I can’t believe I’m over halfway done with my fellowship with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency. It feels like just yesterday I was anxious about figuring out how to sign into my email and get everything set up. The past few weeks have gone by so quickly, but they’ve been incredibly busy too. I’ve been finalizing my proposal for a long-term flood insurance outreach strategy, which I’ll be presenting to different groups in the office starting next week (yikes!). But besides that, so much has happened in the past few weeks that I feel like this blog could easily be 2,000+ words: as a team we toured a WWTP (Wastewater Treatment Plant) in Brooklyn (maybe TMI, but that’s actually the facility my wastewater goes to which was weirdly fun to know), a rooftop garden, and the Newton Creek Alliance’s WRRF (wastewater resource recovery facility) Nature Walk; the City got some insane flooding from Hurricane Elsa (she really let it go right on top of us); and of course, I developed all the additional material to go alongside my proposal. But since no one wants to read a thesis on wastewater treatment besides me, I’ll keep it brief:
I think one of my favorite things so far has been the different excursions. Since I’m working remotely, it’s a great opportunity to connect with everyone, and it’s cool to see a team that is so involved outside of the office. The WWTP tour in Brooklyn was such an interesting experience and something I probably would never have done otherwise. It was fascinating to learn about the different measures they are taking to reduce their energy use and to see how circular the plant is (the waste solids are all used for fertilizer and energy and the heat energy that comes out of the treatment process is used to power different parts of the plant itself). The rooftop garden and nature walk were both located next to the treatment plant and are amazing examples of how green spaces in urban environments don’t have to be something separate, they can and should be integrated with the built environment. It was also interesting because before the nature walk was created, that neighborhood didn’t have any water access points and really limited green spaces, and if residents wanted to cross from one side of the neighborhood to the other, they had to go all the way around the plant. Now that the nature walk is there, it’s significantly improved the neighborhood’s walkability.
The treatment plant and nature walk were super interesting, but not directly related to my work on flood insurance. However, the heavy rainfall the city’s gotten the past couple weeks from Hurricane Elsa has definitely highlighted flood risk in the city. The videos of water rushing into subway stations, people wading waist deep, jet skis in the Bronx, and cascades of water flowing down apartment staircases has reminded me of the importance of communicating flood risk, flood insurance, and developing resilient buildings that will be able to withstand the increased frequency and severity of storms brought on by climate change.
With my work more specifically, things are starting to wind down a little bit as everything is finalized and the supporting material (timelines, sample social media kits, one-pagers – I’ve got the whole shebang) is developed. There was a week, which I think is typical of any project right before it all comes together, where I started second-guessing everything and felt totally lost in the weeds, but this past week has felt like finally seeing blue skies after a big storm and it’s becoming one cohesive project. This week I’m preparing my presentation to run through with my supervisor on Friday and next week I’ll present to her supervisor, make the last few changes.
I can feel the end approaching, and it’s been such an incredible opportunity that I don’t want it to end, but it has given me a chance to reflect on the kind of work I can see myself doing in the future. Working on flood risk and flood insurance at the city government level is crucial for residents and has sparked my passion for the subject, but I think I’ve realized I’m interested in reforming the entire National Flood Insurance Program at the federal level to make it more equitable. There is so much cities can do on their own for residents, but if the program itself isn’t functioning in the best interest of everyone, then something needs to change at the broader level. That being said, I have really enjoyed working at the size and scale of the MOCR office. I think it’s just big enough that a lot of ground can be covered, but still small enough that everyone knows everyone’s name…It’ll be interesting to see where I end up in the future, but for now, I have a presentation to finish!