Resiliency often invokes ideas of large-scale, sudden emergencies like Hurricane Sandy or Hurricane Katrina: disasters of such massive scope that they envelop whole cities in a collective crisis. This only makes sense: events like these pose huge threats to the systems that people depend upon for stability, and are a dramatic departure from our daily lives. It’s unsurprising, then, that enormous resources flow into disaster areas in the form of federal funding and nation-wide fundraising campaigns, and that new regulations around building standards and design requirements emerge in municipalities after floods, hurricanes, fires, or some other calamity results in the widespread loss of life, property, and stability.
But how do we address emergencies before they become crises? How do we scale resiliency from a regional or citywide scope down to the people who make up communities? And how do we decide who is the most vulnerable, and how do we empower vulnerable communities to prepare and protect themselves?
Our studio seeks first to bring emergency preparedness and social resiliency down to a community level, and to examine the way a neighborhood’s unique social and infrastructural characteristics either strengthen or weaken its ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from a crisis. Second, our studio seeks to subvert those crises by focusing on strategies for building the social resiliency of communities threatened by climate change-related disaster and other emergencies.
How can we – emergency preparedness experts, community organizers, public health professionals, housing advocates, urban planners, and concerned citizens work together to bolster community resiliency as threats to community stability, health, prosperity increase?
We had the privilege of trying to answer this question within the upper Manhattan community of East Harlem, which we will discuss in detail in this report.