In her work, The Disaster Inside the Disaster: Hurricane Sandy and Post-crisis Redevelopment, Miriam Greenberg writes about how funds allocated for reconstruction after disasters often end up in the hands of those who needed it the least. In her work, Greenberg primarily focuses on reconstruction post 911and Katrina, and argues that the distribution of funds for rebuilding was inequitable, and that these approaches greatly affected poor minority groups. A majority of the funds available for reconstruction after these disasters were used to fortify rich and predominantly white neighborhoods, while also aiding in the redevelopment of lower Manhattan’s financial district, and in the construction of luxurious waterfront towers. As the author writes this type of crisis driven urbanization in which “agencies were deregulated to eliminate “public benefit,” “low-income,” and “accountability” requirements” (Greenberg 2014, p. 46) were not only limited to 911 and Katrina, but also served to setup a precedent for future disaster rebuilding. The effects of such approaches to “disaster” redevelopment occurred after Hurricane Sandy, when different sections of Manhattan were severely affected by the storm. Those areas who received funding from previous rebuilding efforts were now better equipped and more affluent than before, ultimately leading to a faster reconstruction than other areas. According to Greenberg “The “new” Lower Manhattan—wealthier, more heavily insured, with superior infrastructure, and more politically connected than ever—was able to withstand the storm’s initial impact better than most, and then repair and rebuild in what seemed like lightning speed” (Greenberg 2014, p. 49). Resident’s in this wealthier section were given better and faster services, like electricity, heat and hot water after the storm. The other, not so wealthy parts of the city were instead given inadequate services and their recovery took longer than that of other equally affected (wealthier) areas.
Connected to Greenberg’s work, Melissa Checker’s Green is the New Brown: “Old School Toxics” and Environmental Gentrification on a New York City Waterfront, is about waterfront redevelopment and how this affects local residents. As part of her argument Checker primarily focuses on Staten Island’s North Shore where redevelopment plans post Hurricane Sandy focused primarily in repurposing its industrial waterfronts to attract the wealthy, instead of solving the local citizen’s problems. Among the problems that the local citizens had was reconstruction after the storm but, also other basic needs such as the elimination of exposure to toxic chemicals, which were a real concern in the area. The citizen’s concerns for their environment as well as for their own health led them to advocate for cleanup. However, these good intensions have backfired to create what Checker calls environmental gentrification, which she defines as the “relationship between the upscaling of low-income neighborhoods and the amelioration of environmental burdens (i.e., closing a power plant, bus depot, or waste transfer station) and/or green initiatives that appeal to elite ideas about “livability”’ (Checker p. 159). Although, cleanup of the area is on its way, not all parts of the island will be cleaned up. Instead of cleaning up all the affected areas from dangerous chemicals, the city has opted for a “better” approach: to clean up the area as they develop. Moreover, as part of PlaNYC 2030, the city decided to fund its own cleanup, declaring areas where redevelopment was to occur as brownfield areas, and then providing tax credits to investors who will clean up the area. As a result of such an approach “the majority of Brown- field tax credits issued in New York State went to wealthy developers and landowners” (Checker p. 168), once more showing how the wealthy and affluent benefit from funds which could have helped those in real need.
Jarret Murphy’s “The Flood Next Time” is also about development and how this can be affected by climate change. In his work Murphy states that sea levels are expected to rise about 6 feet by 2100, covering many areas close to the shore. Rising sea levels represent an imminent danger to neighborhoods located near the water which is why Murphy suggests that it is to the city’s best interest to begin to pull back from the waterfronts. Murphy states that building near the waterfront should no longer continue and retreat should begin instead. This form of managed retreat, as suggested by Murphy, is something for city officials to keep in mind as our climate keeps changing, and stronger storms can form. However, not everyone is willing to give up the waterfront just yet, as former Mayor Bloomberg stated “we cannot and will not abandon our waterfront. It’s one of our greatest assets. We must protect it, not retreat from it” (Murphy 2015, p. 14). In order to best prepare for future storms the city is investing $20 billion to protect its waterfronts, however, Murphy asks “will it be enough?” The reality is that the city cannot really know what exactly to expect for 2100 and would most likely not know how to prepare for something that at this point seems so distant. However, the author warns we must not be too confident because nature is unpredictable.
Lastly, to tie in all these ideas I have found an article written by Nguyen et. al. titled Green Economic Policies Will Improve the Environment and Promote Equality. This article suggests that the creation of a green economy will create a shift away from gray-capitalism and into a much greener and more equitable economy. The authors argue that cities can combat environmental issues such as high levels of carbon emission by training people to hold green-collar jobs in the communities which they reside. An approach such as this one will generate more jobs for communities which have high levels of unemployment while simultaneously improving the quality of life and the environment for those neighborhoods. However, the authors also see that the improvement of neighborhoods can also lead to unintended consequences such as gentrification which is why they argue that “Green economics needs to be eventually policy-driven. If not, the greening of towns and cities will definitely set in motion the wheels of gentrification” (as cited in Nguyen et. al). However, greener capitalism is not all that we need to combat such unfair redistribution of funds. In my opinion, in order to combat unfairness in the way which we deal with redevelopment and with climate change, we need to ensure that funds allocated to help those in real need get it right away. This is not to say that we should not help those other affluent communities at all but, we should insure that we are looking over the wellbeing of everyone, and not just the wellbeing of a specific group.
Checker, M (2014). Green is the New Brown: “Old School Toxics” and Environmental Gentrification on a New York City Waterfront. City University of New York.
Greenberg, M (2014). The Disaster Inside the Disaster: Hurricane Sandy and Post-crisis Redevelopment. New Labor Forum. Vol 23(1) 44–52.
Murphy J (2015). The Flood Next Time. The Nation
Shekar, P. M., & Nguyen, T. (2009). Green Economic Policies Will Improve the Environment and Promote Equality. In L. I. Gerdes (Ed.), Opposing Viewpoints. The Environment. Detroit: Greenhaven Press. (Reprinted from ColorLines, 2008, 18) Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com.queens.ezproxy.cuny.edu:2048/apps/doc/EJ3010132288/OVIC?u=cuny_queens&xid=6db36b05