Northern Manhattan Climate Action Plan, New York City
The Northern Manhattan Climate Action Plan (NMCA) was built by and for the residents of Northern Manhattan of New York City, New York in partnership with WE ACT for Environmental Justice. The plan addresses climate-related impacts on New York City’s most vulnerable populations by promoting environmental policies that also aim to address socioeconomic inequality. The NMCA recognizes “that issues of class, race, gender, ethnicity, and age, not simply rising sea levels and temperatures, must be mitigated and ultimately overcome.”
The NMCA’s study area is within the New York City neighborhoods of Inwood, Washington Heights, West Harlem, Central Harlem, and East Harlem. Over 600,000 people, mostly African American and Latino, reside here and over 20% of the area’s residents live in poverty, a rate much greater than the rest of Manhattan’s 14% average.
The following focal “concepts” of this plan are described in detail, along with recommended actions:
Concept 1 - Energy Democracy: This plan calls for green energy projects that provide direct economic benefits to low-income residents - projected to be achieved through investments in neighborhood companies, creation of systems for tenants to lead change within their own communities, and local hiring agreements that apply to efficiency improvements and green energy installations.
Concept 2 - Emergency Preparedness: The central element of the NMCA’s emergency response plan is the creation of a locally-managed communication system that operates in analog and digital formats and that can effectively direct vulnerable populations to necessary resources during crises. This communication system will include way-finding signage, social media plans, physical message boards, means for crowdsourcing, and tools to direct people to cooling centers, energy supplies, medicine, food, and water.
The plan describes that in planning for emergency preparedness for natural disasters, building flood protection infrastructure such as coastal barriers, rain gardens, bioswales, and more can ensure that private and public spaces are protected. It also notes that greening the urban environment can support social cohesion and healing: “Involving residents in the creation of green spaces can also, in and of itself, aid in recovery from crises, as allowing people to express their instinctive ‘affinity for nature’… and the creation of restorative environments may bolster resilience.”
Concept 3 - Social Hubs: Social hubs provide spaces for local activists to organize meetings, produce materials, and incubate projects. The NMCA explains that such space is critical to supporting local-level climate action, and “could bring diverse groups together and build community cohesion, while also accommodating desires for community gardens, libraries, green energy infrastructure, artists’ workshops, and more.”
Concept 4 - Public Participation: The plan is focused on political dynamics in NYC, and how to include low-income residents in policy-making - explicating that it is crucial to the effective implementation of this plan. As described, this initiative should include, but not be limited to, the following activities: increasing political education and mobilization through protests and direct actions, developing partnerships with governmental and non-governmental allies, writing educational curricula, organizing involvement in participatory budgeting, and building participation in the electoral process.
According to the report, climate impacts projected for Northern Manhattan by 2100 include higher temperatures by up to 8°F, sea levels rise by up to six feet, precipitation increase by 13%, and what are now once-in-100 year floods occur once every eight years. These are “worst-case scenarios,” but even the best-case scenarios represent a grave threat to Northern Manhattan’s people and infrastructure, including utilities and transportation routes critical to function of the entire City.
The NMCA is the result of a six month-long planning process led by WE ACT for Environmental Justice, undertaken in partnership with a multitude of stakeholders. The core ideas in this plan were generated during seven workshops held between January and June of 2015, in which hundreds of New Yorkers participated.
Publication Date: July 27, 2015
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