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Is your ’hood safe? New ‘Harbor Scorecard’ measures risk of waterfront dangers

More than 400,000 New Yorkers face 50 percent risk of major flood by 2060

June 1, 2017 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Donovan Richards (right), Joan Leary Matthews of the Natural Resources Defense Council (center) and Julie Welch of S.W.I.M. (Stormwater Infrastructure Matters) Coalition speak at a rally on Thursday at City Hall. Photos courtesy of the Waterfront Alliance

Hurricane season started on Thursday and weather experts forecast it to be worse than usual.

And with President Donald Trump withdrawing America from the Paris accord — an agreement between 194 countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit a rise in global temperatures — the Waterfront Alliance held a rally on Thursday to demand better waterfront security.

Elected officials, waterfront advocates and concerned citizens gathered at City Hall to demand better coastal defense, improved water quality and better access to the city’s waterways.

To better inform the public on the risks of flooding, rising sea levels and storm surges, the Waterfront Alliance released the region’s first-ever Harbor Scorecard.

The Harbor Scorecard is an interactive online tool where users can view a neighborhood-by-neighborhood evaluation of waterfront safety, environmental health and public access.

Waterfront Alliance is a nonprofit organization that helps the development and use of the waterfront and shoreline in New York City, northern N.J. and the N.Y. metropolitan region.

“The Harbor Scorecard will help citizens of Brooklyn understand, neighborhood by neighborhood, three important things: How vulnerable they are to the next [Superstorm] Sandy, how good or poor their water quality is and how much direct access to the water they have,” Waterfront Alliance President and CEO Roland Lewis told the Brooklyn Eagle.

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“The scorecard will be a vital tool for citizens and civic groups to demand government action locally, statewide and federally for a stronger, healthier and more open waterfront,” he said. 

In Coney Island, for example, the Harbor Scorecard reveals that 80,900 people have a 50 percent chance of being affected by a major flood by 2060.

Some telling highlights from the new tool reveal that more than 400,000 New Yorkers (more than the entire population of New Orleans) face a 50 percent risk of a major flood by 2060.

In addition, more than 40 percent of those at risk face grave social and economic barriers to recovery.

The scorecard exposes the fact that despite New York City being a city of islands, there is only one boating access site for every four miles of waterfront.  

Lastly, nearly one quarter of all water samples failed Environmental Protection Agency safe swimming standards in 2015, which was the most recent year for which data is available. 

The Harbor Scorecard, which can be accessed at the Waterfront Alliance’s website, will answer questions like: Are you protected from the next major storm? How healthy is the water near you? And is the water safe to touch?

Riverkeeper Staff Attorney Sean Dixon, who was slated to attend the meeting, spoke about the need for a Harbor Scorecard and what it will do to help Brooklyn.

“There are functionally three things that this helps with,” Dixon told the Eagle. “First, it helps give people a grounding as to where we are today for our waterfront.

“Second, it really provides good context for people in terms of what they should be looking at for a better waterfront. And third, it reminds us of where we come from.”

Riverkeeper is a member-supported watchdog organization that calls itself “New York’s clean water advocate” and whose mission, according to its website, is “to protect the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries.”

The scorecard also gives advice and tips on what citizens can do to improve their neighborhood’s waterfront.

Instructions include how to become a member of the Waterfront Alliance, how to reduce carbon emissions, how to contact elected officials and how to join other local organizations.

“In Brooklyn, we’ve seen Sandy, we’ve seen Superfund sites, we’ve seen illegal dumping and oil spills,” Dixon said. “And yet, we still have in many, many parts of the borough, a really strong vibrant waterfront.

“Unfortunately, more work needs to be done and we need to stop having those emergencies and disasters. So this is that great foundation for how we both look forward 10 years and how we look back.”

To use the Harbor Scorecard, go to waterfrontalliance.org.

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