Last Thursday, the East Boston Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) hosted a ‘release’ party at the East Boston Social Centers where NOAH staff released the East Boston Flood Prevention Design Workshop Report.
The report follows two events last year hosted by NOAH. The two Flood Prevention Design Workshops in May and then in September 2018 at the East Boston Social Centers in Central Square unveiled some of the concerns, ideas and solutions to protect the neighborhood from Climate Change.
“We want to thank you for coming tonight,” said NOAH Executive Director Phil Giffee. “We started this a year ago and have to get it out. It wouldn’t be stale, but we need to take actions now. One can look at sea-level rise projections for 2030 and beyond and it gets to be frightening. But the problem is, to figure out what to do exactly, then design solutions, then get them in the City’s and or State’s capital budgets, then build these multiple protective green or gray infrastructure items. This needs to start now. This is not easy to consider but we don’t have time. It needed to start yesterday. But this is today so we are at least not too far behind.”
NOAH’s workshop last May aimed to get more residents living in East Boston involved in designing the best ways to protect the community from sea level rise and climate change. At the first workshop resident were given tours of areas in the community that have been identified as entry points for flood waters. Then NOAH hosted a public design workshop this past September where residents were asked to offer ideas and input on how to best protect the different parts of the community from flood waters.
In its report NOAH showed residents in Eastie have concerns over lack of Flood Emergency Plan; lack of Community Awareness; the Risk of Sea Level Rise added to Storm Surge; impacts on Infrastructure, People and Buildings; Threats to Transportation Network; as well as Threats to the Local Ecology.
Based on the concerns and input for residents NOAH’s report suggests the immediate need in Eastie to develop a Flood Emergency and Awareness Plan. This would create a plan and communicate it widely through many channels to reach the entire community
There should also be an increase Public Awareness of Climate Risks and Solutions by consistently engage stakeholders, partner with existing civic organizations, meet people where they live.
Increase engagement with the schools and with youth to get them move involved in thinking about climate change because they may be the most impacted in the future.
Some physical solution ideas to come out of the workshops included developing levees and seawalls that have multiple uses. Create parks and recreational opportunities while protecting the community from sea level rise. These are areas that can be enjoyed year round while protecting the community from storm surges in the event of a huge storm. These levees and seawalls would protect key places in the neighborhood like the Greenway and Liberty Plaza. Add connector bridges over the Greenway so it is still passable in the event of a flood. This plan stems from another idea to redesign the Greenway to be ‘floodable’.
“What I am saying is that this is fundamentally important for everyone to understand, this is not only a NOAH report – this is an East Boston report by East Boston residents on critical East Boston Climate Change issues,” said Giffee. “They are thoughtfully considered. There were ‘expert witnesses’ as assistants, but the folks who participated in the tours, then the Charrettes and follow up last fall, were East Boston folks, not NOAH staff.”
Giffee announced NOAH has a grant from RWJF and will be conducting about 630 surveys starting in May in an effort to ascertain community knowledge about Climate Change and people’s social networks
“We will use the knowledge to find ways to get people talking about climate solutions, but mostly about Emergency Preparedness,” he said. “ That is, what will individual and safety agencies do in case of emergency?”
NOAH also has a grant request into Kresge Foundation to work with the community on Climate Change, Health and Equity.
“It’s a partnership grant. We want to begin planning very soon,” said Giffee. “We have at least six partners, EBNHC, EBSC, Eastie Farms, ULI, UMASS/SSL, and many Latino entities. The Goal will be to push Climate Change more prominently into the hospital’s community benefit arena so they can spend money on Climate Change in neighborhoods. NOAH is going to keep pushing for Climate Change solutions of all kinds.”