Balancing Resilient Infrastructure and Public Access Along Vulnerable Waterfronts
How do we design and build infrastructure along vulnerable waterfronts that is resilient as well as welcoming and inclusive? That is a question critical for coastal communities in the Boston are and to cities around the United States.
Panelists from New York City, San Francisco, and Miami Beach discussed that topic at Boston Harbor Now’s Boston Harbor For All Summit in a panel moderated by Mia Mansfield, Director of Climate Adaption and Resilience at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The panel also included Nasser Brahim, the senior planner of climate risk and resiliency at Kleinfelder, who provided a Boston-based perspective.
Here is what each panelist had to say about what their cities are facing and what they are doing to balance resilient infrastructure and public access along vulnerable waterfronts:
- Heather Morgan, Sustainability & Risk Management Lead for Metro New York, AECOM: Battery Park City in lower Manhattan has instituted a robust response to the climate crisis and as part of that process, has had to deal with an “infrastructure Tetris” that includes the Battery Park Underpass, Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, MTA bus and subway tunnels, and utilities and storm sewage infrastructure as well as the vitally important social landscape. Morgan noted that with this project and similar resilient infrastructure projects, the most important aspects are empowerment of the clients, community, project partners, and agencies; the necessity of a transdisciplinary approach, where every component of the team has equal footing in the design dialogue; and the involvement of a transparent risk management process that builds trust between the client and the community.
- Lindy Lowe, Resilience Program Director, Port of San Francisco: The Port of San Francisco manages 7.5 miles of San Francisco’s shoreline that includes maritime commerce, critical public open spaces, businesses, an arena, and a ballpark, The area also welcomes over 24 million people each year. Lowe noted that it was important at the outset to create a vision of how resilient infrastructure would be implemented, so her team developed a vision of an equitable, sustainable and inspiring waterfront that included community, government, and stakeholder input. Lowe highlighted why this vision matters, echoing Morgan’s point that the reason that we do this work is for the people who rely on the waterfront, not for the assets. To that end, the Port of San Francisco has led a community engagement process to ensure that public input is built into every step of the process and has emphasized the need to shape a waterfront that is driven by social equity and environmental justice.
- Rogelio Madan, Chief of Community Planning and Sustainability, City of Miami Beach: The City of Miami Beach is part of the most vulnerable metropolitan region in the country when it comes to sea level rise, and it is predicted that the City may experience between 7 and 10 feet of sea level rise in the next 100 years. The basis of the City of Miami Beach’s sea level rise program includes raising streets, raising sea walls throughout the City, installing stormwater pumps and backflow preventers, and requiring buildings to be built higher. As a solution to sea level rise and a way to promote public space, the City of Miami Beach has focused heavily on co-benefits – creating beautiful parks that the public can enjoy, while simultaneously creating parks that contain features that help to protect Miami Beach from sea level rise.