• Marlyn S. Martínez

Jane's Walk - The Future Sea Level in Lower Manhattan

Photo by siralbertus/Flickr CC

Have you ever heard about Jane Jacobs? I recently learned that her efforts as an activist were key in saving Washington Square Park and surrounding areas from being overtaken by the proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway. 2016 marks her 100th birthday and it was the perfect occasion to celebrate her life and accomplishments. From May 6th to 8th the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) joined other 180 cities to hold the festival Jane’s Walk. New Yorkers of all ages and interests were able to attend more than 200 walking tours to learn more about their city’s history.

Our friends from The City Atlas, a guide for sustainable living in New York City where I am currently an intern, partnered with MAS to offer the tour The Future Sea Level in Lower Manhattan. Andrea Cisneros, Karina Davila and I were invited to talk about the topic from the point of view of Miami, one US city that is already being affected by sea level rise. The three of us partnered up for our thesis project to investigate this topic and identify and develop ways for Miamians to adapt to their changing environment.

Richard Reiss from The City Atlas led the tour and explained in great detail how NYC will be affected by SLR and what is being done by the government together with scientists, geologists, urban planners, and citizens.

There was also time to talk about carbon fees and dividends, one of the solutions being proposed by the grassroots group Citizen’s Climate Lobby, who joined the group. The fees on carbon generating fossil fuels will be based on the amount of carbon each fuel generates when burned down and will be collected at the moment fossil fuels enter our economy - well, mine or port. A 100 percent of the fees collected will be divided and given to all American households equally every year. This policy is designed so that fees go up year after year causing citizens and businesses to prefer renewable energy sources eventually phasing out all or most fossil fuel use. This concept together with carbon trading had come up in our research and we are still trying to understand what they mean for SLR and Miami. Some climate activists prefer one over the other.

One of the main themes we wanted to leave our audience with was interdependence. Flooding and water intrusion are already daily threats for Miamians and this could be the reality for New York City in the future if solutions are not put in place. For that reason keeping our eyes on this lively tropical city is necessary. The learnings, opportunities and solutions that emerge in Miami will be valuable to coastal cities around the world as they build their adaptation plans.

We took the chance to survey and learn about the participants and their knowledge on sea level rise. We handed out cards for participants to answer questions on three main topics: awareness, responsibility, and interdependence.

Attendees mentioned Amsterdam and Seattle as examples of thriving and growing cities that created solutions to keep the water away. We wondered if those could be applied successfully in other cities. Someone else pointed out Miami’s experience and expertise dealing with hurricanes and New York’s with snowstorms. It was exactly these ideas of interdependence and cross pollination the main take we wanted to leave our audience with.



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