Reducing Our Risk

Organization: 
Fifth Avenue Committee, Inc.

Entry Overview

Fifth Avenue Committee, Inc. (FAC) is a 36 year-old community development corporation in South Brooklyn that advances economic and social justice by building vibrant and diverse communities where residents have genuine opportunities to achieve their goals and the power to shape the community’s future. Through direct assistance to small homeowners, displaced low-income workers and residents of public housing, FAC has been an active force in resiliency planning since Superstorm Sandy hit the coastal neighborhoods of Red Hook and Gowanus, Brooklyn. Immediately following Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012, FAC faced the question of what role a community development corporation with a social justice mission can play in providing assistance to the low-income residents of the hard-hit coastal communities of Red Hook and Gowanus. Subsequently, FAC worked with community partners in Red Hook through the Red Hook Coalition, which is a coalition of neighborhood-based community groups responding to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. Specifically, FAC provided permanent housing to 12 families displaced by the storm; we developed recovery plans with dozens of small, 1-4 family homeowners with support from the Local Initiatives Support Corporations (LISC-NYC) and the Brooklyn Community Foundation’s Recovery Fund; counseled dozens of homeowners at risk of foreclosure due to severe damage to their homes, helping them keep their homes; launched a social resiliency initiative for low-income public housing residents impacted by Hurricane Sandy by organizing NYCHA tenants around resiliency planning. Most recently, FAC launched Designing A Resilient & Equitable South Brooklyn (D.A.R.E.S). DARES is a community-based and public housing resident-led resiliency planning initiative focused on low-income New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents in Red Hook and Gowanus, Brooklyn. These two coastal communities in Brooklyn, NY are home to over 10,000 low-income residents. Both communities were severely impacted by Superstorm Sandy and bear significant ongoing physical and social resiliency needs. Through DARES, FAC is leading a team of community partners and technical assistance providers to develop an Implementation Plan to addresses the needs of these NYCHA communities with regard to resiliency planning and disaster preparedness. FAC’s community-based partners in DARES include: Red Hook Initiative, Families United for Racial & Economic Equality, and Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation. Community engagement and climate resiliency experts, the Pratt Center for Community Development and HR&A Advisors, will provide Technical Assistance to run the community led planning process and produce a comprehensive Implementation Plan that will increase social capital, cohesion and access to economic opportunities in Red Hook and Gowanus. NYCHA has also committed to participation in the planning process. The resulting Implementation Plan will engage public housing residents in broader resiliency planning efforts and facilitate their input on the direction of multimillion dollar NYCHA capital investments designated to mitigate risks in NYC public housing and ensure that our most vulnerable neighbors’ needs are addressed. This work is partly funded by a planning grant from The Kresge Foundation’s new Climate Resilience & Urban Opportunity Initiative, but the project requires additional funds to cover the full cost of planning and early implementation.

General Info
Ron
Zak
Email : 
rzak@fifthave.org
Organization Address: 
621 DeGraw Street
Brooklyn, New York 11217
United States
Problem
Population Impacted: 
10,000+
Hazard: 
Storm Surge
Identify the likelihood and frequency of this hazard : 
Severe and destructive weather events, like Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, have battered low-income NYC coastal communities with increasing frequency.
Explain how vulnerable the community is to this hazard: 
The devastation unleashed in by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 illuminated the fact that New York City’s most vulnerable residents are least able to adapt in a crisis that floods entire neighborhoods, shuts down electrical infrastructure, and cuts off access to vital services. This vulnerability extends to low-income communities as a whole and to public housing residents and their developments specifically.
List the potential affects of this hazard: 
More frequent superstorms and more powerful storm surges in South Brooklyn have already caused repeated collapses of the electrical infrastructure and failure of the water supply in public housing complexes.
Identify how sensitive the community is to these affects: 
Given the concentration of densely populated public housing in the NYC coastal communities – and the concentration of poverty within public housing – low-income families living in low-lying areas are especially vulnerable to the consequences of climate change.
Action
Preparedness Goal: 
FAC has launched Designing A Resilient & Equitable South Brooklyn - a community-based and public housing resident-led resiliency planning initiative focused on low-income NYC housing residents in Red Hook and Gowanus.
Implementing Actions: 

The DARES initiative is a collaboration between community partners FAC, Red Hook Initiative, Families United for Racial & Economic Equality and Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation. With Technical Assistance from the Pratt Center for Community Development and HR&A Advisors, and in partnership with the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA), the DARES team is currently developing an implementation plan that will be used to advise NYCHA and related public agencies on the resiliency needs of local low-income public housing residents. Through DARES, FAC is engaging public housing residents in broader resiliency planning efforts and will advocate for their engagement in the decisions around multimillion dollar NYCHA disaster preparedness investments that will mitigate risks in NYCHA housing and ensure that their most vulnerable residents' vital needs are addressed. Community engagement and climate resiliency experts, the Pratt Center for Community Development and HR&A Advisors, are providing technical assistance as we develop a community-led planning process and a comprehensive Implementation Plan to increase social capital, cohesion and access to economic opportunities in Red Hook and Gowanus. At the end of the planning period in September of 2015, the DARES Implementation Plan will include a range recommendations for specific actions to advance disaster preparedness in the dozens of NYCHA buildings in Red Hook and Gowanus.

Solution
Describe Your Solution: 

FAC is leading the DARES collaboration to develop an Implementation Plan by September 2015 to advise resiliency planning and disaster preparedness for NYCHA housing in Red Hook and Gowanus. We believe that successful, long-term solutions that reduce the risk from weather-related disasters and their impacts must include the voices of those most impacted by these disasters. FAC’s solution to reducing such risks centrally involves community organizing and public engagement in the resiliency planning processes that affect the low-income coastal communities of Red Hook and Gowanus. This approach places FAC and its community partners in the role of informing and engaging those most vulnerable in our community and synthesizing their views and input into broader resiliency planning strategies, the public processes around resiliency planning, and advocating for their needs as they relate to proper allocation of resources to minimize the impact of future climate change related impacts to low-income public housing, families and communities.

Results
Economic?: 

FAC’s work since Hurricane Sandy has been holistic and multi-pronged. Our work has resulted in connecting severely storm-impacted small homeowners with over $120,000 in emergency resources through such programs as NYC’s Build-it-Back Program and Mortgage Assistance Programs (MAP); saving dozens of homeowners from foreclosure; providing employment for as many as 20 Sandy-impacted families in their most critical months; and helping build social cohesion among low-income public housing residents grappling with the impacts of repeated storms..

Environmental?: 

FAC’s efforts have also involved working with the community and the US EPA around issues relating to the Superfunded Gowanus Canal. FAC organized low-income residents and facilitated their input into the public processes around EPA Superfunded communities. This resulted in the EPA adopting several of the recommendations put forward by our neighbors.

Social?: 

FAC’s efforts have helped build social cohesion in Red Hook and Gowanus, especially among public housing residents in their efforts to prepare for future weather-related disasters.

What were the negative or unintended impacts (if any) associated with implementing this solution? : 

None.

Replication/Scale
Return on Investment: How much did it cost to implement these activities? How do your results above compare to this investment?: 

Funding to address the needs of our storm-impacted neighborhoods included just over $500,000 in grant funding from a range of supporters. We calculate that this investment has resulted in savings of over $4,000,000 for local homeowners, residents and workers.

What are the main factors needed to successfully replicate this solution elsewhere?: 

Solutions based on community planning and civic engagement are different for different communities. But these approaches have in common that they rely on an effective coalition of trusted local community groups, government agencies and the public. The best possibility for replication of a community-based resiliency planning process involves local action in getting relevant government agencies to listen to public input; engaging proper expertise in community planning and broader scale, ongoing resiliency efforts.

Contest Info
Contest Name: 
Reducing Our Risk

Contest Partners

Contest Sponsors

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