Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Staten Island, New York: Oakwood Beach Buyout Committee and Program

Following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Oakwood Beach on Staten Island in New York City became the first community to take advantage of New York State’s post-Sandy buyout program to plan for retreat in a model that could be replicated in other vulnerable coastal locations. The members of the small community formed the Oakwood Beach Buyout Committee, and petitioned the state government to buy out entire neighborhoods, which resulted in large-scale risk reduction and cost-saving benefits compared to individual buyouts. Less than three months after Sandy, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a state-funded buyout program, pledging upwards of $200 million in funding and financial incentives to relocate families in high flood risk areas in places like Oakwood Beach. One year later, 184 out of 185 homeowners applied to the program — and by 2015, 180 of those homeowners were accepted to participate in the state’s voluntary buyout program. This process can serve as an example of a successful, community-led voluntary buyout effort that can be supported by state and local government retreat programs or projects in other jurisdictions.


This case study is one of 17 case studies featured in a report written by the Georgetown Climate Center, Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas: Lessons and Tools from 17 Case Studies. Each case study tells a different story about how states, local governments, and communities across the country are approaching questions about managed retreat. Together, the case studies highlight how different types of legal and policy tools are being considered and implemented across a range of jurisdictions — from urban, suburban, and rural to riverine and coastal — to help support new and ongoing discussions on the subject. These case studies are intended to provide transferable lessons and potential management practices for coastal state and local policymakers evaluating managed retreat as one part of a strategy to adapt to climate change on the coast. 

For additional case studies and more information about managed retreat, also see Georgetown Climate Center’s Managed Retreat Toolkit.

Publication Date: July 15, 2020

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