Rain gardens are planted with deeply rooted plants that collect rainfall and direct it away from sewer systems that risk being inundated during storms. Rain gardens also add pleasant greenery to neighborhoods, help to reduce the urban heat island effect, and improve the neighborhood’s air quality. The NYC Department of Environmental Protection website contains additional advice on how communities can initiate and build rain gardens.
Clean and monitor catch basins
Organizing neighbors within a single building or throughout a neighborhood can provide extra help to keep storm drains clear of debris during severe storms or floods. In addition, everyone can be encouraged to report problems to 311 if anyone sees blocked storm drains in the neighborhood.
Create environmental stewardship programs with local residents
Environmental awareness projects can help communities learn more about the specific environmental challenges they face and motivate neighbors to become more active in local mitigation efforts. The Rockaways case study below is an example.
Catch Basin clogged with leaves
Shore Corps is a hands-on high-school student program in which participants work on environmental conservation, community planning and design, and civic engagement projects to create a more sustainable and equitable community in the Rockaways. Participants build skills in public speaking and teamwork and explore Jamaica Bay, the Atlantic Ocean and local environments through kayaking, surfing, and stewardship activities. Students explore exciting careers in planning, architecture, science, and other fields and cultivate skills that contribute to their high school and post-high school success. Shore Corps participants advocate for themselves and their communities. Currently, Shore Corps is building climate resilience in the Rockaways by restoring dunes systems and working through the Rockaway Farm Share to make healthy, affordable fresh produce and knowledge about nutrition choices more readily available in the community. For more information, visit rwalliance.org/rwa/.
Earthquake preparedness drills should be organized in buildings where community organizations meet. Everyone should know where to safely reposition during an earthquake, such as sheltering under a solid piece of furniture and away from windows, hanging objects, or tall furniture that could fall and hurt someone.
Increase interior safety
Any community organization space can be modified to protect people during an earthquake by securing bookcases and other top-heavy objects to walls and storing large, heavy items on lower shelves. Large pictures should not be hung above sofas or other places where people sit.
Create community awareness of how to stay safe
Earthquake safety tips should be distributed so that community members understand the steps they can take to prepare themselves inside their homes. More advice on this topic is available on the ReadyNY website.
Replacing asphalt lots with green gardens reduces the urban heat island effect and improves air quality in a neighborhood. The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation’s GreenThumb program helps residents and communities navigate the process of starting a neighborhood garden.
Add a tree to the street
Property owners can request a free street tree from NYC Parks either by calling 311 or by submitting a service request though the online tree service request system. Each request receives an identification number to track its status. The NYC Parks website has all of the details.
Resilient Red Hook Spotlight (RRH): Community Microgrid
Resilient Red Hook (RRH) spearheaded the Community Microgrid (CMG) project to create a localized microgrid in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, which lost power for days after Hurricane Sandy hit. Some Red Hook areas experienced power outages for weeks and some residents living in NYCHA developments were without power for months.
Recognizing the need for a more sustainable and resilient power system, RRH formed a CMG team among nonprofit community organizations, private building owners, and government entities. The CMG feasibility study, funded by New York State Energy Research & Development (NYSERDA) through its NY Prize grant, assessed how to improve power resilience for critical Red Hook facilities and operations. The study explored how to plan for and finance pioneering infrastructure improvements to sustain Red Hook a day-to-day basis and during future emergencies through clean distributed energy and innovative microgrid controls. The study identified both challenges to and benefits of initiating Red Hook’s CMG -- a positive direction for the future of the neighborhood.
RRH is exploring a phased CMG installation. Several building-based prototypes are being installed through the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s RISE NY funding, which is led by Bright Power. For more information on this project, click here.
Identify safe locations in buildings
In case high winds shatter windows or damage structures, everyone should know the safest place to shelter within their home, office, or community center. If a severe thunderstorm or tornado threatens, this is typically a basement or a windowless interior room, such as a bathroom, closet, or inner hallway on the lowest level of the building.
Install emergency generators
For any location that serves as a community hub, facilities operators should ensure that emergency generators are installed and operational.
Invest in a microgrid project
A microgrid is a localized network of energy that can be connected and disconnected from a city’s main power grid. Microgrids allow communities to decentralize power sources and are a particularly useful approach to mitigate against the risk of a power loss.
Invest in alternative community communications networks
Community organizations can take the lead in organizing plans to finance and install a community internet network and an emergency radio antenna to enable communications when and if phone lines and internet service are disrupted. The Hunts Point Wi-Fi project is an example.
Increase involvement in policy matters
Community organizations can play a role in forming closer ties between their constituents and policy makers who are involved with hazard mitigation and planning – for example, by developing either a virtual or physical space for interactions to occur. For example:
Hosting meetings that allow residents to hear from policymakers and to advocate for mitigation actions that best serve their community.
Holding meetings with political stakeholders to shape neighborhood mitigation and funding priorities.
Coordinating community meetings in which residents weigh in on proposed infrastructure or rezoning projects.
Hosting an on-line forum.
Obtain grant funding for high-priority projects
Community organizations can hire additional non-profit staff to apply for grant financing for projects to achieve the community’s risk-reduction agenda. Refer to the Financial Resources section of this website to view lists of funding sources for hazard-mitigation projects.
Organize and implement public education projects
Community organizations are well suited to build awareness about the range of actions that residents can take to protect themselves and their neighborhoods from hazards. Examples include:
Offering training sessions to homeowners and other building owners on actions that will make homes and buildings more resilient to hazards.
Promoting and distributing digital and print how-to guides to encourage people to carry out simple, appropriate mitigation activities.
Coordinating with other organizations on public educational campaigns that explain how to mitigate hazards in homes.
Create local mitigation action plans
Community organizations can play an important role in working with constituents to develop mitigation action plans that reflect local needs. For example, this case study describes how a community organization led an effort to improve affordable energy options in Northern Manhattan.
The Point Spotlight: Free Hunts Point Community Wi-Fi Project
THE POINT Community Development Corporation in the South Bronx initiated the Free Hunts Point Community Wi-Fi project to provide back-up internet connectivity to the community when internet service is disrupted during emergencies. The project, funded by the NYC Economic Development, has placed nodes in local businesses and on top of three high-rise buildings to ensure a free, steady Wi-Fi signal. The installation connects residents and businesses similar to other public Wi-Fi networks, but during an emergency, its node configuration also allows it to function as an intranet so that people can access critical resources and coordinate resources and efforts. Servers located in the Hunts Point peninsula power the network. Residents, who serve as Digital Stewards, maintain the network and facilitate repairs as needed. For more information on this project, click here.
MESH Network Installation
WE ACT Spotlight: Solar Uptown Now
In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, WE ACT for Environmental Justice worked with residents in Northern Manhattan to identify their resiliency and climate justice priorities. A top priority was the need for alternative renewable, affordable energy sources, such as rooftop solar installations. Based on this community-driven plan, WE ACT partnered with Solar One and the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board to create Solar Uptown Now, a program to put rooftop solar installations on affordable housing buildings throughout Northern Manhattan.
Collectively producing a total of 415 kW-DC of rooftop solar capacity, these installations will be used to power these buildings’ common areas (hallways and elevators). They are estimated annually to offset 4,117 tons of greenhouse gases, eliminate 802 pounds of NOx, and save residents approximately $59,000 on electricity. The impact of the savings strengthens these buildings financially, which improves their position to face ongoing climate and gentrification challenges.
At the community’s request, Solar Uptown Now requires the solar installer to hire community residents, who were trained as part of WE ACT’s Worker Training program, to facilitate the installation. Currently, five of the program’s graduates work on solar projects throughout New York City, with two installing Solar Uptown Now arrays on affordable housing rooftops in Northern Manhattan.