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Jane’s Walk: The Future Sea Level in Lower Manhattan

by Marlyn Martinez Marrero (Class of 2017)

Have you ever heard about Jane Jacobs? I recently learned that her efforts as an activist were key in saving Washington Square Park and surrounding areas from being overtaken by the proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway. 2016 marks her 100th birthday and it was the perfect occasion to celebrate her life and accomplishments. From May 6th to 8th the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) joined other 180 cities to hold the festival Jane’s Walk. New Yorkers of all ages and interests were able to join more than 200 walking tours to learn more about their city’s history.

Our friends from The City Atlas, a guide for sustainable living in New York City where I am currently an intern, partnered with MAS to offer the tour The Future Sea Level in Lower Manhattan. Although an expressway is now out of the picture, the lower parts of the city face other threats that require Jane’s level of activism. Sea level rise is one of them. Andrea Cisneros, Karina Davila and I are investigating sea level rise in Miami and how residents can adapt to their changing environments. We were invited to join the tour and share what we have learned so far in our thesis research.

Miami’s under sea level position makes it one of the most vulnerable cities in the USA to sea level rise. Flooding and water intrusion are already daily threats for Miamians. As other speakers in the tour mentioned this could be the reality for New York City in the future. This is a great reason to keep our eyes on the lively tropical city. The learnings, opportunities and solutions that emerge in Miami will be valuable to coastal cities around the world as they build their resiliency plans.

This was a great chance for my team to learn about the participants. Attendees mentioned Amsterdam and Seattle as examples of thriving and growing cities that created solutions to keep the water away. We wondered if those could be applied successfully here. Someone else pointed out Miami’s experience and expertise dealing with hurricanes and New York’s with snowstorm. It was exactly these ideas of interdependence and cross pollination the main take we wanted to leave our audience with.

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