2021 Urban Fellow
Research Topic: Land Use Planning and Management
Faculty Advisor: Amity Doolittle
Participatory climate adaptation planning in New York City: Analyzing the role of community-based organizations
Climate change is posing significant threats to cities around the world and many local governments are creating adaptation plans to prepare for these challenges. In recognition of the importance of climate justice, municipal planning has increasingly included participatory planning processes that engage communities. However, while climate adaptation planning has become more open to public input, these processes still do not ensure equitable outcomes. This study examined the inclusivity and equity of climate adaptation planning processes in New York City. Specifically, this study focused on the relationship between community-based organizations and participatory planning for sea level rise. 57 community-based organizations responded to a survey investigating awareness of, participation in, and barriers to engagement with various planning processes in New York City. These variables were compared to characteristics of each organization such as the primary issues they work on and the demographics of their local community board. The results of this study reveal both quantitative and qualitative data demonstrating the roles that community-based organizations have played in climate adaptation planning in New York City. Notable barriers to engagement were elicited such as, the absence of clarity of the process, low understanding of how a climate adaptation plan may benefit an organization and the community it represents, and an organizations’ lack of capacity to participate in planning. This study should be seen primarily as an exploratory inquiry rather than one that establishes generalizable findings. However, this study has demonstrated that climate change adaptation planning processes should be revised in multiple ways to increase participatory justice. These changes are urgently needed because without bottom-up inclusion and processes that are rooted in equity, there will be significant gaps in any cities’ climate resilience.