Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Liz Koslov spoke to the New York Times about a new private lending program designed to fund disaster recovery and return victims to their homes. Federal aid programs can take years to get money to victims of natural disasters, including floods, wildfires and other catastrophes, which are becoming more frequent and severe as a result of climate change. Renters, who are more likely than homeowners to be people or color or have low incomes, often must wait even longer for federal aid. The new program, funded by financial giant Morgan Stanley and the housing nonprofit Enterprise, will pay owners of apartment buildings to rebuild without waiting for federal funds; the loans will be repaid by taxpayers, with interest. The new lending arrangement “responds to a real need,” Koslov said. However, she noted that is problematic as it falls into a broader trend of private companies that profit from disasters.
Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Liz Koslov was featured in The City discussing a proposed voluntary buyout program for flood-prone houses in New York City. After Hurricane Sandy, many homeowners sold their properties back to the state through the Oakwood Beach buyout program. That successful effort was community-led and the housing stock was mostly single-family homes, Koslov said. Going forward, “a lot of the homes in the places that we now see are most at risk are also the most affordable,” she noted. Koslov pointed to social causes of climate vulnerability, including redlining and disinvestment, that cause people to live in those risky places in the first place. “If you’re just trying to un-build places that seem to be the most at risk, but you’re not addressing the underlying causes of that risk, which go far beyond climate change, it’s never going to satisfactorily or equitably reduce the risk that exists,” she said.
Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Liz Koslov was featured in a Katie Couric Media article about the growing threat of climate change. Many regions are already experiencing the consequences of climate change through frequent wildfires, long periods of drought, and increased frequency and severity of tropical storms. Rising temperatures and humidity have also prompted concerns about the health risks associated with climate change, including heat stroke and heat illness as well as exacerbation of chronic illness. While some changes such as rising sea levels are irreversible, there is still time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report describing five different climate futures depending on human action to reduce emissions and shift away from fossil fuel use. “There’s so much action happening to try to really transform these conditions,” Koslov said. “If anything, COVID showed us the power of mobilizing on a vast scale.”
Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Liz Koslov spoke to the Literary Hub about New York City’s response to flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy and implications for the city’s future. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused 10 feet of flooding into the estuary, and researchers predict more frequent and severe flooding on the Eastern Seaboard as sea levels continue to rise. After Hurricane Sandy, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised not to abandon the waterfront and pledged millions of dollars to fortify existing infrastructure instead of taking the opportunity to reshape the shoreline based on anticipated sea levels. Meanwhile, the state government bought property along the coast, demolished houses and refused to allow future development. “Everyone was working at cross purposes,” said Koslov, who saw how funding and bureaucracy slowed down post-Sandy infrastructure projects. “People are not demanding change, so there is no real desire to reverse course,” she added.
Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Liz Koslov was featured in a review of Mark Arax’s “The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California” in the Los Angeles Review of Books. “The Dreamt Land” focuses on the water dramas of the Central Valley in California, including the environmental degradation of the region and the state’s ongoing efforts to manage climatic variability such as drought and fire. Managed retreat refers to the planned unsettling of or relocation from a threatened area, which is becoming an increasingly popular idea among communities in coastal and fire-prone zones. “Retreat is a powerful and evocative word, one that signals a change in direction — something we share the need for as a society even though we do not all live in places that are immediately vulnerable,” Koslov wrote.
Liz Koslov, assistant professor of urban planning, spoke with Curbed New York about the tense debate over how to protect New York City’s 578 miles of shoreline from the effects of climate change. Scientists forecast that lower Manhattan will see about six feet of sea-level rise in the next 80 years, triggering regular flooding and intensive storm surges. Koslov spoke about the competing impulses New Yorkers felt after 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, with some pushing to redevelop valuable waterfront properties as others opted for “managed retreat” — relocating away from the perennially threatened coasts. Koslov, who is working on a book about Staten Island communities that rejected the rebuilding narrative, said managed retreat has won grassroots support but raises concerns including the impact of lost property taxes on local governments. She urged civic leaders to flesh out a vision for a well-planned “just retreat,” which can be “potentially empowering and a force for reconstructing communities and making the waterfront public again.”
Assistant professor of urban planning Liz Koslov spoke to NPR about Federal Emergency Management Agency buyouts of flood-prone properties. FEMA subsidizes the cost for local governments to buy out homes owned by people who want to relocate out of flood zones. A recent study found that counties that administer FEMA buyouts on average have higher incomes and population densities. The study also found that not all flood-prone communities can pursue a buyout because their local governments have not established FEMA programs. One reason that wealthier counties might be receiving more buyouts is that it requires significant bureaucratic and monetary resources to apply for and distribute buyout funds, the article noted. “Without public support, it’s clear that many people will be left without sufficient resources to move out of harm’s way,” Koslov said.
Liz Koslov, assistant professor of urban planning, spoke with Vice about “managed retreat” — the politically and emotionally complex process of moving entire populations away from escalating climate hazards. Common perceptions of retreat involve force — the government mandating the removal of a population or people barred from returning to their homes in the wake of a major disaster, Koslov said. This was not the case in many Staten Island neighborhoods that had experienced repeated floods for decades before they were devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, she said. Many residents were not only on board with managed retreat; they were actually impatient for state buyouts of their properties, her research found. “These are some of the most politically conservative parts of New York City, so I was really struck by watching older people who prided themselves on being individual homeowners — many of whom had longstanding, multigenerational ties to these neighborhoods — come together to organize essentially to disperse themselves,” Koslov said.
A New York Daily News opinion piece about communities that choose to retreat from coastal areas threatened by climate change highlighted the research of Liz Koslov, assistant professor of urban planning. The world is witnessing storms that are increasing in frequency and severity, as well as a dramatic rise in sea levels as massive ice sheets melt. As a result, some coastal communities are considering relocation. Koslov noted that some Staten Islanders who participated in a buyout of their property after 2012’s Superstorm Sandy viewed retreat not as surrender but as a form of resilience. “They spoke of retreat very differently — as a moral achievement, a sort of sacrifice for the greater good,” she said. “They felt that that was a very profound and meaningful act.” Koslov shared her research at a conference on “managed retreat” at Columbia University’s Earth Institute this summer.
Liz Koslov, assistant professor of urban planning, spoke with the New York Times about a new study on “managed retreat” as an option for communities threatened by climate change. The study, published in the journal Science, found that choosing to relocate rather than rebuild can create new opportunities for communities damaged or threatened by climate disaster. Strategic, orderly and equitable relocation plans should be one of several options available to these communities, the researchers said. They added that regularly updated climate hazard maps should be provided to citizens so that they can make informed choices. “I’m so glad that these kinds of pieces are getting written,” said Koslov, noting that the debate over managed retreat is “inevitably thorny and conflictual.” She added that decisions about whether retreat is the best option should factor in social, economic and cultural considerations, not just physical geography.