WORKING GROUP 1: Learning to Live with Water

Goal: To prepare New Yorkers for a future with more water but less disruption from flooding, while also collectively setting new benchmarks for a more resilient and wetter future.

Leads:  Mayor’s Office, DEP; Development, Arts, & Education advocacy groups


Learning to live with water means that our goal is no lives lost nor negatively altered as a result of flooding. It is also shifting to a paradigm in which water can be absorbed within the dense urban landscape, understanding what we need to do to mitigate harmful impacts, learning from the natural environment that once existed and where it can be restored, and working toward a more harmonious relationship with water in the future.  This includes clearly communicating what living with water looks like, and how it can be done equitably and in a way that prioritizes the health and well-being of residents by taking proactive steps to avoid the most unacceptable outcomes, especially among at-risk groups.


Recommendation #1: Establish a clear citywide communication strategy for all New Yorkers

SOLUTION: Establish a clear Citywide communications that:

  • Acknowledges different types of flooding, the efforts underway to mitigate them, educates on emergency preparedness and improved response and other public health issues, and the need to address all of these issues comprehensively and holistically
  • Incorporates science, lived experiences, policy, and art and establishes a dialogue regarding tolerable standards for what future flooding looks likes citywide
  • Conveys that we will not be able to solve all flooding issues, but can create integrated planning processes and design standards that mitigate severe flooding impacts in the most vulnerable areas 
  • Advances a public awareness campaign – “We Live in a Wet Place” – that summarizes the strategy above and educates New Yorkers on what living with water means, what they can expect, and what they can do about it
  • Promotes the potential development of Community Board or Borough level “Living with Water Plans” that reflect the strategies above


  • Should be implemented in coordination with WG3; 
  • Existing task forces, such as the Taskforce on Racial Inclusion & Equity and the Environmental Justice Advisory Board, that can support the city’s implementation of this work should be identified and resources such as the EJNYC Report and Mapping Tool, Stormwater Resiliency Maps), DEP’s Stormwater Adaptation Plan, DEP’s Green Infrastructure Map, and others can play a role in leveraging city data and conducting targeted studies to gain a better understanding of these vulnerabilities. 
  • Additionally, Rainproof can work with MOCEJ and the Environmental Justice Advisory Board to inform the development of the Environmental Justice Plan and incorporate components of the EJ Mapping Tool into the city’s Stormwater Resiliency Map as part of the update required under LL 172.

Recommendation #2: Integrate stormwater resiliency standards and programs for wet (designed to permit flooding) and dry (designed to be water-tight) flood proofing.


  • Provide preparedness and recovery resources to property owners, managers, and renters in most vulnerable communities during and after flooding; and 
  • Improve policies for flood response and issue standards for basement units and other at-risk dwelling types
  • Consider providing or helping nonprofits to provide directories of companies with floodproofing services for people before or after rain events, e.g. a floodproofing directory 
  • Evaluate stormwater resiliency standard for inland floodproofing in the Building Code 


  • Consider leveraging/expanding FloodHelpNY (MOCEJ, NYS, Governors Office, Center for NYC Neighborhoods) 
  • Work with DOB and HPD to evaluate resiliency standards for inland floodproofing in the building code 

Recommendation #3: Prioritize the floodproofing of critical infrastructure starting in the most vulnerable neighborhoods, including major roadways, public transit, power infrastructure, schools, so that critical functions are maintained, and people can reasonably access work/school/hospitals.

SOLUTION: Create a hierarchy of uses of public streets to prioritize the essential movement of people and goods over driving and parking cars to (1) adapt to a wetter future in which buses must better complement and supplement vulnerable subway infrastructure and (2) mitigate climate impacts by encouraging people to use fast, reliable, affordable, efficient public transit rather than driving up emissions in cars.


Coordinate efforts to floodproof critical infrastructure and associated flood response among MOCEJ, DOT, MTA, DOE, DOHMH, and ConEd to ensure safe access during rainstorms. 


Recommendation #4: Strengthen community relations to improve community preparedness, have a clear line of communication for feedback to inform the decision-making process, and create local maintenance resources. 

SOLUTION: Coordinate with established local community organizations to create paid positions and training programs for community members in vulnerable areas.

IMPLEMENTATION: Identify potential philanthropic funding managed by citywide or neighborhood nonprofit. This effort should also  be developed in coordination with WG3 recommendations

Recommendation #5: Consider ways to view water as a public asset and promote ecological value for biodiversity


  • Research legal/policy and design constraints and opportunities for scaling the building/site-level capture and re-use of stormwater. 
  • Enhance and increase uptake of existing incentive programs through a coordinated pilot program to promote innovative solutions and encourage public/private cooperation and monitor and communicate metrics for assessing program success. 
  • Elevate the role of form, not just function by incorporating placemaking into stormwater design to provide community amenities, educate youth and community members on function, improve livability, and maximize co-benefits 


  • City Agencies should work with academic institutes and non-profit partners to research. opportunities and constraints for scaling stormwater capture and re-use of stormwater 
  •  DEP can assess opportunities to enhance and increase uptake of existing incentive programs to promote innovative solutions to stormwater management.
  • Agencies, such as DEP and DOT, should work with DCP and non-profit partners to standardize placemening into stormwater design.