New York’s coastal communities are facing a climate crisis and the president’s plan to remove the United States from the Paris climate agreement is going to greatly endanger those neighborhoods, according to a report by environmental advocates.
The Waterfront Alliance’s first harbor scorecard found that more than 400,000 New Yorkers will be susceptible to a major flood by 2060 if climate change trends aren’t reversed and the city doesn’t improve its infrastructure. It also found 23 percent of the city’s water isn’t safe for swimming, a condition that is also poised to worsen in the coming years, and 53 percent of those coastal neighborhoods have inaccessible waterfronts.
Roland Lewis, president of the coalition comprised of 950 environmental groups, said President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement stands as a crisis point.
“Leaving the Paris agreement is a dangerous and stupid mistake,” he said at a rally with elected officials and other activists outside City Hall Thursday.
The alliance used data from different resources, including city agencies like the Department of Environmental Protection, as well as studies from the South Carolina Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute and other places. The report is divided into three categories: coastal strength against flooding, coastal health and coastal access.
The report noted that 41 percent of the 408,000 residents in areas that are vulnerable to a major flood by 2060 — neighborhoods including Coney Island, the Rockaways and Howard Beach — are low-income New Yorkers.
City Councilman Donovan Richards, who represents the Rockaways and other parts of southern Queens, said many of his constituents haven’t fully recovered from Superstorm Sandy and more coastal storms are predicted for this hurricane season.
“When that storm hits, I can tell you those communities . . . are not only going to be hit the hardest, but also those families are going to struggle,” he said.
The report also highlighted a growing problem with water quality as more than 17 billion gallons of raw sewage were discharged into the waterways in 2015. Joan Leary Matthews, a senior attorney at the National Resources Defense Council, said city coastal communities bear the brunt of this pollution.
“There are severe floods into our city streets almost every time it rains,” she said, adding that conditions are exacerbated by the poor infrastructure in many of these areas.
The Paris agreement would continue to give the city better access to tools and funding needed to speed infrastructure projects and preparations for future storms, she said, urging New Yorkers to speak up against the president’s decision.
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday committed to honoring “the goals of the Paris agreement with an executive order in the coming days, so our city can remain a home for generations to come.”
The alliance hailed signs of progress on that front, including the newly launched NYC Ferry service that has improved coastal accessibility.
“That is a step in the right direction,” Lewis said.
The group’s leader added that it will put out annual coastal report cards in the hopes that their advocacy might change some minds in Washington.
“We have to turn the administration and Congress around. There’s a lot at stake,” he said.