During the summer of 2021, the Northeast experienced unprecedented hurricanes and intense rainfall, causing extreme flooding and more than 40 deaths. Many of the deaths in New York City occurred in illegally converted basement apartments, while others in the Tri-state Area occurred as drivers were swept away with their vehicles. The storms disrupted public transportation, stranding passengers as subway stations filled with water. Video footage of water pouring onto underground platforms and cascading down exit stairs went viral, underlining the fact that it was only luck that kept passengers from being trapped below ground while flood levels rose.
This program brings together experts in climate resilience planning, public housing, earth science, and engineering to discuss these issues. What can we expect in the future as climate change remains unchecked and increased density makes the City even more vulnerable? How can we account for intense rainfall as well as the whole gamut of climate disasters that impact the City? How can our existing infrastructure and vulnerable sites be re-planned, designed, and, most importantly, maintained, to mitigate the increasing impacts of extreme weather events?
Julie Conroy, AICP, Lead Climate Resilience Planner, Ramboll
Rob Freudenberg, Vice President, Energy & Environmental Programs, Regional Plan Association
Klaus Jacob, Special Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University
Franco Montalto, PE, PhD, President and Founder, eDesign Dynamics; Professor, Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engingeering, Drexel University
Joy Sinderbrand, Vice President of Recovery and Resilience, Capital Projects, NYCHA
Breanna Gribble, Senior Resilience Manager, STV
Julie Conroy has more than 20 years of experience as an environmental analyst and planner. She currently serves as technical lead and project manager for coastal and climate change projects. Conroy has particular expertise in coastal ecology, integrated water management, and nature-based resiliency solutions, and has been recognized for her contemporaneous approach to formulating nature-based resilience solutions and innovative infrastructure designs. She is trained in Massachusetts-specific regulatory programs, including the Massachusetts Waterfront Act (Ch. 91), Coastal Zone Management Federal Consistency, and National/Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act processes. She is skilled in both the preparation of regulations relative to environmental protection and permitting for complex infrastructure and land use projects. Conroy is also a trained facilitator in the translation of scientific and technical findings to a wide range of audiences. Her specific technical skills include the preparation of ecological assessments, working with dynamic climate models to evaluate vulnerabilities, and preparing action plans for climate mitigation and adaptation.
Robert Freudenberg is vice president of RPA’s energy and environmental program, leading the organization’s initiatives in areas including climate mitigation and adaptation, open space conservation and park development, and water resource management. He oversees a comprehensive program of projects and policies to improve the health, equity, prosperity, and sustainability of the New York City metropolitan area. Freudenberg led the development of an innovative set of strategies centered on climate adaptation and mitigation for the organization’s once-in-a-generation Fourth Regional Plan. Freudenberg is a well-respected and sought-after expert on environmental issues in the New York City metropolitan region with national and local print, television, radio and digital media appearances. He has been with RPA since 2006. Prior to joining RPA, Freudenberg served as a coastal management fellow at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where he focused on policies for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. He holds a Master’s of public administration in environmental science and policy from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, and a bachelor’s in environmental biology from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
Klaus Jacob is a geophysicist and Emeritus Research Professor at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory/Earth Institute. He joined Lamont in 1968, where he carried out seismological research on five continents. In the late 1990s his focus turned to climate change impacts. He taught Disaster Risk Management and Sustainable Urban Resilience at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs and served on the Mayor’s NYC Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) from 2008-2019. TIME magazine named him one of 50 “people who mattered in 2012” for forecasting the impacts on NYC of a Sandy-like coastal storms just one year before Hurricane Sandy hit New York City.
Franco Montalto is a civil/environmental engineer interested in the development of ecologically, economically, and socially sensible solutions to urban environmental problems, with a focus on water resources, sustainability, and climate resilience. His 25 years of experience have included research, planning, and design of a variety of nature-based solutions involving ecological restoration of degraded landscapes, the use of constructed wetlands for wastewater and stormwater treatment, as well as work with green infrastructure as a multifunctional strategy for managing urban runoff. He is currently a professor at Drexel University, where he directs the Sustainable Water Resource Engineering Lab. He is also the Founder and President of eDesign Dynamics LLC, an environmental consulting firm based in New York City with an international portfolio of projects. Montalto also serves as the Director of the North American Hub of the Urban Climate Change Research Network (UCCRN), is a Member of the 4th New York City Panel on Climate Change (NPCC4), and an invited author of the Northeast Chapter of the 5th National Climate Assessment (NCA5).
Joy Sinderbrand has spent her career tackling the major infrastructure projects that shape New York City. From transportation to economic development to affordable housing, she has managed multi-disciplinary teams that transcend complex contexts to move projects forward. Since 2016, she has been at the New York City Housing Authority implementing the largest single grant in FEMA history and the largest federal investment in public housing since its inception. Over $2.5 billion of the $3 billion grant has been invested to date to protect existing multifamily buildings from storm surge and power outages. Last fall, her department released NYCHA’s first Climate Adaptation Plan, outlining a path forward for a 2,500+ building portfolio housing some of New York’s most vulnerable residents.
Breanna Gribble has over 10 years of experience in a variety of facility and infrastructure improvement projects in the New York metropolitan area. Her expertise includes hazardous materials investigation and management, sustainable design, and flood resilience. Prior to joining STV, she served as the program manager with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) to provide flood mitigation and resilient design. She has prepared environmental investigations and remedial plans that are compliant with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) regulations and guidelines.