What is Managed Retreat?

When done correctly, managed retreat is the voluntary movement and transition of people and ecosystems away from vulnerable coastal areas. The aim of managed retreat is to proactively move people, structures, and infrastructure out of harm’s way before disasters or other climate incidents occur to avoid the loss of homes or lives. Managed retreat also aims to maximize benefits and minimize costs for communities and ecosystems.

 
 

Why is Managed Retreat so Taboo? 

It is unlikely to ever hear a U.S. government agency use the term “managed retreat" when talking about disaster mitigation or relief because there are very few government initiatives, plans, or programs in the United States to subsidize communities and homeowners want to take preventive measures to relocate before disaster strikes, instead limited programs for only homeowners that only kick in post disaster. Vulnerable residents have been relocated for decades through post-storm property buyout programs. Generally, in the wake of a declared disaster, local governments elect to offer homeowners with damaged properties the pre-disaster value of their home to skip the rebuilding process and instead, move to safer ground. It is a tough topic that most politicians do not want to touch.  President Biden's $2 trillion Infrastructure Plan announced in early 2021 barely addresses the need for managed retreat, with only one sentence — the American Jobs Plan "will provide transition and relocation assistance to support community-led transitions for the most vulnerable tribal communities.” 

 

Managed Retreat in the Rockaways

By 2100, there is a high likely hood that climate change will cause the sea levels to rise by 10 feet. With this level of sea inundation,  the Rockaway Peninsula will be mostly underwater. This level of sea rise will render the neighborhoods of Hammels, Arverne, and Edgemere uninhabitable for the nearly 50,000 people who currently call it home. The Scenarios presented attempt to break the mold on the U.S. view of managed retreat to provide costal community resilience and shift towards the proactive and holistic movement and transition of people.

All three Scenarios envision a nearly complete and total retreat from the Rockways— meaning the end of permanent human habitation on the peninsula. For these communities, the slow inundation of their homes, the increased threat of storm surge and flooding, and the move away from the peninsula will become a reality in the next several decades. We recognize that these Scenarios will be a cold comfort to the 50,000 thousand people in Hammels, Arverne, and Edgemere, and 125,000 people across the whole peninsula who will have to abandon their homes, communities, and ways of life. We believe it is our responsibility to be honest and straightforward about this potential when describing a full managed retreat, even if a reduced human presence does endure in some form on the peninsula.

The end of permanent habitation on the peninsula does not have to mean the end of all human presence: the detached barrier islands, wetlands, and tidal shoals of the future Rockaways can be a productive and vital center of citizen science, ecology, and repatriation of indigenous territory. While these uses hold the potential of new green jobs and opportunities to live up to the goals of the environmental justice movement. These various opportunities are explored in the three future possible Scenarios presented through out this website.

 

Equitable Policy Recommendations

State related policy proposals that can be amended to include mid to long term assistance and reparations for coastal residents vulnerable to climate change. As well as to provide equitable justice for marginalized groups disadvantaged by neglect,  and disinvestment in socio-environmental and socio-economic resources. Through, investments in ongoing research, education, and job opportunities.

Focus on those that need assistance the most first

 

Equitable distribution of funds for relocation should be allocated, first to families and populations that have been historically underrepresented or burdened by unsafe and death threatening  environmental conditions for decades. As well as to  indigenous peoples, and their descendants  historically removed from land ownership in the Rockaways. Monetary reparations, and ownership in the new community should be made available to these groups as an avenue to generate long term generational wealth. These wealth building opportunities can emerge from innovative industry developments of each visionary scenario. Residents can have an ownership  and stake via cooperatives and enterprises that allow members equal ownership.

 

Community Funding for Research & Education

 

Investments should be allocated early on to ongoing research and educational opportunities, that allow residents, community advocates, and other stakeholders to begin the work to strategize towards interventions for the changing environment. Ongoing research and education through a Citizens Science Research & Study Center, will provide a lifetime of research innovation and interventions for coastal communities across the globe.

Equitable distribution of funds for relocation - Local, small business owners

Equally as important the re-housing of residents are the relocation or replacement of jobs and services. Particularly for small business owners, whose investment in the community is generally not only limited to their business but also their home as well. And for the local residents who rely on the accessibility and services of local business, maintaining these connections are critical to the cohesion and local economy of a community. Managed retreat policy needs to prioritize and protect these community assets by funding the successful relocation of small and local displaced businesses. 

 

Health and Wellbeing Policy

Comprehensive emotional, psychological and wellness support services starting now

Climate change is an existential issue and the human response is often a spectrum of emotions. Climate grief can take the form of denial, rationalization, and discrediting science. It can evolve to anger, bargaining, depression and then ultimately climate chaos where the full consequences are felt and reactionary, ineffective decisions are made. However, if planned in advance, with ample emotional and psychological support services, this climate grief can instead blossom into acceptance. With acceptance comes engagement, self-care, initiating change, community connection and action, and effective policy/systemic change. In this latter scenario, human interaction and acceptance with climate change can result in a eco-harmonious life if cities and communities are intentional with their engagement and mental health services.  

 

Jobs/Economy Policy

Community Reinvestment Act 

  • Federal law that requires commercial banks and saving associations to meet the needs of low to moderate income neighborhoods.

  • Supports the credit needs of low to moderate income communities.

Green New Deal 

  • Provides an  avenue to secure economic opportunities for residents through high wage jobs, in sustainable industries sensitive to climate change. 

  • Ensures protections on infrastructure development actions to address climate impacts

  • Supports the future elimination of greenhouse gas emissions, and investment towards renewable energy sources

Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act 

  • New York State climate law that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and a future of carbon climate neutrality

  • Provides equitable labor protections and job standards for worker

 

Bottom Up Planning

Climate change is not going to affect every community equally; some communities, in particular communities of color and low income communities, will experience disproportionate impacts. Cities and vulnerable regions around the world need to center environmental and climate justice in their current and future responses to the proliferation of climate change. For New York City, this includes planning in advance, through established citywide goals of sustainability and equity, to support communities that are disproportionately impacted. The City needs an established, proactive plan to support and invest in those first (and subsequent) communities that will need to retreat from their homes. 

 

The proposed Comprehensive Plan is, in part, a response to the City’s inefficient planning process. It questions whether the City can equitably respond to crises, adapt, and grow. As our existential challenges of climate change increasingly fall solely on the most vulnerable communities, our City’s framework needs to adopt a new approach that centers equity and inclusion in the planning process--so that no one is left to deal with the effects of climate change on their own. 

Ecology Policy

 

Restore Mother Nature Bond Act 

  • Proposed New York State policy focused towards fighting climate change, specifically targeting communities residing in vulnerable environmental areas. It seeks to invest in the well being of vulnerable residents and the surrounding ecological community at risk.

Community Engagement

 

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Housing

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Transit

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Where will people go

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