On June 2nd, A Better City hosted a joint panel event with the Boston Green Ribbon Commission to hear from resiliency leaders in their respective fields about what they see as resilience priority actions and recommendations. These recommendations will be included in a set of resiliency recommendations for Boston’s next mayor to ensure we are ready to respond to federal infrastructure funds and state funds as they become available.
Kate Dineen, Executive Vice President, welcomed the audience of approximately 60 members and partners, followed by Yve Torrie, Director of Climate, Energy & Resilience, who introduced the event. As the City of Boston and its partners have worked diligently to understand Boston’s projected climate impacts, the neighborhoods that will be most affected, and have worked to develop plans for these neighborhoods, she said that many are now eager to move from planning to implementation.
Carl Spector, Commissioner of the Environment for the City of Boston, updated us on Boston’s resilience work, providing an overview of City-wide resilience project priorities. He started by mentioning two new appointees: Chief White Hammond and Sanjey Seth, Program Manager for Climate Ready Boston. He said there are four areas of resilience focus:
Dr. Atyia Martin, CEO & Founder, All Aces Inc., discussed strategies for centering environmental and climate justice in resilience recommendations, given the disproportionate impact on low-income and communities of color. All Aces supports organizations and people to be more resilient, to foster belonging, the humility to learn, and the hope to envision a more equitable future.
Dr. Martin said that one of the habits when discussing resilience is to focus on infrastructure, the economy, the environment, and the governance of this work. But one of the things we don’t often talk about is the people aspects of resilience even though it impacts everyone’s lives. The disproportionate burden of climate change on communities of color, poor communities, and other marginalized communities means we have to be very intentional about how to center racial equity and social justice in these discussions. This can lead to transformative opportunities in resilience.
Within Boston the demographic distribution shows high concentrations of low to no income communities, older adults and single parent households, people of color, and people with disabilities in the very communities impacted by the discriminatory practice of redlining. These are the same communities projected to be impacted by a disproportionate burden of climate challenges.
She then discussed targeted universalism as a tool that sets universal goals for all groups and uses targeted processes to achieve these goals. There are several opportunities within this process, the biggest opportunity being intentionality. For example, if we are talking about retrofitting buildings and know we do not have enough workers and businesses to meet that demand, by understanding the historical and disproportionate burden borne by many in our communities, we can invest in workforce development opportunities in these communities, can contract for equity, and ensure voices of people closest to the worst-felt impacts are centered in the planning of these. How we spend our money matters!
She said there are 4 E’s of public administration to ensure good governance: economy; efficiency; effectiveness; and equity (mandated as a responsibility of City administrators). Therefore, we cannot claim to be a resilient City if all of us do not have the ability to be resilient and thrive. Now is an opportunity for all of us to roll up our sleeves and recognize the opportunity before us to ensure that all residents in the City of Boston get an equitable return on their investments within the City.
Bud Ris, Senior Advisor, Boston Green Ribbon Commission then updated us on the GRC’s analysis of Boston’s priority projects based on close work with the City of Boston over the last 5 years on advancing Climate Ready Boston.
Bud started with some facts from the Climate Ready Boston report: 18,000 people along the Boston waterfront are at risk of flooding by 2030, and 80-85,000 people will be at risk come 2050. From the neighborhood plans, cost estimates of installing resilience measures in public realm/right of ways are: Charlestown - $33-62M; East Boston - $122-200M; Seaport - $521M-1B; Downtown - $189-315M, and Dorchester - $111-215M. This brings a total cost of $1-2B, although consultants think this figure should be doubled. There are 75-80 flood protection projects, about half of which are slated for completion by 2030 because of flood risks. He reiterated the immediate focus on East Boston and Fort Point Channel, and the collaboration with the Parks Department as described by Carl Spector. The costs above, do not include the protection of private buildings, but he said property owners and developers have moved towards taking flood protection very seriously, realizing that it is important to the market value of their buildings. He gave recent examples by Lendlease and Related Beal.
He continued by saying there are big questions remaining about prioritization and coordination across City agencies and the private sector, about how equity concerns will be prioritized, and about who will pay and what the basis will be for that decision. He ended by providing the following recommendations to Boston’s next Mayor:
Nick Iselin, General Manager of Development in the American region at Lendlease, provided an overview of the development community’s responses to the challenges and opportunities resulting from climate resilience planning.
Nick spoke about Clippership Wharf, a project on East Boston’s waterfront as an example of Lendlease’s strategy and approach to development. He said there is a large price tag for resilient development on the waterfront and developers typically bear these costs. He went on to say that it is key to think about other financing and partner opportunities. The key lessons from the Clippership development are:
Jill Valdés Horwood, Director of the Boston Waterfront Initiative at the Barr Foundation then responded to the panelists by saying that it was the first time she’d seen a variety of perspectives brought together around what needs to be done to move resiliency forward. She was glad to see that resilience has expanded to include social resilience, key to the Barr Foundation’s priorities. She went on to say that this is an opportunity for our harbor and waterfront city to take on this resilience challenge and learn from the Big Dig which also required a lot of people to come together with different perspectives and expertise. That project too seemed impossible and insurmountable. She said the Waterfront Initiative is ready to roll up their sleeves and be an active part in the solution.
Marc Margulies, Owner and Principal of Margulies Perruzzi Architects, also responded to the panelists. He said he is running a group known as the Wharf District which is a group of property owners who recognize they need to collaborate on solutions. They are endeavoring to create a plan where each individual property owner understands what they need to do to tie the waterfront together and create a barrier to protect the central artery, greenway, etc. As these are existing properties, they are running into regulatory challenges around creating the kind of barrier that will be needed. He advocated for public-private partnerships.
There was only time for one question: In the event of federal investments into the City of Boston's resilience initiatives, what specific projects or types of projects would be your top-tier priorities for immediate implementation and why?
John Cleveland, Executive Director of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, provided closing remarks. He echoed the sentiment of panelists and responders that now is the time to get on with this and reiterated the Big Dig and Harbor Clean Up projects. The risks and rewards of this project are just as high, and he left us with the need for persistence and collaboration.
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