Human Adaptation

This concept envisions utilizing adaptable infrastructure, and technological solutions to maintain the remaining people of the Rockaways and their descendants, in response to 8-10 feet sea level rise on the Peninsula by 2100. We envision the retrofitting of some of the currently existing housing, commercial, and transportation infrastructure. Specifically looking at housing opportunities as the primary need to accommodate residents who would decide against relocation, out of fear of forced displacement. We envision salvaging high rise residential developments, with four and above floor levels to rehouse vulnerable residents on the lower floors. Residents who choose to remain on the island would  be given priority for the supply of new housing coming into the area. New opportunities will be introduced for housing infrastructure off the peninsula through densified housing typologies on higher ground elevated areas such as Far Rockaway and Floyd Bennett Field, to safely evacuate and rehouse vulnerable low income housing residents and other economically vulnerable population groups. Again, out of the total population choosing to remain in the community. We can not fully estimate the percentage of residents that will choose to relocate, but can provide transparent education to guide decision making towards relocation. Social spaces would be adapted above water levels proximate to or within new developments to meet the daily needs for goods and services, as well as recreational opportunities through aquatic based transportation for residents who choose to remain in the community. Community guided decision making would influence actions to demolish or preserve traditional infrastructure for cultural heritage remembrance, and tourism. Structures will be restricted on the Bay Area of the Peninsula to protect from shifting and rising tides. This new environment will be driven by heavy community participation and leadership through The Citizens Science Research & Study Center. It will be an immediate mitigation strategy, serving as a critical center for advocacy towards increased funding and policy changes for development, ecological maintenance, and social services into the final transition phase. 



Public Housing & Subsidized Units

We propose the demolition and/or radical adaptation of existing public housing or otherwise subsidized structures that were poorly designed as part of the 1950s Moses era urban renewal design projects , to invest in modern and sustainable, and just living structures on elevated ground. Currently, the number of public housing and subsidized units recorded in the inundation zone by 2100 total to 31,993 units out of 84% of subsidies expiring by 2060. (Refer to the Appendix for further details on affected units.)


We envision salvaging buildings containing a minimum of four floors, which totals to 11,774 residential units, 201 buildings for retrofits, while demolishing housing with a maximum level of three floor levels (see appendix). Which would be unsuitable for retrofits in the 10ft level inundation zone. NYCHA’s Ocean Bay Bayside Apartments would be one of the targeted developments for retrofits. Substandard and deficient housing, threatening the safety and health of residents such as units with high levels of lead would also fall within the criteria for renovation.

The salvaged units for retrofits would maintain the upper levels for residential use, and re- purposing the lower levels at risk to water surge on elevated structures or for commercial use with barge infrastructure docked at the base level. Buildings to be retrofitted with dry floodproofing through sealing of spaces and barrier systems to prevent from entering, floodwalls, ramps above the level of sea level rise, pedestrian staircase, overhead building water catchment systems, and floodproofing of basements and inhabitable floors (see appendix). This visual also represents potential commercial and retail opportunities that could be docked at lower, and at elevated portions proximate to retrofitted and new housing developments. Renewed Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) programs can be an avenue to fund the retrofits, specifically targeting these units in vulnerable coastal flooding areas “leveraging public and private debt in order to re-invest in public housing stock. Low to middle income subsidies would be renewed for existing residents to have the choice between the retrofitted housing structures or new housing options made available within the greater Jamaica Bay region. Community organizations such the Ocean Bay Development Corporation, could take charge in providing the community with information on these actions. As well management and inclusion of equitable development of new housing developments.


Densified Housing Opportunities off the Peninsula

Creating less hostile living spaces in geographically appropriate settings in elevated areas such as Far Rockaway and other locations within the Jamaica Bay region, such as Floyd Bennett Field serve as another housing opportunity through densified mixed use buildings. With appropriate accommodations to meet the needs and services of the population with inclusive commercial, retail, and recreational amenities. Housing developments under the elevated A train line  could also be another reuse of existing infrastructure for housing accommodation.

Co-Housing & Adapted Housing Structures


  • Co-housing 

  • Low-Cost of construction and installation with adapted strategies for climate change

  • Climate resilient—flood resilient structures

In recent years, the concept of co-housing has been broadened to include a variety of shared spaces to fit various family structures while also retaining the shared space and communal living concept. Cohousing is a favorable alternative for single workers or those that have intergenerational, extended family structures. This includes a strategy for maximizing an environmentally friendly design and development, climate resiliency, clean, renewable energy, and reliable, affordable water systems. Co-housing is a unique way to realize the idea of a sustainable society and to contribute to affordable housing that fosters positive partnerships, social engagement, and sustainable living, resulting in the formation of a community. To meet the needs of potential tenants, the co-housing process will be built through a participatory process in the community design.


This would include ethnic, religious, and different racial backgrounds along with different income levels allowing for diversity, inclusivity and social cohesion.To empower the community, RISE could collaborate with community members to build capacity for a community-driven process. They could facilitate and utilize community expertise and leadership to train local community leaders to initiate and lead conversations on community transition processes for the future adaptation strategies. 

  1. RISE identifies families or individuals that would benefit from the co-housing model 

  2. RISE works with developers and community partners to identify potential and viable sites at the Rockaways to build co-housing structures

  3. Obtain lands through a Community Land Trust (CLT)  or Limited Equity Cooperative (LEC)

  4. RISE advocates for co-housing developments in the community

  5. RISE partners with housing advocacy and development groups to create co-housing developments

Community Spaces

This approach seeks to provide vulnerable residents: low income, immigrants, and families a variety of choices, to maintain their social networks. We also envision the development of public spaces adapted to sea level rise along the Bay side of the Rockaways, susceptible to less destructive water wave currents as opposed to the ocean side. These structures could resemble the floating community spaces designed  as the Nordhavn Islands, in Copenhagen referred to as an, “urban park designed on water”, with the communal structures above water also serving as floating classrooms for learning, complimentary to support the research & education opportunities as part of a future citizens science center. These classroom spaces could also be spatially designed to provide aquatic based recreation such as swimming and water based sports. 


 The construction of a traditionally constructed storm surge barrier wall option will be long and costly to develop and maintain over the long term to 2100 and beyond. Another viable option that could suffice in this scenario could be, the use of natural buffers through the management of the wetland portion on the bayside, via the existing salt marshes to absorb rising seas in the case example of the San Pablo Bay Wildlife Refuge in San Francisco.

Protective Barrier Opportunities

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Source: The Natural Resources Defense Council

Steps for implementation:

Spring Studio Deliverable-7.png

Retail Leakage in the Rockaways Today:

Currently, there is a retail leakage in the Rockaways, where residents are spending money on goods and services outside of the community across varying industries. Currently $502 million dollars are spent yearly by residents outside of the neighborhood. Goods and services that will be necessary to support residents living and working in these areas will include top employment sectors current to the community such as: health care support, retail trade, food services, professional scientific tech, finance and insurance, information, administrative, and educational services.

Source: Pratt Managed Retreat Studio, Spring 2021


Source: Pratt Managed Retreat Studio, Spring 2021

Supporting Workforce Development

& Entrepreneurship

Usage of technology, such as website platforms can support workforce development by connecting residents to social resources like WIC, Snap, childcare, rental assistance, and medicaid. Technology can support the alleviation of time, by centralizing social services to incentivize residents to pursue available training opportunities
. Technological mediums such as computers, cellphones, and tablets can better inform planning & policy decisions via data capture, through personalized resident profiles on a singular platform. Mental health providers and services will be critical within the health support sector, to support residents throughout all steps of the transition from a land based community to a new water adapted society.

Rockaways Citizens Science & Research Center

 A citizens science research and study center would serve as an appropriate industry, to complement the geographic location of the area. It would also support and expand the current work of the Rockaway Initiative for Sustainability and Equity, within the community towards environmental education. The center could serve as an intergenerational study and play area, providing new employment opportunities at varied skilled levels to support climate research and inter-generational recreation. It would serve as an immediate mitigation strategy , providing education and intervention avenues to enable the present population and their descendants to be active participants in the effort. Inclusive of residents  from low income groups , to empower their voice as community members in decision making.


Source: : Floating Barge Classroom, Inhabitat, 2016

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Source: Pratt Managed Retreat Studio, Spring 2021


Source: Pratt Managed Retreat Studio, Spring 2021

The center could leverage capital funding and environmental policy change to the region, eventually serving as a successful coastal community case study. This initiative would be launched immediately to best prepare the descendants and children of the rockaways for these opportunities, beginning immediately through education and economic support initiatives. This would ensure the center is staffed and managed to the maximum extent possible by those that presently reside in the community, and inherited by the future generations. An opportunity area for wealth building to break the cycle of income disparity for the area residents, and their offspring; perhaps as a community owned citizen science cooperative, or enterprise. While vulnerable residents will be targeted for these benefits, reparations from this enterprise would also be apportioned to indigenous descendants of the Rockaways. Wealthier residents within Breezy Point would be invited into the conversation of the adaptation and retrofitting the community, with the choice to participate in emerging community enterprises such as the citizens science center. The early work of the center would employ social cohesion interventions through education and programming, to best employ a joint cooperative or enterprise. Floating Barge Structures could also serve as a spatial opportunity area for the Citizen Science Center, and independent retail & commercial infrastructure unattached to the mixed use building typologies. This mobile barge structure would be best docked within the bayside coastal area of the peninsula, upwards towards the elevated areas near Far Rockaway. Other satellite centers could also be employed towards elevated territory near Floyd Bennett Field. Proximity to these sites would provide residents and visitors with the opportunity to lodge in the newly retrofitted and developed co-housing units near these study, and research classrooms.



Human activities have heavily impacted the coastal ecosystems that have led to sea level rise and other climate related changes. It is imperative to allow the development of strategies for mitigation and propose a future where humans live in harmony with the ecological aspects. This essentially allows the communities to connect with the indigenous roots that seek not to disrupt the ecosystem but to adapt strategies that allow harmonious coexistence. To achieve stable and sustainable environments, sustainably manage and preserve aquatic and coastal habitats and prevent major negative impacts, including by improving their durability and taking steps for their conservation. This can be prioritized through investments in green technology, infrastructure, transportation, and waste management strategies, by making public investments in research and development. Ensure that communities have access to relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature. Allow and advocate for the growth of the Citizen Science Center as a regenerative technology devoted to ecological research and development, essentially allowing for collaboration and accommodation of satellite campuses where universities, specializing in oceanography and ecology, could potentially engage in sharing experiences and research work responding to climate change. This allows for potential green job opportunities, paving the pathway for sustainable and inclusive growth. Mitigation strategies by substantially reducing waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse. 


Barrier islands and marshlands are imperative ecological systems at the Rockaways. Scenario 3 envisions incorporating natural barrier systems like sand dunes to protect the area from storm surges, andthe marshland from future sea level rise. The scenario would continue to support the The Greater Rockaway Community & Shoreline Enhancement Plan focused on the restoration of the dunes along the Atlantic shoreline of the Rockaway peninsula, allowing for the protection of biodiversity. 






 Source: Abadi, Mark. Business Insider. 2018

A trackless tram system would also be appropriate for public mobility and transportation of industry related goods and services to meet the retained population of residents , by linking either tram or tramway option via connecting track routes throughout the peninsula and linking to the Jamaica Bay region as a whole. As well as adding more public and personal transit options for travel across and out of the region, via water based transportation options: personal water bikes, and water vehicles , water taxis and buses.

Water Taxis currently exist today across major cities in the U.S. providing opportunities for recreation and transit. NYC water taxis that currently operate are designed with low emissions engines and engineers parts sustainable for water quality. They are also capable of providing travel for 149 passengers at a time and handicap accessible.


 Source: NY Water Taxi. Retrieved 2021

We envision supporting the elevated infrastructure of the A train , and the S shuttle via elevated or aerial tramways. Existing tramways today, such as the well known Roosevelt Island connecting tramway provides transit options 250 and fifty feet above ground level,  to and from the island equivalent to the price of an average subway fare.


Personal mobility options around the inner bayside of the peninsula and to locations outside of the region can include, personal water bikes and automobiles funded heavily by government allocations and reparations to make acquiring these personal vehicles accessible to the diverse income demographics of residents. Amendments to America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2019, specifically targeting adaptation alternatives for coastal communities, serve as an example of proposed legislation for improving future transportation conditions.

 Source:, BayCycle Bike, 2013.



 Culture seeks to preserve the nostalgic history of the Rockaways such as the historic bungalow district above sea level, while adapting to a new way of daily routines and practices for residents choosing to remain in the region, and visitors to the area. While not all infrastructural and traditional spatial elements will be available to residents as they exist in the year 2021, 2100 seeks to reach a visionary end goal where residents have elected to preserve certain structures above inundation. While innovating ideas for the design and implementation of adaptable infrastructure to meet the recreational news of the once beach and boardwalk community.The houses along the Beach Bungalow Historic District could be retrofitted above water levels, as a cultural heritage and tourism site.  These sites could be potentially owned by the community members through a community land trust, to ensure long term affordability and access to the heritage sites.

The action of retrofitting and preserving the bungalows, public housing and other  salvageable housing on the peninsula enables them to function with rising sea levels and increased heat for residential retention. Public housing that has undergone significant reconstruction can be seen in French case study examples, to expand social housing opportunities meant to retain low to middle income residents.

A community ownership model such as a community land trust, could help to secure long term community ownership of these historic assets, while ensuring affordable public access. Retrofitting Strategies could include freeboard, base flood elevation and design flood elevation, providing space buffers between flood levels and the inhabitable floor. Overwater bungalows or villas designed above supporting stilt structures, similar to adaptations in other coastal destinations dependent on a tourism economy can provide opportunities for lodging among other housing options, introduced earlier whilst enforcing sustainability measures. The Maldives serve as one case study example, where the country has adopted strategies to adapt the country to climate change, whilst serving its tourism industry. These strategies include implemented eco themed programs and guidelines to incentivize visitor and resident awareness and participation alike, while in residence in the community

 Source: Wikimedia Publication. Rockaway Bungalows, Retrieved 2021.


The social and time sensitive issue of climate change undoubtedly creates intersecting opportunities and challenges. Decision making challenges: for residents who must make crucial life adjustment decisions. Challenges can involve resident participation to best understand the number of residents who decide to relocate, secondary community consensus concerning preservation of physical and cultural assets.  As well as funding for relocation efforts, compensation for lost housing stock, reparations to vulnerable groups who lacked awareness of the future dangers when deciding to reside in a coastal community. As well as the assurance of policies, and public/private funding streams to finance adaptation solutions, into a new society.  Scenario 3, with equitable investments and policy backing, can  support opportunities for a well adapted community through technological advancements  to meet sea level rise challenges. Local employment opportunities can be made available across the adaptation timeline. First through remodeling and demolition projects, then through the research and recreation industry sector of the Citizens Science Center among other food, health, financial, and social service industries existing in the community today necessary to retain the existing population.

  • Community & Cultural Preservation

  • Climate Research

  • Advanced Tech Society

  • Local Employment & Green Jobs

  • Industry Development

  • Adapted Human Habitation & Recreation

  • Lost Housing

  • Reparations

  • Community Involvement & Participation

  • Leveraged Public/Private Funding

  • Human Adaptation to this New Society





Phase One


Building Community Dialogue

  • Creation of a bipoc/immigrant/LGQBTQ+ /intergenerational community engagement task force, prioritized towards providing resources and education, and facilitating dialogue with vulnerable residents. The task force would encourage public housing residents to discuss their concerns, and desired realities of the percentage of the population willing to adapt or retreat. 

  • Increase & expand mental health services, and engage youth counseling programs to create pathways to mental health counseling as a professional career opportunity.

  • Policy Advocation work begins with introduction of the Citizens Science Research & Study Center: to stop development on ecologically vulnerable sites. Climate research and community learning, advocating through funding and policy - allows for a bottom up approach for comprehensive planning. By using tools to engage the community in creating a cultural asset mapping of their physical and ephemeral spaces, values, and cultural practices. The center also manages ecological programs like the RISE Dune Enhancement Program, to carry out comprehensive audits of existing ecology of the peninsula -- in order to evaluate what existing assets can be leveraged at scale, and what other ecology can be introduced. Also researching spatial opportunities for housing and the best sustainable materials for housing, transportation infrastructure adaptation.