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.”
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.
Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Liz Koslov spoke to Vice about “managed retreat” as a strategy for coping with climate change — and perhaps creating a better quality of life. Faced with rising sea levels, some communities lobby for protection from walls and levees. Staying in place is seen as a sign of resilience, moving away a sign of surrender. Koslov noted that walling off cities could create “provinces of the wealthy” that bring about environmental and social havoc. “You could end up with these walled city-states and then everyone else is just left to fend for themselves,” she said. Managed retreat — moving populations away from an environmental threat in a carefully planned strategy — can be empowering and restorative if the people involved have a voice in the move, she said. Koslov, who has a joint appointment with UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, is currently working on a book based on her fieldwork on Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy.