Recovery, Adaptation, Mitigation and Planning

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RAMP — Recovery, Adaptation, Mitigation and Planning, a post-Sandy initiative of Pratt Institute Programs for Sustainable Planning and Development, is a suite of studios, classes and public programs that works closely with community partners to address issues of recovery, sustainability and resilience in the face of a changing climate.

It is essential to develop the capacity and delivery system to assist diverse communities and businesses in their recovery from the impacts of Sandy and to strengthen their resilience to face future storms by enabling them to adapt to the inevitability of climate change. Equally important is the need to build their capacity to undertake the sustained mitigation actions necessary to reduce concentrations of greenhouse gases. The city and the country can no longer afford to engage in planning policies that are either predicated on risk denial or based on short term fixes — climate change and rising sea levels and their impact on the pattern of development in the city must be addressed by a sustained, holistic and synergistic approach to recovery and post-recovery efforts. Lessons from a diverse, dense island city like New York will be instructive for municipalities elsewhere.

Above: Ron Shiffman—co-founder of the Pratt Center for Community Development

Pratt Institute Programs for Sustainable Planning & Development is an alliance of four programs with a shared value placed on urban sustainability defined by the “triple bottom line” of environment, equity and economy: City & Regional Planning, Environmental Systems Management, Construction & Facilities Management and Historic Preservation. Each of the four graduate programs maintains its independence, degree, and depth of study. Yet with the advice of Coordinators and Chairs, students can move between the four programs, with the further option to follow set tracks for specialized or multifaceted studies. Studios bring together students from all four graduate programs for interdisciplinary teamwork.

RAMP: Recovery, Adaptation, Mitigation & Planning

Hurricane Sandy, which hit the New York City area on October 29, 2012, directly affected a wide variety of diverse social, economic and physical communities along the New York / New Jersey/ Connecticut coastline. Many places affected are areas inhabited by low- and moderate-income families, including immigrant and non-immigrant, White, Latino and Black residents, as well as small businesses. It is essential to develop the capacity and delivery system to assist these diverse communities and businesses in their recovery from the impacts of Hurricane Sandy and to strengthen their resilience to face future storms by developing adaptation strategies to the challenges of climate change. The storm did not discriminate but how we recover and adapt to the threat of climate change and sea level rise is dependent on a variety of social and economic factors that put communities of color and low income at a distinct disadvantage. It is therefore important to build the capacity of these communities to undertake the sustained mitigation actions necessary to reduce concentrations of greenhouse gases. The city and the country can no longer afford to engage in planning policies that are either predicated on risk denial or based on short-term fixes. Nor can city, state and federal entities exclude the active engagement of communities as partners in finding and implementing solutions. These efforts — recovery, adaptation, mitigation and planning — taken together comprise RAMP. Local partnerships are particularly important to an understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities that low-income communities and communities of color may have which middle class and affluent communities may not. Climate change and rising sea levels and their impact require that we rethink the pattern of development using a sustained, holistic and synergistic approach to recovery and post-recovery efforts. Urban communities around the country can learn from the approaches we undertake in the diverse, dense coastal city of New York.

 

Community residents must be the foundation of any resiliency strategy. They are part of the team of “first responders” in their neighborhoods and, as such, building their capacity to respond to disasters is critical. Also, as experts on their communities, and the ones for whom resiliency is most directly relevant, they are central to any planning initiatives related to their communities to prevent future disasters. This is particularly important in low- and moderate-income areas and in communities of color where issues of race and economic status have too often led to exclusion and isolation in planning and decision-making. By including these communities we improve the innovation and quality of resiliency planning, create more social capital, a critical element to resiliency, and ensure rooted and on-going buy-in, and a greater possibility of government and private sector accountability in adaptation, mitigation and resiliency.  The Pratt Programs for Sustainable Planning and Development (PSPD) has a fifty-year history of working with community-based organizations committed to social, economic and environmental justice. The Center for Social Inclusion has ten years of experience in grassroots engagement and bridge building for understanding the unique structural impediments low-income communities of color face in transforming inequities and in developing collective, strategic processes for policy solutions that address them. Pratt will work closely with the Center for Social Inclusion, as well as with the NYC-Environmental Justice Alliance and other local and citywide organizations and educational institutions, to:
  1. Develop curricula for workshops and courses on the interrelated issues of Recovery, Adaptation, Mitigation and Planning (RAMP);
  2. Increase the capacity of communities to understand and engage in resiliency, adaptation and mitigation planning and policies;
  3. Engage planning, architecture and other professionals in supporting post-Hurricane Sandy rebuilding in low-income and communities of color;
  4. Document the work; and
  5. Share curricula and lessons learned that emerge from RAMP with other local governments, educational institutions, community-based, environmental and policy organizations so that they may learn from and engage in similar efforts.

RAMP aims to develop community capacity while also developing the professionals, including architecture and urban planning students, and those continuing in these professions, to create strategies and skills to support community-scale innovation.

In association with RAMP, Pratt Institute’s Spatial Analysis and Visualization Initiative (SAVI) is providing data-driven support services to areas impacted by Sandy and vulnerable to the vagaries of climate change. The partnership will democratize access to first-hand information addressing the issues and solutions to urban climate change. SAVI is a Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-centered initiative that aims to create a “commons” for practice-based learning accessible to Pratt students and faculty in multiple departments (planning, sustainability, communications, architecture, etc.) and to community-based organizations. GIS has caused a revolution in the collection, organization, analysis and presentation of data. GIS systems allow information to be collected in data form, visualized in spatial form, analyzed and layered in map and ‘infographic’ forms. GIS has the power to inform diverse networks of stakeholders — decision makers, municipal agencies, researchers, artists, environmental advocates, community and civic organizations — to understand and visualize complex spatial relationships. The issue is no longer how great GIS technology is, but who has access to it and at what cost in money and effort. SAVI is working with RAMP in relation to climate change and environmental justice issues.

SAVI provides communities with critically needed information while at the same time providing instruction to students with a cohesive and cutting edge curriculum. Working with SAVI, community-based organizations and individuals will be able to efficiently document existing conditions of urban areas, more meaningfully contribute to policy discussions, and create their own visions for improving quality-of-life and sustainability.

RAMP