Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Does New York City’s PlaNYC 2030 Adequately Address Climate Change Issues?

Official seal of New York City
Official seal of New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today we review a critique of New York’s much heralded action plan, published in 2005, to address the challenges facing that city from climate change. Using eight evaluating“concepts”, the author praises the city’s approach to physical aspects such as land, water and air and to a lesser extent, the proposed use of renewable energy, but criticizes the lack of public participation in the development and execution of the plan, especially at the local community level in an extremely multi-community and multi-ethnic urban area. 

Key Quotes:

  • Utopian Vision- a plan’s visionary and utopian aspects regarding future urban life and the city’s potential role in climate change mitigation.
  • Equity - used to evaluate a plan’s social aspects, including: environmental justice; public participation; and methods of addressing each community’s vulnerability to climate change
  • Uncertainty Management - actions taken to reduce and/or prevent risky events; …or actions taken to recover losses after a risky event
  • Natural Capital - the consumption and…the renewal of natural assets that are used for development, such as land, water, air, and open spaces.
  • Integrative Approach - the integrative framework for city planning and adaptive management under conditions of uncertainty, and the spectrum of collaboration that a plan proposes
  • Ecological Energy - how a plan addresses the energy sector and whether it proposes strategies to reduce energy consumption and to use new, alternative, and clean energy sources.
  • Ecological Economics - Cities that are committed to climate change mitigation and sustainability should stimulate markets for “green” products and services, promote environmentally friendly consumption, and contribute to urban economic development by creating a cleaner environment
  • Eco-Form - evaluates spatial planning, architecture, design, and the ecologically-desired form of the city and its components
“New York City already faces the probability of a “hundred year flood” once every 80 years. This could increase to once every 43 years by the 2020s and to once every 19 years by the 2050s”

“Climate change poses particular threats to the city’s infrastructure, in the form of: Increased summertime strain on materials; increased peak electricity loads in summer and reduced heating in winter; voltage fluctuations, equipment damage and service interruptions; increased demands on HVAC systems; transportation service disruption; increased street, basement and sewer flooding; reduction of water quality; inundation of low-lying areas and wetlands; increased structural damage and impaired operations; and increased need for emergency management procedures”

PlaNYC :
• suggests no mechanism or procedure for facilitating citizen participation in the planning process, and makes no mention of public participation in the City’s communities and neighborhoods.
• is a top-down bureaucratic initiative with little community involvement and “buy-in” and is not well integrated with the rest of city policy making
• does not address the climate change vulnerability matrix, i.e., how climate change could affect each neighborhood, with an emphasis on the specific environmental risks that exist in each neighborhood and that each neighborhood is likely to face in the future.
• PlaNYC does not effectively address issues of equity, such as social justice, diversity, race, and economic segregation. It also fails to address the issues facing vulnerable communities due to climate change.”

 “when planning for climate change, planners must not overlook any one of the eight concepts of assessment. The framework is not a mere collection of unrelated concepts. Rather, they are interconnected, with each concept playing a specific role in the evaluation and influencing the others.”

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