Cycles of Resilience

The Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay, along with Public Agenda, CUNY-Brooklyn College’s Center for the Study of Brooklyn and other partners, is working with Canarsie residents to identify issues, use science to refine ideas for action, and align emerging priorities with city, state, and federal efforts. To do this, we are developing an annual sequence of games, mapping, idea generation, and community-building. This ‘cycle’ can help create a stronger role for residents in prioritizing research and action in Jamaica Bay, including the 2020 participatory budgeting cycle. 

As a member of SRI@JB and Brooklyn College, I am currently part of a team doing a climate change adaptation process in the neighborhoods of Canarsie, Brooklyn and Eastern Queens. This is part of the second round of “Cycles of Resilience” funded by the NY Community Trust.

The first round of Cycles was funded by the Spitzer Foundation and focused on Canarsie. Phase one began in November of 2018 with the formation of a working group of community leaders who met with the team of scientists from SRIJB, social scientists and engagement experts from the non-profit Public Agenda, and the BC college based Center for the Study of Brooklyn (I am a member of its board). The goal of this initial working group was to build trust and set the parameters for the process and the division of labor. It also served as a venue to educate each other about the history of Canarsie, the landscape of current actors, and meet local electeds.

In the phase two, the goal was outreach to the broader community. Here we departed from the standard “information session” and instead developed a game which utilized the format of the popular game show Jeopardy to teach people about the history of Jamaica Bay, the social history of Canarsie, the ecology of Jamaica Bay, and the role of the different government agencies in the area and JB. 

These events spurred additional interest among some who wanted to know more and set us up for Phase 3 “getting to know the bay.”  After the “light” engagement of Phase 2, some community members wanted to learn more so SRI@JB and Public Agenda set up a three hour boat ride on the CUNY1 research vessel to learn more about JB, see the marshes, the birds, and dolphins, and talk with scientists and agency officials as they also enjoyed complimentary food and played a scavenger hunt game. We did two of these events with about 25 community members on each trip.

In Phase 4, “ideas and action,” after the deeper engagement of Phase 3, community leaders formed action teams to discuss and deliberate about community priorities and the projects that best serve those priorities.  The action teams are on specific topics–civics, streets and transportation, blue and green infrastructure, and a community center–and anchored an “assembly” in a church basement attended by more than 50 people. This phase led to the cultivation of a new set of community advocates on “action teams”; those who want to work together to further refine a specific proposal and meet with relevant agencies to seek out funding.

We are also supporting the community as the NY Rising process moves to implement its projects to enhance resilience in response to Superstorm Sandy.  

The second site for this process is funded by the NY Community Trust and is in the neighborhoods of Eastern Queens and Canarsie.  This process started in the Fall of 2019 and is ongoing.