Beginning Friday and continuing through Saturday afternoon, East Boston’s Neighborhood of Affordable Housing will host a neighborhood Flood Prevention Design Workshop to get more East Boston residents involved in designing the best ways to protect the community from sea level rise and climate change.
The event will begin Friday, May 18, at 4:40 p.m. with a tour of areas in the community that have been identified as entry points for flood waters. Residents are asked to meet at the Maverick Landing Community Room, 31 Liverpool St. for the hour and a half bus tour of the sites.
Then on Saturday, May 19, from noon until 3 p.m. NOAH will host a public design workshop where residents will be asked to offer ideas and input on how to best protect the different parts of the community from flood waters.
“We are asking resident how do we best deal with this sea level rise and climate change,” said NOAH Executive Director Phil Giffee. “It is important now more than ever to start to think of solutions. Last year Houston showed us we have to do more things faster. The city’s (deployable) flood wall (on the Greenway) is one thing but we need to start asking what can we do and how fast can we do it particularly in the Maverick and Central Square areas.”
The city and NOAH have identified the Greenway down on Bremen Street as a place prone to rising seas and an entry point for flood waters to enter the neighborhood and disrupt lives and businesses during a major storm event. Last summer the city announced it would pay for and deploy a flood wall in the area anytime a storm surge was predicted.
Since that time NOAH has been educating and informing residents of the intrusions of floodwater and some of the steps that could be taken, but this weekend’s event is switching gears from NOAH’s previous climate workshops.
“This winter we witnessed other flood entry points into the neighborhood during the bombogenesis storms,” said Giffee. “We need to start exploring not only the flood entry points on the Greenway but the flood entry points into Maverick and Central Squares, areas along Chelsea Creek and the Harbor View neighborhood.”
Giffee said sea level rise has been an issue that climate scientists to the casual observer can predict based on conditions, the timing of storms and other factors. However, Giffee warns that the seas are not going down and are slowly inching their way to levels not seen in habitable times.
“As much as NOAH investing a lot of time and resources into this issue of climate change and sea level rise because we feel we have a moral obligation to the neighborhood to do so, It’s going to have to be the neighborhood’s collective voice that says this is happening now and we need to do something,” said Giffee. “Because if we don’t fix this problem now we will suffer the consequences in the future.”
Giffee likened the issue of sea level rise to the expansion of Logan Airport in the 1950s and 1960s in terms of loss of neighborhood land as well as the devaluation of the neighborhood.
“It used to be I don’t want to buy a house in East Boston because it is too noisy in the future it may be I don’t want to buy a house in East Boston because I’m in a flood plain,” said Giffee. “Logan was a little airport before and the politicians and many in the community looked the other way not expecting the jet age and a massive expansion of the airport that was just around the corner a decade later. These storms now are like the little prop planes of the 1950s but the jet age is coming.”
Giffee said it wasn’t until politicians like Governors Sargent and Dukakis made the case in the 1970s that Eastie was a thriving community worth saving. In terms of protecting Eastie again, Giffee said politicians at the federal, state and city level need to have the same conviction as those former politicians.
“If you don’t invest in this now and don’t look at solutions that are beneficial to the neighborhood and create that barrier (against sea level rise) we want and is useful to the neighborhood we will lose parts of neighborhood,” warned Giffee. “Investment will decline and the sort of value we’ve seen come into the neighborhood will dissipate and it will be like the 1950s and 1960s again in the community with people not wanting to move here. It was the airport then and it’s sea level rise now.”
Giffee has said that while plans are good, budgets are always better.
“There needs to be a willingness to use tax payer dollars, and people have to be taxed willingly, because in the end people live here and they are the community’s most valuable asset,” said Giffee. “We lost families to airport expansion, we lost parks so this time around lets invest so we don’t lose anything again.”
Giffee said ultimately the goal of this event is to bring Eastie’s diverse community together with design professionals to create a shared and inclusive community vision for protecting the neighborhood from sea level rise and coastal storm flooding by building on the analysis, planning, and ideas for climate resilience.
On Saturday, residents can work with NOAH and other professionals to begin to develop design concepts that can be budgeted to protect and benefit our entire neighborhood.