Three years from now, New Orleans will enter its fourth century. When it is home to the next generation of New Orleanians, what sort of place will it be?
The actions we take today will shape our future city for the coming generation. What must we do now to make the next generation more equitable, more adaptable, and more prosperous? How can we make their New Orleans a dynamic urban landscape – aligned with its natural environment? What leadership is needed – from individuals, communities, the public and private sectors – to realize the city we envision?
RESILIENT NEW ORLEANS addresses these questions and sets forth aspirations to guide our work and specific actions to tackle these challenges. We are building upon the existing visions and plans developed over the last decade. Guided by 100 Resilient Cities, Resilient New Orleans combines local expertise with global best practices to confront our most urgent threats and seek ways to redress our legacy of inequity and risk. We propose bold yet pragmatic actions to adapt our city to our changing natural environment, invest in equity, create flexible and reliable systems, and prepare for future shocks.
We developed this strategy by researching the challenges facing New Orleans, gathering input from stakeholders with relevant knowledge and expertise, and sourcing best practices from around the world. We investigated the city’s shocks, stresses, and assets. We met with local organizations and stakeholders to understand how the city’s resilience is perceived today, to gather local best practices, and devise new approaches.
I served on the core team that developed the strategy as a planner, writer, editor, photographer, mapmaker, and graphics director, under the direction of the City's Chief Resilience Officer. Since the launch of the strategy, I have worked to guide the implementation of actions in coordination with partners inside and outside city government.
The City of New Orleans launched its first ever climate action strategy in 2017. CLIMATE ACTION FOR A RESILIENT NEW ORLEANS proposes 11 strategies and 25 actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2030.
The development of Climate Action for a Resilient New Orleans strategy was called for in the City’s resilience strategy, RESILIENT NEW ORLEANS. The launch of the strategy represents the city’s next step toward leading with cities around the country and world in combating global climate change. The vision and actions in the climate action strategy send the signal that New Orleans is ready to invest in economic opportunities through the adaptation and modernization of our energy, transportation, and waste systems, and there are ways that every New Orleanian can participate.
I served on the core team that developed the strategy as an editor, writer, and director of graphic content. I worked to align the vision of the climate action strategy with the city's resilience strategy, produced original infographics, and laid out the design for the final report.
Gentilly Resilience District
The City of New Orleans participated in HUD's National Disaster Resilience Competition in 2015, which sough innovative and transferable solutions to some of the most pressing risks facing local communities. Out of 67 eligible states, counties, and cities, HUD awarded a total of $1 billion to 13 applicants. The City of New Orleans received the second highest award of $141 million.
With this award, the City is undertaking an unprecedented network of integrated initiatives across the neighborhoods of the Gentilly area that will reduce flood risk, slow land subsidence, spur economic opportunity, improve health, encourage neighborhood revitalization, and adapt the city to a changing natural environment. This concentrated effort will establish the city’s first-ever resilience district and transform Gentilly into a national model for retrofitting post-war suburban neighborhoods into resilient, safe, and equitable communities of opportunity.
The Gentilly Resilience District includes innovative water management projects that will reduce risk from flooding and subsidence by creating spaces to capture rainwater in the urban landscape. These projects will include green infrastructure features that use vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage water and create healthier urban environments. These projects will work to connect physical resilience with social resilience by providing spaces for recreation, increasing environmental awareness, improving quality of life, and promoting environmental justice. Projects will take place in streets, in neutral grounds, in parks, on schoolyards, on open lots, and on residential properties. While each project will separately reduce risk from flooding and subsidence and provide co-benefits, collectively they will create a network of solutions with exponential benefits that transform the way New Orleanians live with water.
I co-wrote the City's $141m award-winning application to HUD's National Disaster Resilience Competition and am working to guide the implementation of the Gentilly Resilience District.
Graphic renderings by Waggonner & Ball Architects
Reimagining Vacant Land
In my role at the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority I supported the planning, design, and implementation of 60+ projects and programs that creatively reuse publicly-owned vacant land to reduce flooding, provide fresh produce, increase canopy, and beautify neighborhoods.
We built pilot rain gardens that divert rainwater from the street onto vacant lots designed with native plants to store and absorb water, designed a program that makes it easier for residents and community groups to access publicly-owned vacant properties for greening and gardening projects, and collaborated with landscape architects at LSU to design and implement low-maintenance landscape strategies like cypress groves and wildflower gardens.
Additionally, I served as the local project manager and advisor for Future Ground, a national design and planning competition for the strategic reuse of vacant land in New Orleans over the next half-century in collaboration with Van Alen Institute.
Vacant land types, patterns, and strategies in New Orleans
This MIT Master in City Planning thesis project identifies the unique characteristics of vacant land in New Orleans, using thousands of images to catalogue spatial and visual typologies. Through a rigorous data-driven mapping exercise at the citywide and neighborhood scale, patterns emerge defining three distinct neighborhood types in which vacant land should be treated with different design and policy solutions. The findings of this research indicate the need to revisit the physical footprint of New Orleans at a parcel-by-parcel scale, with an emphasis on how the city should target its limited resources in the future to maximize both social justice and environmental justice imperatives, as well as mitigate the negative impacts of future disasters.
Measuring correlations between residential block fabric and health outcomes in Houston
This mapping exercise examines the correlation between the physical urban environment and public health outcomes in Houston. Through layering geographies of land use, access to amenities, demographic data, and health indicators, a strong east/west divide appears, where the east side of the city has more industry, less access to parks and physicians, and poorer health than the west. Much of this can be attributed to the negative impacts of living near the massive Houston Shipping Canal. Houston was one of nine cities explored in an urban health workshop with MIT’s Center for Advanced Urbanism as part of a collaborative with the American Institute of Architects and the Clinton Global Initiative.
In the second phase of the Health + Urbanism project, the team focused in on the healthiest neighborhood in Houston near the Texas Medical Center on the west side of the city and compared it to its less healthy neighbors. In order to understand what aspects of the physical environment in the Medical Center area might correlate with better health outcomes, we measured various health indicators, demographics, access to amenities, and land use calculations in each of the six neighborhoods. The team found no clear association at this scale between health and land use measures like industrial area, density, park space, or proximity to freeways. However, we did find a relationship between health and the quality of the residential block fabric, as measured by block size and vacant lots, suggesting an area for future research.
MIT Health + Urbanism Workshop | Spring 2013
Team member: Katherine Mella
Recycled Landscapes reframes and restructures waste systems in a shrinking industrial region. The former oil refinery site in Sauget, Illinois acts as a filter for recycling local illegally dumped tires and scrap vehicles into productive building materials in the East St Louis region, providing a model for how urban waste and recycling can be seen as a community asset rather than an intractable liability.
MIT Shrinking Cities Urban Design Studio | Spring 2012
Gowanus Water Works
Modular stormwater filtration
As a submission for a design competition at a site near the Gowanus Canal, this project proposes a network of living machine systems that filter water through a series of bioremediation processes. The system is adaptable to multiple sites and can be dispersed throughout the Gowanus Canal sewershed, providing water filtration and excess storage across multiple CSO outfalls. The landscape surrounding the Gowanus provides multiple opportunistic sites for such an integrated system, including excess land in the form of parking lots, planned excavation as part of the remediation of superfund sites, streets dead-ending at the Gowanus, and the canal itself. This program reveals and engages the public in a new form of water infrastructure.
Brooklyn, NY | 2013
Team members: Chris Rhie, Louise Yeung
During the summer of 2012, a team of MIT students working with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority proposed revitalization strategies surrounding two key commercial corridors in New Orleans: OC Haley Boulevard and St. Claude Avenue. The project development involved extensive lot-by-lot fieldwork and data collection, mapping current conditions, concept diagramming, and site-specific strategy recommendations, concluding in a final presentation and hundred-page report.
New Orleans | Summer 2012
Team members: Michael Kaplan, Anna Muessig, Jared Press
Activating the public realm in a residential new town
This workshop project based in a public housing new town development in Singapore is the result of a rapid week-long exercise of defining, measuring, and mapping the parameters most critical to urban quality at that site. The project group focused on the availability of amenities and the intensity of pedestrian paths, proposing a future programming of underutilized open ground floors of high rise apartment buildings. Project teammate Dicle Uzunyayla developed the script for this map of open space use and the proximity of amenities, which I graphically refined.
MIT Parametric Urban Design Workshop | Spring 2013