City launches initiative to ‘rainproof’ NYC
Heavy rainfall caused major flooding on September 29, 2023. Photo courtesy of Marc A. Hermann / MTA on Flickr
State and city agencies, nonprofits, and community leaders will join forces to develop ideas aimed at dealing with New York City’s heavy rainfall problem. The Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice on Tuesday launched “Rainproof NYC,” a collaborative initiative to come up with policies and programs addressing the high frequency of heavy rainfall due to climate change. The initiative will complement ongoing Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) projects that are underway across the state, including sewer upgrades, green infrastructure, cloudburst projects, and Bluebelts.
“New Yorkers are at risk every time there is heavy rain. In the face of these events, which are only becoming more frequent and intense, ‘Rainproof NYC’ presents an extraordinary opportunity to rethink our city’s physical and social infrastructure to not only protect all New Yorkers but also create benefits for them,” Elijah Hutchinson, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice, said.
Hutchinson continued: “Environmental threats are coming at us from all angles, and we must be innovating ways to incorporate natural features into our built environment. Increased rainfall is increasingly impacting New Yorkers’ way of life, and addressing the climate crisis must be a collaborative process that involves not only experts and elected officials.”
“Rainproof NYC” will consist of three working groups focused on identifying and addressing gaps in the city’s infrastructure and risk management. The groups will develop innovative ways to protect and prepare New Yorkers for future heavy rainfall events, identify what an equitable buyout program looks like for NYC, and think of ways that communities, the private sector, and community-based organizations can share responsibility for handling increased precipitation.
Members of the working groups consist of representatives from city agencies, community leaders from a vast array of organizations, more than 20 local, state, and federal nonprofits, and the private sector. These participants were selected last month after a public open call application and were considered based on their lived or professional experience, diversity, and whether or not they bring a fresh perspective to the conversation.
Those selected include the Environmental Defense Fund, Waterfront Alliance, Riders Alliance, East New York Community Land Trust, Coney Island Beautification Project, We Stay/Nos Quedamos, the Far Rockaway Arverne Nonprofit Coalition, New York Disaster Interfaith Services, NYU Langone Health, and Arup. A full list of working group members can be found here.
The policies and programs developed through the initiative will also be considered by DEP for its upcoming stormwater and flood adaptation plan and in Mayor Adams’ “PlaNYC: Getting Sustainability Done” climate plan, which prioritizes the use of “real, impactful actions” using federal funding, according to an official press release.
DEP over the last decade has invested roughly $5.7 billion in repairs to the city’s drainage systems and plans to nearly double that investment to $10.3 billion over the next 10 years to accelerate the installation of these drainage improvements. The agency is currently finalizing a plan that will expand sewer capacity in areas at risk of flooding and install green infrastructure that will better retain stormwater.
In 2022, the Adams administration launched Rainfall Ready NYC, an action plan that includes advice for homeowners and other New Yorkers on how to prepare before, after, and during intense storms.