Building resilience to storm surges and sea level rise: A comparative study of coastal zones in New York City and Boston

Lead PI: Dr. Malgosia Madajewicz , , Philip Orton, Mark Becker

Unit Affiliation: Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR)

August 2012 - July 2015
North America ; New York City, NY ; New York ; Boston, MA
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: Along the northeast urban corridor (NEUC), damage from flooding related to storm surges is one of the most certain impacts of climate change, making adaptation in coastal zones that are vulnerable to storm surges one of the highest priorities in the NEUC. This project is a collaboration between CCRUN, the Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability (NYC), the City of Boston Environmental and Energy Services, and other stakeholders to (1) develop coastal flood projections for NYC and Boston; (2) characterize social vulnerability coastal flooding in the two urban centers; (3) begin to develop adaptation strategies for neighborhoods with different vulnerability profiles in NYC and Boston. The Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) is co-leading the project, conducting mapping and analysis activities, including dynamic vulnerability maps for neighborhoods of NYC and Boston that are at risk of coastal flooding.

OUTCOMES: 1) Collected unique primary household data that document impacts of Hurricane Sandy, costs and process of recovery, assistance received during recovery, social networks, and socio-economic characteristics 2 -3 years after the storm in two areas most severly affected by the storm: the Rockaways and south-eastern shore of Staten Island. 2) Identified determinants of social vulnerability and resilience and lessons for improving the resilience of urban, coastal neighborhoods to coastal flooding. 3) Developed an online tool that shows infrastructure in danger of inundation by a 10-year, 100-year, and 500-yr flood in two neighborhoods in Boston in response to a request from the City of Boston. The tool also includes an assessment of how the return periods from these floods will change with sea level rise in the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s.


National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce




Alan Blumberg


Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) 


Stevens Institute of Technology, City of New York, City of Boston


Foster, S., Leichenko, R., Nguyen, K.H., Blake, R., Kunreuther, H., Madajewicz, M., Petkova, E.P., Zimmerman, R., Corbin-Mark, C., Yeampierre, E., Tovar, A., Herrera, C., Ravenborg, D. (2019) Community-based Assessments of Adaptation and Equity. Chapter 6 in Rosenzweig, C.R., Solecki, W. (eds) Special Issue: Advancing Tools and Methods for Flexible Adaptation Pathways and Science Policy Integration. New York City Panel on Climate Change 2019 Report. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1439.

Saleem Khan A., MacManus K., Mills J., Madajewicz M., Ramasubramanian L. (2018) Building Resilience of Urban Ecosystems and Communities to Sea-Level Rise: Jamaica Bay, New York City. In: Leal Filho W. (eds) Handbook of Climate Change Resilience. Springer.

Madajewicz, M. (2019) Characterizing vulnerability and resilience to coastal flooding in the urban context. Submitted to Global Environmental Change. Zhang, F., Orton, P.M., Madajewicz, M., Jagupilla, S.C.K., Bakhtyar, R. (2018) Mortality during Hurricane Sandy: The effects of waterfront flood protection on Staten Island, New York. Submitted to Natural Hazards.

DATASETS: 1) Primary household-level data that document impacts of Hurricane Sandy, costs and process of recovery, assistance received by households, social networks, and household demographic and socio-economic characteristics for a random sample of residents in the Rockaways and a random sample of residents in south-eastern Staten Island. 2) Audio recordings and transcripts of interviews with community leaders, individuals who worked on the recovery after Hurricane Sandy, and residents in the Rockaways and in south-eastern Staten Island.


coastal adaptation storm surge climate change coastal storms sea level rise climate adaptation vulnerability social vulnerability


Modeling and Adapting to Future Climate