Climate Gentrification: A Case Study of Double Exposure in Sunset Park, New York City

Authors: Khai Hoan Nguyen*, Rutgers University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Hazards and Vulnerability, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: climate change adaptation; resilience; vulnerability; waterfront revitalization
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Executive Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Climate change complicates the pursuit of urban (re)development on the waterfront. Growing concerns regarding climate-related flood risks have prompted municipal governments to pursue adaptation and resilience planning. Consequently, resilience to natural hazards and climate disruption, along with access to the waterfront, greenspace, biking paths, mass-transit and leisure activities, has become a desirable urban amenity. This pursuit of urban resilience has ushered in a new era of “climate urbanism”—an ongoing paradigm shift in urban planning that focuses on creating “sustainable”, “climate-friendly” and “climate-resilient” cities. It raises questions about equity, such as the disproportionate impacts of coastal urban development on poor and working-class coastal communities. Low-income residents living adjacent to intensive industrial facilities on the waterfront already suffer worse health outcomes. Extreme flooding events can increase exposure of residents to toxic chemicals. Meanwhile, continuous pressure to redevelop the waterfront is contributing to rising costs of living, higher rents, decrease in affordable housing, and disruption of the surrounding neighborhood, local economic activities, and social fabric. In this study, which uses Sunset Park, New York City as a case study, I examine how efforts to address climate change impacts intersect with waterfront redevelopment. Drawing from the double exposure framework, I employ a mixed-methods approach, which combines policy and content analysis, interviews, and spatial analysis and visualization to evaluate how objectives related to waterfront redevelopment and climate adaptation and resilience are being negotiated at the city policy level and how they manifest at the local level.

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