Additional Reading this week will include 2 short articles “Tiny Town Big Decision” by Chris Flavelle from the New York Times, and She Survived Hurricane Sandy, then Gentrification Hit” by Amir Kafagy from the Guardian. These articles discuss recent issues on relocating and adapting to climate change in the US. They are available through the links here: Tiny Town Big Decision NYT.pdf and here: She survived Hurricane Sandy. Then climate gentrification hit _ Hurricane Sandy _ The Guardian.pdf also directly via the Canvas Files Folder “Assigned Reading”.
Provide your thoughts about whether these reports bring up issues you may not have considered from Reading chapters 1&9 in Building a Resilient Tomorrow. What additional concerns might adaptation planners need to consider for shoreline retreat and buy-out programs?
Tiny Town, Big Decision:
What Are We Willing to Pay
to Fight the Rising Sea? Christopher Flavelle Mon, March 15, 2021, 5:13 AM
An aerial view of Avon, N.C., March 13, 2021. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)
AVON, N.C. — Bobby Outten, a county manager in the Outer Banks, delivered two pieces of bad news at a recent public meeting. Avon, a town with a few hundred full-time residents, desperately needed at least $11 million to stop its main road from washing away. And to help pay for it, Dare
County wanted to increase Avon’s property taxes, in some cases by almost 50%.
Homeowners mostly agreed on the urgency of the first part. They were considerably less keen on the second.
People gave Outten their own ideas about who should pay to protect their town: the federal government. The state government. The rest of the county. Tourists. People who rent to tourists. The view for many seemed to be, anyone but them.
Outten kept responding with the same message: There’s nobody coming to the rescue. We have only ourselves.
“We’ve got to act now,” he said.
The risk to tiny Avon from climate change is particularly dire — it is, after all, located on a mere sandbar of an island chain, in a relentlessly rising
Atlantic. But people in the town are facing a question that is starting to echo along the U.S. coastline as seas rise and storms intensify. What price can be put on saving a town, a neighborhood, a home where generations have built their lives?https://www.nytimes.com/
Communities large and small are reaching for different answers. Officials in Miami, Tampa, Houston, San Francisco and elsewhere have borrowed money, raised taxes or increased water bills to help pay for efforts to shield their homes, schools and roads.
Along the Outer Banks — where tourist-friendly beaches are shrinking by more than 14 feet a year in some places, according to the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management — other towns have imposed tax
increases similar to the one Avon is considering. On Monday, county officials will vote on whether Avon will join them.
This despite the reality that Avon’s battle is most likely a losing one. At its highest point, the town is just a couple dozen feet above sea level, but most houses, as well as the main road, are along the beachfront.
“Based on the science that I’ve seen for sea-level rise, at some point, the Outer Banks — the way they are today — are not forever,” said David Hallac, superintendent of the national parks in eastern North Carolina, including the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which encompasses the land around Avon. “Exactly when that happens is not clear.”
The Outer Banks have a rich past. Hatteras Island, originally home to members of the Algonquin tribe, is near the site of the so-called lost colony of Roanoke. A few miles north and several centuries later, the Wright brothers flew their first airplane.
And it is the vulnerability to the sea — the very threat Avon is wrestling with today — that, in a twist of fate, helped transform the Outer Banks into a tourist spot, according to Larry Tise, a former director of North Carolina’s Division of Archives and History.
In 1899 a terrible hurricane all but destroyed the islands, and the state decided not to spend money developing them. Land speculators later swooped in, snapping up property and marketing the curious local history to attract tourists.
Today, tourism dominates Avon, a hamlet of T-shirt shops and cedar-shake mansions on stilts lining the oceanfront. A few blocks inland sits a cluster of modest older houses, called the Village, shaded by live oaks, Eastern red cedars and wax myrtles. This is where most of the remaining lifelong Avon residents live.
Audrey Farrow’s grandmother grew up in Avon and met Farrow’s grandfather when he moved to town as a fisherman in the late 1800s. Farrow, who is 74, lives on the same piece of land she, and her mother before her, grew up on.
Standing on her porch last week, Farrow talked about how Avon had changed in her lifetime. Vacationers and buyers of second homes have brought new money but have pushed out locals.
And the ocean itself has changed. The water is now closer, she said, and the flooding more constant. The wind alone now pushes water up the small road where she lives and into her lawn.
“If we’ve had rain with it, then you feel like you’ve got waterfront property,” she said.
From any angle, the reckoning for Avon seems to be drawing nearer.
Over the past decade, hurricanes have caused $65 million in damage to Highway 12, the two-lane road that runs along the Outer Banks and connects Avon and other towns to the mainland. The federal and state governments are spending an additional $155 million to replace a section of Highway 12 with a 2.4-mile bridge, as the road can no longer be protected from the ocean. Hatteras Island has been evacuated five times since 2010.
County officials turned to what is called beach nourishment, which involves dredging sand from the ocean floor a few miles off the coast and then pushing it to shore through a pipeline and layering it on the beach. But those projects can cost tens of millions of dollars. And the county’s requests for federal or state money to pay for them went nowhere.
So the county began using local money instead, splitting the cost between two sources: revenue from a tax on tourists, and a property tax surcharge on local homes. In 2011, Nags Head became the first town in the Outer Banks to get a new beach under that formula. Others followed, including Kitty Hawk in 2017.
Ben Cahoon, the mayor of Nags Head, said that paying $20 million to rebuild the beach every few years was cheaper than buying out all the beachfront homes that would otherwise fall into the sea.
He said he could imagine another two or three cycles of beach nourishment, buying his city 20 or 25 more years. After that, he said, it’s hard to guess what the future holds.
“Beach nourishment is a great solution, as long as you can afford it,” Cahoon said. “The alternative choices are pretty stark.”
Now the county says it’s Avon’s turn. Its beach is disappearing at a rate of more than 6 feet per year in some places.
During the meeting last month, Outten described Avon’s needs. As the beach disappears, even a minor storm sends ocean water across Highway 12. Eventually, a hurricane will push enough water over that road to tear it up, leaving the town inaccessible for weeks or more.
In response, the county wants to put about 1 million cubic yards of sand on the beach. The project would cost between $11 million and $14 million and, according to Outten, would need to be repeated about every five years.
That impermanence, combined with the high cost, has led some in Avon to question whether beach nourishment is worth the money. They point to Buxton, the next town south of Avon, whose beach got new sand in 2018, paid for through higher taxes. Now, most of that sand has washed away, leaving a beachfront motel and vacation rentals teetering over the water.
“Every bit of it’s gone,” Michael David, who grew up in Avon and owns a
garage in Buxton, said during last month’s meeting. “We’re just masking a problem that never gets fixed.”
Speaking after the meeting, Outten defended beach nourishment, despite its being temporary. “I don’t think we can stop erosion. I think we can only slow it down,” he said.
In interviews with more than a dozen homeowners in Avon, a frequent concern was how the county wants to divide the cost. People who own property along the beach will benefit the most, Outten said, because the extra sand will protect their homes from falling into the ocean. But he said everyone in town would benefit from saving the road.
To reflect that difference, the county is proposing two tax rates. Homeowners on the ocean side of the road would pay an extra 25 cents for every $100 of assessed value — an increase of 45% over their current tax
rate. On the inlet side, the extra tax would be just one-fifth that much.
Sam Eggleston, a retired optometrist who moved to Avon three years ago from outside Raleigh, North Carolina, and bought a house on the western side of town, said even that smaller amount was too much. He said that because Highway 12 is owned by the state, the state should pay to protect it.
If the government wants to help, Eggleston argued, it should pay people to move their houses somewhere else — a solution he said would at least be
permanent. “To keep spending millions and millions of dollars on the beach, to me doesn’t make sense,” he said.
That view was not shared by people who live on the beach.
When Carole and Bob Peterson bought a house on the ocean in 1997, it was protected from the water by two rows of huge dunes, Peterson said. Years of storms have washed away those dunes, leaving their 2,800- square-foot home exposed to the water.
Peterson acknowledged that she and her neighbors would benefit the most from rebuilding the beach. But the rest of the town should be willing to pay for it too, she said, because it protects the jobs and services they depend on.
“People that live over there, on that side, don’t understand that the beach is what keeps them alive,” she said, pointing across the road. “If you don’t have this beach, people aren’t going to come here.”
Audrey Farrow’s son, Matthew, a commercial fisherman, said he worried about the future of the place he grew up in. Between the flooding and the demand for vacation homes, which continues to drive up real estate prices, he said, it was getting harder to make a good life in Avon.
“I’m telling my kids already,” Farrow said, “go somewheres else.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
© 2021 The New York Times Companyhttps://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/14/climate/outer-banks-tax-climate-change.html
4/19/2021 She survived Hurricane Sandy. Then climate gentrification hit | Hurricane Sandy | The Guardian
America’s dirty divide She survived Hurricane Sandy. Then climate gentrification hit
About this content
Amir Khafagy, in Queens, New York Sun 18 Apr 2021 05.00 EDT
News Opinion Sport Culture Lifestylehttps://www.theguardian.com/us-news/series/americas-dirty-dividehttps://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/feb/11/americas-dirty-divide-about-this-serieshttps://www.theguardian.com/https://support.theguardian.com/contribute?INTCMP=header_support_contribute&acquisitionData=%7B%22source%22:%22GUARDIAN_WEB%22,%22componentType%22:%22ACQUISITIONS_HEADER%22,%22componentId%22:%22header_support_contribute%22%7Dhttps://www.theguardian.com/https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfreehttps://www.theguardian.com/sporthttps://www.theguardian.com/culturehttps://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle
4/19/2021 She survived Hurricane Sandy. Then climate gentrification hit | Hurricane Sandy | The Guardian
Sitting beside her two grandchildren, Kimberly White Smalls recounted what it was like to flee from her family home as Hurricane Sandy hit the edge of New York City.
“It was a complete disaster,” said Smalls, who lives on the Rockaway peninsula in Queens. “When we came back the next day, I [had] lost three cars, a scooter, and the house was destroyed.”
Smalls was born and grew up in Edgemere, a majority Black coastal community in Far Rockaway, and never dreamt of leaving. She and her husband, Don, had raised their family there. Grateful to still be alive, Smalls hoped to rebuild their home with her husband, two children, and infant grandchild on Beach 43rd Street. She had hoped that the city and Fema would help rebuild and even elevate her home, so that it would be safe from flooding the next time a natural disaster strikes.
But for the next several years, Smalls struggled to navigate byzantine aid programs from city, state and federal sources – only to be told, in 2016, that her home was no longer eligible for relief funds. The one option left, she says, was selling the house to the city, and finding a new place to live.
As natural disasters grow more severe owing to the impacts of the climate crisis, there is mounting evidence in the US that while many white residents receive ample government help to rebuild and recover, some members of racial and ethnic minorities are instead being pushed out of places they once called home. Activists are warning that “climate gentrification” in places like Far Rockaway is on the rise.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/hurricane-sandyhttp://www.city-data.com/neighborhood/Edgemere-Far-Rockaway-NY.html
4/19/2021 She survived Hurricane Sandy. Then climate gentrification hit | Hurricane Sandy | The Guardian
And for Black residents like Smalls, whose families have lived in the Rockaways for generations, the process of unlocking governmental aid, which has been promised to Rockaway residents in various forms since Sandy, has been a quieter, unfolding crisis.
“We wanted to rebuild our place for six years but it shouldn’t have taken six years,” said Smalls.
The trouble didn’t end after the buyout. Shortly after the city purchased her home, she and her husband moved a few blocks away, into a new home that Smalls says was hastily and poorly constructed. Cracks formed along the walls of her bedroom, she says, and the roof leaked. Three months later, her husband, who had long suffered from health complications, died.
“He didn’t even survive three months [after] we got the new property,” she says. “The city [gave] us such a runaround; it was out of control.”
Hurricane Sandy ravaged coastal communities in New York City, causing an estimated $19bn of damage. Since then, the city and state governments, with support from Fema, have implemented various managed retreat programs, which involve the coordinated
A boarded up bungalow destroyed by Hurricane Sandy on Beach 43rd Street in the Edgemere neighborhood of Far Rockaway, Queens, on 6 April 2021. Photograph: Krisanne Johnson/The Guardianhttps://ny.curbed.com/2017/10/27/16554180/hurricane-sandy-relief-build-it-back-housinghttps://www1.nyc.gov/site/housingrecovery/programs/acquisition.page
movement of people and infrastructure away from low-lying areas as a way to adapt to the rising seas.
The city spent $350m to buy out approximately 800 homes in coastal communities across New York City with the highest level of damage and risk. Although demographic information on the buyouts is hard to come by, studies have shown that managed retreat programs can exacerbate existing inequalities.
A Rice University study published last year examined more than 40,000 Fema-funded buyouts, and researchers concluded that over time, federal buyout assistance has become increasingly focused on whiter communities and neighborhoods, but within those areas, communities of color are more likely to accept buyouts in greater numbers.
In 2016, Smalls noticed that many of her Black neighbors were being offered buyouts, while residents in the white neighborhoods of the peninsula like Breezy Point were being given other options, such as being able to repair, rebuild and elevate their existing homes. Although in theory, Smalls’s home was eligible for repairs for many
Kimberly White Smalls and her grandsons greet their neighbor walking her dogs in front of Smalls’s uncle’s former home on Beach 43rd Street in the Edgemere neighborhood of Far Rockaway. Photograph: Krisanne Johnson/The Guardianhttps://academiccommons.columbia.edu/doi/10.7916/d8-0c08-yy78/downloadhttps://www1.nyc.gov/site/housingrecovery/index.pagehttps://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2378023120905439#section2-2378023120905439
years, the red tape she encountered throughout that time made obtaining that aid feel impossible.
“To be honest, I always felt that Far Rockaway got mistreated,” she said. “I don’t think we got treated right compared to how other communities.”
About an hour’s drive from Manhattan by car, the Rockaways seems to sit in an entirely different world. Some homes, with their backyards facing the frigid waters of Jamaica Bay, are more reminiscent of New England fishing villages than a New York City neighborhood.
Once a sleepy, seasonal resort community, the Rockaways underwent a massive shift in its racial demographics in the latter half of the 20th century, when white residents fled to other suburbs. Today, the Rockaways are a demonstration of how income inequality often falls on racial lines. The difference between the eastern and western sides of the peninsula is stark.
In Edgemere, which is on the east side of the peninsula, 34% of residents live below the poverty line. In Breezy Point, a gated community on the west side, the average annual
Homes along Beach 43rd Street that survived Hurricane Sandy in the Edgemere neighborhood of Far Rockaway, Queens. Photograph: Krisanne Johnson/The Guardianhttps://www.theguardian.com/us-news/new-york
income is $68,102, which is higher than the median annual income in the US.
For years after the hurricane, Smalls alternated between living in her damaged and mold-infested home and living in hotel rooms subsidized by the city’s Housing Development Corporation. From 2012 to 2018, she applied several times for funds to repair her house from Build It Back, a city program infused with $2.2bn of federal funding that aimed to help New Yorkers affected by Sandy repair, rebuild, and elevate their homes, or relocate them. Although Smalls had the option to relocate immediately after the storm, she had every intention to repair and stay in her home.
But in 2016, the city announced a new initiative – the Resilient Edgemere Community Plan – to purchase damaged homes near the coast, relocate the residents to newly built, elevated homes on higher ground, and convert the land into marshland as a way to mitigate potential storm surges.
As a result, homes in that part of Edgemere, such as Smalls’s former home, were no longer eligible for repair assistance from the Build it Back program. According to the city’s department of housing preservation and development (HPD), so far 11 residents have chosen to sell their home and three, including Smalls, chose to relocate to new homes built nearby. Smalls says a buyout was presented as her only option, and she felt she had no choice but to move. (When reached for comment, HPD declined to speak on behalf of cases involving specific residents in Edgemere.)
“I always say, Lord knows that hurricane came through here because some of us needed a new house, but it was home to me,” she said.https://datausa.io/profile/geo/breezy-point-mn#:~:text=Households%20in%20Breezy%20Point%2C%20MN,represents%20a%202.07%25%20annual%20growth.
Some of Edgemere’s Black residents believe the way local authorities have deployed buyouts since Sandy has been less than equitable.
Vay, a resident who has lived in Edgemere since 1976 and declined to give his last name, said his application to rebuild and raise his home after Hurricane Sandy was rejected because he also lived too close to the bay and was only offered a buyout instead.
“What choice did I have?” said Vay. “I didn’t want to leave but if it was not the city it was going to be the water that pushed me out. One way or another I had to move.”
Community leaders have been critical about the lack of local support that Far Rockaway has received. Dr Edward Williams, president of Regional Ready Rockaway, which promotes disaster preparedness, believes that, for all the talk of investment in the community, the Resilient Edgemere Community Plan is ultimately contributing to Far Rockaway’s continuing gentrification.
“How can you embrace rebuilding, when you have a part of your community that is still impacted economically, physically and socially as a result of Hurricane Sandy?” he
A mangled dock destroyed by Hurricane Sandy sits in Jamaica bay off Norton Avenue in the Edgemere neighborhood of Far Rockaway, Queens. Photograph: Krisanne Johnson/The Guardian
said. “You have this infusion of development taking place but who’s going to benefit?”
“There is a racial divide, a social divide, and an economic divide,” said Sonia Moise, President of the Edgemere Community Civic Association. “Anyone who knows anything about the Rockaways knows you can see the major differences but no one wants to talk about.”
Moise believes the resiliency plan, with its heavy emphasis on buyouts, will exacerbate the historic inequality between the rich and the poor on the coastal communities of New York City. “I feel that they are trying to push out many of the residents [of Edgemere],” she says.
Professor James Elliot, who led the Rice University study into Fema-funded buyout programs, believes ingrained, institutional biases are at play.
He wonders, to start, why Black and brown communities are more likely to be situated in low-lying, flood-prone areas. “The federal government has been racializing and dividing urban space for a long time,” he says. He also offers that when agencies like
Kimberly White Smalls and her grandsons outside a closed store in the Edgemere neighborhood that has still not reopened since Hurricane Sandy. Photograph: Krisanne Johnson/The Guardian
Fema have a limited budget with which to help communities rebuild, buying out the lowest-cost homes is a cost-effective tool.
Jeremy House, press secretary for the HPD, says that ensuring equity has been the bedrock of the buyout program in Edgemere.
“Extra care was taken to provide residents the option to remain in Edgemere as a homeowner and ensure resiliency measures were driven by and reflect local priorities,” said House.
Residents in the Rockaways are familiar with the threat of natural disasters, and many, like Vay, are aware that the climate crisis is projected to lead to increased sea level rise. “We live and die by the tide,” said Vay. “One day the tide will come in and it won’t go back out.”
A 2016 study projects that, with 6ft of sea level rise, by the end of the century, most of the Rockaway peninsula could very well disappear into the Atlantic Ocean.
But extreme weather is already making its mark on the Rockaways, in many ways: chronic flooding caused by high tide has increasingly become a normal part of life for residents. With the flooding it’s not uncommon to see fish swimming in the streets.
All of this makes the issue of housing access in the Rockaways all the more important. Smalls accepts the fact that sea level rise will eventually force her to leave Edgemere entirely. But after feeling pressure to sell her house and move once before, she says she is not in a hurry to go through it again.
“I’m 55 years old. I’m not young, but I’m not old. I have the energy to fight.”https://rpa.org/latest/lab/under-water-how-sea-level-rise-threatens-the-tri-state-regionhttps://abc7ny.com/high-tide-flooding-hoboken-new-jersey/1191805/https://ny.curbed.com/2017/10/12/16462790/queens-climate-change-jamaica-bay-flooding-photos
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