Waterfront Justice Project

Waterfront Justice Project


In 2010, NYC-EJA launched our Waterfront Justice Project, New York City’s first citywide community resiliency campaign.  When the City of New York initiated its overhaul of the Comprehensive Waterfront Plan (Vision 2020) in 2010, NYC-EJA began our advocacy campaign to convince the Bloomberg Administration to reform waterfront designations called Significant Maritime Industrial Areas, or SMIA’s.  SMIA’s are zones designed to encourage the clustering/concentration of heavy industrial and polluting infrastructure uses.  There are only six SMIA’s in the City – all classic “environmental justice” communities (i.e. – the South Bronx, Sunset Park, Red Hook, Newtown Creek, Brooklyn Navy Yard & North Shore of Staten Island) – predominantly low-income communities of color.  Development applications in SMIA’s are treated differently – and to a lower review standard  – than other waterfront areas, thereby easing the siting and clustering of polluting infrastructure.


NYC-EJA discovered the six SMIA’s are all in storm surge zones, and that the City of New York had not analyzed the cumulative contamination exposure risks associated with clusters of heavy industrial use in such vulnerable locations.  In collaboration with Pratt Institute, NYC-EJA prepared GIS maps showing the SMIA’s with storm surge zone overlays (see attached 2 of several maps.  Following months of public testimony and media education by NYC-EJA and its members and allies, Bloomberg Administration officials agreed to work with stakeholders on a reform agenda to increase climate adaptation and community resiliency strategies for SMIA community designations.  In their March 2011 announcement of Vision 2020, the City officially announced its intention to reform SMIA’s and address related community resiliency/climate adaptation issues.



Public testimony and press statements


NYC-EJA Waterfront Revitalization Plan Testimony


NYC-EJA’s Hurricane Sandy press statement:

Citywide Environmental Justice coalition calls on Mayor and Governor to protect low-income waterfront communities from potential toxic exposures during hurricane storm surges

NYC-EJA’s Hurricane Irene press statement:

Citywide Environmental Justice coalition calls on Mayor and Governor to protect low income waterfront communities from toxic exposures during future hurricane storm surges





Additional resources


. NYC Department of City Planning:

Vision 2020: NYC Comprehensive Waterfront Plan / NYC Waterfront Action Agenda (WAVES)



Sandy Regional Assembly Recovery Agenda

Recovery from the ground up: Strategies for community-based resiliency in New York and New Jersey

On January 26, 2013 nearly 200 participants representing over 40 community, environmental justice, labor and civic groups from neighborhoods most impacted by Superstorm Sandy (and most vulnerable to future storm surges) convened the Sandy Regional Assembly to strategize how government officials should implement a Sandy rebuilding program. See: NY1 News coverage of Sandy Regional Assembly January 26th 


 On Monday April 1, 2013, these groups from across the NY-NJ region presented their Sandy Regional Assembly Recovery Agenda – a mix of suggested capital projects and policy recommendations – to advance 3 goals:


1) Integrate regional rebuilding efforts with local resiliency priorities;
2) Strengthen vulnerable communities & reduce public health threats, and
3) Expand community-based climate change planning, disaster preparedness & response.


The Sandy Regional Agenda will be presented to the federal Sandy Rebuilding Task Force chaired by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, Governors Cuomo & Christie, and Mayor Bloomberg.


Sandy Regional Assembly Recovery Agenda in the news:


 . Fox 5 News:
Groups want more public input on storm rebuilding


 . NY1:
Community-based task force offers advice on hurricane recovery


 . City Limits:
A Grassroots Plan for Surviving Superstorms 


 . The New York World:
Rebuilding from the ground up 


 . WBAI Pacifica Radio 99.5FM:
A regional coalition demands a role in federal, state and city discussions over rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy 


 . Gotham Gazette:
Today’s Report: ‘Strategies for community-based resiliency in New York and New Jersey’


 . News 12 Long Island:
Sandy Regional Assembly recommends grassroots Recovery Agenda


 . Rooflines, The Shelterforce Blog. Published by The National Housing Institute
Recovery from the Grassroots


Colorlines.com, ‘Environmental Justice’ Soldiers On Without a King, Queen—or Major Dollars

‘Environmental Justice’ Soldiers On Without a King, Queen—or Major Dollars


Crafting the Resilient Urban Landscape: Post Superstorm Sandy