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Residents Examine Next Steps on the Impact of Climate Change on Tarrytown

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May 22, 2024

By Jeff Wilson–

With a picturesque view of the Hudson River as a backdrop, members of Tarrytown’s Climate Action Plan Institute (CAPI) Task Force hosted a Community Workshop on May 16 in the Warner Library. Their purpose was to solicit ideas from attendees in a group project format on how to make the community more resilient to climate change.

Climate change (global warming) is – or should be – of particular concern to residents of this area, where the beauty of the river is rivaled only by its potential danger as a flood risk, thanks to rising sea levels compounded by increasing heat and extreme weather events such as hurricanes.

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Assistant Village Administrator Alissa Fasman gave a brief history of the task force and its work. The CAPI crew, she said, was appointed in November 2023 and coordinated by Hudson Valley Regional Council with a grant from Climate Park Communities to Westchester County. The first phase was the Government Operation Climate Action Plan for Municipal Operations, which concerned mitigation efforts. (Fasman defined mitigation, as it relates to climate change, as “…what we can do as a municipality to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and soften the impact of climate change.”)

Phase Two of the plan, which the Task Force is working on now, is the Climate Adaptation Chapter, adaptation being action the Village can take to manage the risks of climate change impacts. Put another way: how can we fix the environment to the extent possible (mitigation), and how can we best cope with what we can’t fix (adaptation)? The purpose of the workshop was “to get feedback for the climate vulnerability assessment for the Adaptation Plan, as well as into the recommended strategies for Tarrytown,” Fasman explained.

A testament to Tarrytown’s commitment to meet the challenges of climate change is its participation in the 2022-2023 Climate-adaptive Design (CaD) studio, a joint program of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Cornell University Landscape Architecture School, that partners with Hudson riverfront communities to study ways to protect their waterfronts from looming ecological threats, specifically flooding.

A slide show of grim predictions followed. Between 1880 and 2022, the sea level has risen by about 13 inches on the coast of New York, more than the global average of 7-8 inches, and is projected to rise another one to four feet by 2100. New York has also experienced an increase in frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events, with further increases projected. The New York State Climate Impacts Assessment concludes that “this region’s location makes it one of the most exposed to hurricane risk in the state, and a combination of sea level rise and increasingly extreme storms will increase the reach of storm surge flooding.”

Attendees became troubleshooters as Fasman assigned a series of tasks to participants. The first exercise was to identify some of the climate change-related hazards facing Tarrytown residents in three areas of concern: flooding, extreme weather events, and extreme heat. Later, they would identify where on the map vulnerable areas or populations might be.

Finally, the groups brainstormed some strategies for adapting or preparing for the hazards in the three areas of concern. Everyone retreated to tables equipped with chart paper, markers, post-it stickers and a large map of the Village. Assisted by Task Force members, they discussed strategies, for instance, how to cope with flooding: evacuating vulnerable populations; adapting building codes to account for rising sea levels (height restrictions, and designing storm systems in foundations–whether to let water pass through the building or keep it out entirely. Discussions of adapting to extreme weather events included pressuring ConEd to relocate electrical feeder lines underground and developing a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan.

The next step in the process, Fasman said, “will be making additional community outreach efforts over the coming months to seek additional community input, and plan to have a completed plan by December.” Members of the public seeking to offer suggestions can complete an online survey at tarrytownny.gov/ClimateActionPlan.

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