Last week, Acting Mayor Mayor Kim Janey announced the city’s withdrawal of the Downtown Waterfront District Municipal Harbor Plan and will focus city efforts on creating a more equitable and resilient waterfront in East Boston and other coastal Boston neighborhoods.
Janey said the decision to reevaluate Boston’s waterfront development comes in the wake of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that indicates coastal cities are especially vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change, and as a means to continue addressing racism as a public health crisis. Janey said she is committed to meeting these crises with urgent climate action to ensure our waterfront is as resilient as possible while enhancing community benefits.
“We have an opportunity and an obligation to meet this moment of the climate change crisis and protect our waterfront for generations to come,” said Janey. “I look forward to working with local advocates and civic leaders to embed our shared values of resilience, equity, and access into the City’s development process Downtown and throughout all of our neighborhoods.”
In the spring Janey’s FY2021-2022 budget made investments in accessible infrastructure funding to protect the most flood-vulnerable neighborhood of Eastie.
This includes Phase II of the ongoing Climate Ready East Boston-an initiative to prepare for the long-term impacts of climate change.
Throughout the year the City has been hosting virtual workshops with Eastie residents to begin addressing real solutions in the neighborhood to protect against sea-level rise.
The world is expecting to see about 40 inches of sea level rise by 2070. So in the next 50 years, if we don’t intervene by adapting to climate change impacts and coordinating climate change impacts by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions there will be more flood entry points into Eastie. The low lying areas in the neighborhood are more susceptible to flooding, both during extreme weather events, such as hurricanes or rain events, but also gradual sea level rise. Some of these entry points are issues now whereas others will become an issue over time.
Eastie is already seeing the impacts of climate change with seeing extreme temperatures. There has also been more extensive precipitation, sea level rise, and coastal storms. Those three things coupled together are leading to more storm water flooding inland in areas that redients wouldn’t think would be subject to flooding because they’re away from the coast.
Phase II of Climate Ready East Boston will focus on the areas of Constitution Beach, the Belle Isle Marsh and the Chelsea Creek.
For example at Constitution Beach the City has shown plans to raise pathways and add flood walls that would still allow for recreational activities while providing additional protection to the neighborhood. There was also a scenario of adding better sand and reinforced dunes to the neighborhood’s only public beach.
Janey has also charged her administration with convening stakeholders to determine the future of equitable and resilient development throughout Boston’s waterfront neighborhoods like Eastie. This group will include environmental justice organizations, residents, and experts in resilient, equitable, and accessible waterfront development. The goal of this process is to develop a new approach to waterfront development in Boston that generates community benefits and protection from extreme weather and pollution.
“We must meet the climate crisis with urgent action through maximizing resiliency, equity and accessibility in Boston,” said the City’s Environmental Chief Mariama White-Hammond. “As our City continues to evolve, climate change and racial justice must be at the forefront of our development process. I am grateful to Mayor Janey for leading on this critical movement to ensure Boston’s waterfront is resilient while providing equitable access for all Boston residents.”