Strategies for Flood Resilience in Queens: 2017 Community Planning Workshop

Hurricane Sandy drew much-needed attention to the vulnerability of New York City. That wake-up call generated urgency to act and the political will to turn the city toward a more flood-resilient state of mind. It doesn’t take a superstorm to wreak havoc on many of the city's lowest-lying neighborhoods.

One need only ask residents of Howard Beach — location of the 2017 AICP Community Planning Workshop — to understand.

The neighborhood in Queens, adjacent to JFK International Airport, connects to Jamaica Bay. Flooding events often come with little to no warning in the Bayfront community. Just last February, a surprise flood approached near-Sandy levels.

Area residents talk about the constant need to figure out where to park their cars in the fear that they may get suddenly inundated by tidal flooding. How much rain/snow have we had recently? Are winds pushing more water into the bay? Is it high tide? Can our sewer infrastructure handle this storm? How fast is sea level rising?

No matter what the contributing factors may be, everyone knows the water will return, and they’re looking for solutions beyond large costly infrastructure projects.

This May, NPC17 will create a temporary nerve center of planning professionals. The annual cluster of knowledge and experience is an opportunity to produce something meaningful, which is why every year, APA’s professional institute, AICP, organizes the Community Planning Workshop in the host city.

The annual workshop provides an opportunity for planners from around the country and abroad attending NPC to not just see and learn about a place, but also a chance to roll up one’s sleeves, contribute to a community’s planning process in real time, and leave a lasting impact on its future.  

This year, APA is partnering with the Institute for Building Technology and Safety (IBTS) to focus on the recurrent flooding challenges in Howard Beach. IBTS knows the community well because it managed much of the post-Sandy recovery efforts.

“IBTS welcomes the opportunity to work together with APA and its members to address the national stormwater management challenge facing communities small and large across the nation," said Blake Ratcliff, IBTS’s director of economic development and disaster recovery. "By facilitating the 2017 workshop, we hope to foster dialogue that will drive water quality innovation in one of the world’s greatest cities and identify community engagement approaches that can be implemented countrywide.”

Workshop organizing is in full motion with representatives from the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (who lives in Howard Beach), and neighborhood association leaders all at the table with APA and IBTS. Organizers are developing a workshop agenda with the aim of a solutions-oriented collaboration between experienced planners and local stakeholders.

As Tom Womeldurf, AICP, IBTS’s director of federal programs stated: ”Planners are uniquely positioned to work with stakeholders at the local, state, and federal level to create alignment between environmental, municipal, and development issues and priorities. The workshop in Howard Beach will create a valuable forum for planners to engage with community leaders and residents, New York public officials, and subject matter experts from across the country.”

Questions? Email

Top image: Howard Beach after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Photo by Flickr user Pamela Andrade (CC BY 2.0).

About the Author
Ryan Scherzinger is APA's professional practice programs manager.

January 31, 2017

By Ryan Scherzinger, AICP