Building regional expertise in community-centered climate adaptation

Bringing Technical Expertise to You


The United States Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) has recently indicated their recommendation from the NY-NJ Harbor and Tributaries Study study, a tentatively selected plan called “3B”. The USACE HATS preferred plan, though currently unfunded, can reshape our region for generations to come.

As the deadline to submit public comments is quickly approaching (March 31st, 2023), we know that organizations throughout the region have technical questions about the plan. 

To create a better understanding of aspects of the USACE proposal that will impact local communities, Rebuild by Design will build on the extraordinary work that has already occurred by the Environmental Defense Fund, Rise to Resilience, and many of the organizations who are working together to convene experts to provide the technical assistance to local community organizations to build capacity to make informed comments. 

On January 25, 2023, Rebuild by Design hosted Building Community Expertise: The NY/NJ USACE HATS Teach-In, a flood infrastructure teach-in to better understand the US Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed plan for flood protection in the New York and New Jersey region. This day-long event featured presentations and live Q+A sessions with Architects, Landscape Architects, Urban Designers, Academics, Coastal Engineers, Oceanographers, and other experts who can help us all understand the USACE HATS preferred plan.

This event, attended by nearly 400 people, builds on the work of over 55 community organizations who identified their aspirations for coastal flood infrastructure, and submitted questions that they want experts to address.

To view the guiding principles co-developed by the community organizations, and the videos from the event, please scroll down. 

Speaker presentations can be found here and bios found here.


Bernice Rosenzweig, Sarah Lawrence College

Colonel Matthew Luzzatto and other USACE representatives

Kate Boicourt, Environmental Defense Fund

Edgar Westerhof, Arcadis

Justine Shapiro-Kline, One Architecture & Urbanism

Luce Bassetti, Jacobs

Pippa Brashear, SCAPE Landscape Architecture

Phil Orton, Stevens Institute of Technology

Nick Angarone, NJ Department of Environmental Protection

Matthew Chlebus, NY Department of Environmental Conservation

Cherry Mui, NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice

Anthony Rogers-Wright, NY Lawyers for the Public Interest

Hilary Ho, Regional Plan Association

Johanna Lawton, Rebuild by Design

Maxwell Evans, Jupiter Intelligence

Samantha Danchuk, APTIM

Bryce Wisemiller, Project Manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District

Olivia Cackler, Chief, Plan Formulation Branch, Planning Division, US Army Corp of Engineers, New York District

Ready to draft your comments for the USACE HATS public comment period? Check out the virtual workshop on how to write effective comments, hosted by the National Parks Conservation Association, the Rise2Resilience Coalition, and Rebuild by Design. 

Submit your comments by March 7th to



On December 2nd, 2022 Rebuild by Design held a meeting with over 80 attendees, representing at least 56 organizations, to discuss their aspirations for large-scale, regional, flood protection. Rebuild by Design captured responses from the meeting and questionnaire, organized the responses into general categories and synthesized the shared ideas from each category to create principles. 

The following principles for developing and implementing coastal infrastructure are derived from that process and should be applied to the USACE HATS process, and future climate adaptation projects and processes.


Engagement: The USACE process must have thorough community input during each stage of the project – planning, design, and implementation – with a particular focus on individuals and businesses who will be impacted by flooding, environmental justice communities, and youth. There must be robust engagement opportunities that are accessible in location, language, and clarity of information. 

Transparency: The USACE process must be transparent in communicating all risks, trade-offs, beneficiaries, decision rationale, timeline as well as how feedback will be incorporated into the process, design, and implementation. The USACE must provide timely and detailed responses to inquiries and feedback during and outside of the public comment period. The role of non-federal partners should be explained.

Education: Educate communities with localized data of flood risk for each area where there is a proposed intervention that incorporates sea level rise, pollution and contamination, and the connection to cascading effects (such as health, economic, transportation, other climate hazards, etc.)


Comprehensive: The approach should think big, be comprehensive, incorporate alternative options that include both structural and non structural solutions, be adaptable, prevent future climate challenges, align with existing or planned projects and serve the entire region.

Multi-hazard: Flood plans, projects, and measures must be comprehensive by addressing multiple climate and environmental hazards, including but not limited to heavy rainfall, sea level rise, heat, pollution, carbon mitigation, and CSO events, and shall be designed to provide co-benefits to the impacted communities. 

Multi-Solutional: Where possible, flood adaptation measures must seek to address multiple needs of the community, including, but not limited to housing, pollution, food security, human services, and safety. 

Workforce: The design, implementation, and maintenance of flood infrastructure measures must be coupled with investments in local workforce development.

Finance and Investment: Utilize traditional and non-traditional forms of finance that prioritize areas in greatest financial need, leverage the private sector, and support the long-term maintenance of flood infrastructure.

Efficacy: Provide robust evidence that the selected measures will work as designed.


Equity: Flood infrastructure measures must prioritize the most socially vulnerable communities, namely environmental justice neighborhoods, low-income households, the elderly, climate migrants, and those who have been historically marginalized due to race and ethnicity. 

Housing Affordability + Managed Retreat: All flood infrastructure plans must account for the impact of climate displacement on low-income communities to ensure every household is choices about their future to stay or to move away from the flood zone, by investing in retrofits for low-income households and creating affordable housing in low-risk areas. Limit housing in areas that do not have a long-term plan/infrastructure investment pipeline and ensure that zoning follows planned actions. 


Prioritize Nature-based Solutions: Flood Infrastructure that prioritizes the use of nature-based solutions over hard infrastructure, where feasible, which could include daylighting streams, using parks as water collection, and other “living with water” measures. Where hard infrastructure is necessary, use nature-based solutions to complement the proposed measures.

Waterfront access: Flood infrastructure measures preserve existing and create or improve new access to the waterfront and shoreline open spaces, particularly in areas of greatest need. 

Ecology: Flood infrastructure measures must not have adverse impacts on the ecology and wildlife, or contribute to CSO’s.



American Littoral Society

Bayswater Civic Association

Belle Harbor Property Owners Association

Broad Channel Civic Association and 

Bronx Council for Environmental Quality

Bronx River Alliance

Canarsie Community Development Inc. (CCDI)

Climate Adaptation Partners

Coney Island Beautification Project


El Puente

Friends of Cooper Park

Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park

Friends of Transmitter Park

Gowanus Canal Conservancy

Harlem River Working Group 

Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers

Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy

Long Island City Coalition (LICC)

Hunters Point Community Coalition (HPCC)

Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership

Metropolitan Storm-Surge Working Group

National Parks Conservation Association, Northeast Region

National Wildlife Federation

New York Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS)

New York League of Conservation Voters

New York Restoration Project

New York Sea Grant/Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay

North Brooklyn Pipeline Coalition

North Brooklyn Progressive Democrats

Hudson River Foundation


NYC Soil and Water District

NYNJ Harbor & Estuary Program 

Pioneer Works

Raritan Riverkeeper

Regional Plan Association

Regional Ready Rockaway

RETI Center


South Bronx Unite

Storm-Surge Working Group

Surfrider Foundation Foundation NYC

The Municipal Art Society of New York

The Nature Conservancy

Trust for Public Land

Waterfront Alliance

WE ACT for Environmental Justice


Columbia University – Columbia Climate School Resilient Coastal Communities Project, Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes, Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory


Monmouth University –Urban Coast Institute 

Pratt Institute

Queens College/CUNY Graduate Center

Sarah Lawrence College

Stevens Institute of Tech


Community Boards + Government Agencies

Brooklyn Community Board 1

Bronx Community Board 8

Manhattan Community Board 2

Manhattan Community Board 4

Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice

NJ DEP Division of Resilience

Queens Community Board 14