Author:Leigh Graham (John Jay College of Criminal Justice)
Paper short abstract:
Analysis of 2 flood-prone NYC districts compares low-income community organizing for climate resilience after Superstorm Sandy. Uneven development and residents’ varied relationships to coastal living influenced flooding as call to activism on the Lower East Side, Manhattan and in Rockaway, Queens.
Paper long abstract:
This paper presents empirical research conducted in two of the most flood-prone districts in NYC - the Lower East Side, a gentrifying neighborhood in Manhattan, and Rockaway, a socio-spatially isolated neighborhood in Queens. We investigate community organizing of low-income residents for climate resilience in a post-disaster context, after Superstorm Sandy. Results show that both the operationalization of resilience and the community capacity to organize for the improved resilience of low-income residents are strongly influenced by pre-existing urban development dynamics and civic infrastructure - the socio-spatial networks of community-based organizations - in each neighborhood. The Lower East Side, with its long history of community activism and awareness of gentrification threats, was better able to mobilize broadly and collectively around resilience needs while the more socio-spatially isolated neighborhoods on the Rockaway peninsula were more constrained. Furthermore, in Rockaway, residents evoke a varied but widespread sense of living in delicate balance with the water. As such, Sandy's impact as a "focusing event" for climate adaptation is dampened, whereas activists on the Lower East Side saw "a flood" as a "wake-up call" for climate change organizing.
On unstable water and its metaphors: experiencing, narrating, and contesting catastrophic hydrologies