Short Paper , , , ,

How Flood Risk and Justice Combine in Costal Cities: A Mix-Method Approach for East Harlem (New York City)

Veronica Olivotto
Milano School of Policy, Management and the Environment
Urban Systems Lab 2

The New School

Pablo Herreros-Cantis
Urban Systems Lab 2
The New School

For decades the Environmental Justice (EJ) literature has studied the connection between race and proximity to toxic facilities in cities. This work is being leveraged and built upon to understand how justice and flood risk combine in coastal areas. One of the main issues however, is how to combine the insights from a spatial and quantitative approach of distributional justice with the more rich and intricate insights from qualitative understandings of procedural justice. In this short paper, we present findings from analyses in East Harlem, a Potential Environmental Justice Community (PEJC) due to its demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Using GIS, we map and compare tax lot area, total population, land uses and values exposed to FEMA’s floodplain of 2007 and the revised 2015 projections as well as differences between lots within and outside the 2015 floodplain. In the same way, we also track differences across eleven socio-economic indicators of vulnerability. We find some differences in industrial land uses exposed to the floodplains, which may be due to rezoning that took place in 2008. Statistically significant change in socio-vulnerability indicators are more acute in Census Block Group falling within the East Harlem floodplain. Questions arise about how historical patterns of urbanization and up-zoning in the floodplain may lead to people being more or less vulnerable. We attempt to explain and enrich the discussion by conducting in depth interviews with community groups and content analysis of relevant urban policy documents, following a procedural justice approach.