City: New York Country / US State / US Territory: New York Type of Solution: Canal Climate Impact: Extreme Precipitation and Flooding Social Value Created: Water Security and Quality; Public Health and Safety; Public Space; Active Living and Recreation Cost: $1.5 million Funding Source: Public health; access to public space; water quality; recreation; redevelopment and brownfields
In 2010, the canal was named an EPA Superfund site, and the Sponge Park project emerged as a solution that would not only remediate the site and prevent future pollution but also improve access to a number of public spaces. Currently, the NYC area does not meet federal water quality standards for swimming, fishing, and wildlife habitats due to its inability to prevent pollution, particularly sewer overflows during heavy rain events. The water quality poses a health hazard to community members.
Gowanus Canal Sponge Park was built to manage stormwater, helping to slow, absorb, and filter polluted surface water runoff. Street runoff is captured and stored in underground tanks, which are then filtered by artificial wetlands and then released into the canal. The park is estimated to capture and treat 1 million gallons of storm water annually. This project will help to improve water quality in the surrounding waterways for recreational use and protect wildlife habitat.
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Department of Design and Construction also built 70 curbside rain gardens in South Brooklyn. These additional rain gardens can manage 133,000 gallons of stormwater runoff and will capture an estimated 6 million gallons of stormwater runoff annually. Long-term, the project aims to create 11.4 acres of revitalized canal space, 7.9 acres of public spaces and 3.5 acres of remediated wetland basins.
City: San Juan Country / US State / US Territory: Puerto Rico Type of Solution: N/A Climate Impact: Extreme Precipitation and Flooding Social Value Created: Connectivity; Public Space
Resilience Hubs have begun to emerge in Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria, community members had to rely on themselves for recovery. Conventional methods of disaster management are not as effective in a community with limited access and connectivity to other countries.
Thus, the focus in Puerto Rico is to improve community connectivity and social resilience in order to empower community members to lead their own recovery. Resilience Hubs provide community members with supplies, communications, and public space to gather and reconnect with other community members after a disaster. This approach to disaster management allows these community members to take responsibility for their own protection and build capacity for both times of crisis and for normal development.
City: Phoenix Country / US State / US Territory: Arizona Type of Solution: Park Climate Impact: Extreme Temperatures and Urban Heat Island Effect; Air Quality; Extreme Precipitation and Flooding Social Value Created: Public Space; Social Cohesion; Diverse Transportation; Connectivity; Active Living and Recreation; Arts and Culture
Phoenix, Arizona is a classic example of urban sprawl. The city is already facing issues with extreme temperatures, which is further amplified by the urban heat island effect. Civic Space Park is a 2.7 acre park located in Phoenix that includes green space with trees to mitigate extreme temperatures and provide shade for residents. Solar panels producing 75 kilowatts of renewable energy provide additional shade. Also, the green infrastructure improves stormwater management, which is helpful during monsoon season.
Not only is the park helpful in managing climate risks, but the park is a public space contributing the social cohesion and providing a number of other social benefits. The park features a number of artistic featurings, including a nighttime lighting show simulating lightning during a monsoon and an art installation, titled, “Her Secret is Patience.” This title arose from a phase used by Ralph Waldo Emerson that was inspired by elements of Arizona nature. There is also an interactive water feature, providing a playspace for children and adults.
The park promotes recreation and leisure, providing a turf landscape in the southwest corner of the park with pedestrian-scale retaining walls, game tables, benches, and densely spaced shade trees. The site is also located adjacent to the METRO Light Rail, increasing access to the park through improved connectivity and promoting diverse transportation.
Source: AECOM. (July 23, 2013). Civic Space Park, Phoenix USA. World Landscape Architecture. Retrieved from
*Note: This case was documented from an interview with a city practitioner.
Supported by the National Science Foundation under award number SES-1444755. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.