A Managed Participatory Approach to Community Resiliency: A Case Study of New York State's Response to Extreme Weather Events
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Policymakers in New York State have chosen to implement a “managed participatory” approach as part of the State’s recovery from Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee—and its efforts to reduce the State’s vulnerability to future disasters through climate change adaptation. In response to these disasters, policymakers initiated the NY Rising Community Reconstruction (NYRCR) Program, which is assisting 124 disaster-affected communities to develop and implement comprehensive reconstruction and resiliency plans through a unique combination of bottom-up community participation and State-provided facilitation, technical expertise and significant financial support. The locality-focused approach, buttressed by rigorous analysis and facilitation of innovative and best practice solutions, is unprecedented in its scale and scope, consequential nature of the plans, and methodology.
This paper presents the case of this managed participatory approach to disaster recovery and climate change adaptation. It first contextualizes the NYRCR Program, comparing it to other programs involved with delegation of recovery and resiliency responsibilities to regional entities, local governments, and other stakeholders (e.g. the Gulf of Mexico region following Hurricane Katrina). It then discusses the types of horizontal (among community stakeholders) and vertical (between political institutions and local communities) engagement mechanisms that were employed, providing evidence in support of such mechanisms as tools to optimize disaster recovery and climate change adaptation at the community level. It establishes criteria (e.g. administration, timing, effectiveness of proposed solutions, stakeholder networks, scalability, replicability, etc.) to measure the “strength” of the community reconstruction plans. Lastly, since the implementation phase is nascent, the paper proposes a number of measurement criteria that can be used to quantify the ongoing effects on local communities’ future economic, environmental, and social resiliency referenced by the literature (e.g. Cutter et al., 2008 & 2010) regarding disaster resilience at the community level. For instance, changes in homeownership rates, employment opportunities, retention of local employment, and sector dependency can be used as proxies for economic resilience. Environmental resilience may be measured as changes in impervious surface due to planned coastal defense structures, green area ratios, and reduced risk through relocation. Social resilience improvements can be quantified as risk awareness (number of training/information sessions), change in access to emergency services, and place attachment. This research then provides recommended policy frameworks to improve resiliency through managed participation.