Accelerating Adaptation Practice

Over the last 10 years, 60 out of 62 counties in New York State were impacted by severe storms and flooding, tropical storms, or hurricanes. The major federal disaster declarations for these counties totaled $16.4 billion in federal aid for recovery efforts. Scientists estimate the costs of climate change in New York State will rise to $10 billion annually by 2050, while damage to property values will increase to $100 billion. To confront the new reality of climate change and extreme weather, New York State will need to invest billions of dollars to manage flood risk and reimagine communities and infrastructure, including green and natural infrastructure.

Apart from the State’s Climate Smart Communities program, most successful adaptation initiatives are regional in scale. Each initiative is approaching the challenge from a unique perspective. The result is a handful of successful novel approaches, but no identified space for coordination and learning among these efforts or opportunities to discuss strategic approaches to challenges and opportunities specific to NYS. 

In addition, the current piecemeal approach too often fails to:

  • Leverage all the state funding available for adaptation needed to prevent disastrous environmental damage;
  • Reimagine communities in ways that reduce long-term flood risk, enhance communities’ quality of life and support New York’s economy;
  • Engage New Yorkers in meaningful and efficient planning processes that build trust and address equity and target communities’ specific, local flood-related concerns.

In March, just before lockdown, Cornell’s Atkinson Center for Sustainability and the Water Resources Institute and Rebuild by Design hosted Accelerating Adaptation Practice in New York State, a two-day convening at Cornell University that brought resilience practitioners together to build a practice and network in New York State. Practitioners from Buffalo to Brooklyn, along with State government representatives discussed their projects, current challenges, and ways that they can help one another. 

Accelerating Adaptation Practice was an opportunity for organizations leading successful initiatives with local governments in NYS to connect and share knowledge and practice on flood adaptation planning and build a relationship between Cornell and state agencies. It will inform the state’s efforts to support adaptation by identifying scalable processes, models and tools that create high-quality vulnerability assessments and adaptation projects. Information on successful practice will create a pipeline of adaptation projects that address long term risk in a cost-effective way. The goals of the convening were to: 

  • Connect organizations working with local governments on flood adaptation planning in NYS 
  • Share knowledge and develop the professional practice for planning for flood mitigation in NYS 
  • Identify processes, models and tools that create high-quality vulnerability assessments and adaptation projects and discuss how to scale and replicate
  • Identify common principles and goals that could inform collaborative work together
  • Identify as being part of a broader network in NYS working on shared resilience challenges


If you are a resilience practitioner in NYC who works for a nonprofit that assists local government, or would like to host a similar gathering in another State, please email us at info@rebuildbydesign.org to join.