-way infrastructure in connecting disparate cloudburst projects, integrating gray and green infrastructure, and creating standard guidelines to streamline green infrastructure within the right-of-way. Semi-structured interviews revealed the collaboration opportunities among city agencies when the co-benefits of green infrastructure are leveraged for right-of-way projects, the necessity of turning cloudburst projects into a larger program in order to plan for cloudburst management at scale, and the importance of mayoral and community buy-in to joint-agency cloudburst projects. Lastly, spatial analysis findings suggested that climate resilient bike lanes may have the potential to provide the dual impact of active transportation and flood mitigation particularly in outer borough neighborhoods, however, this intervention can only be effective if robust community engagement processes are built into the planning process.

As city agencies think through the next phases of cloudburst management for the city, these findings can help inform planning processes that not only facilitate interagency coordination, but also consider how community engagement protocols can be built into cloudburst management approaches in the future.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Vanky, Anthony P.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
August 2, 2023