UMass Boston

New Sustainable Solutions Lab Research Explores True Community and Climate Resilience in East Boston


01/25/2022| Sustainable Solutions Lab

The Sustainable Solutions Lab at UMass Boston has released new research exploring the question of what is necessary for true community and climate resilience in East Boston. The report, Opportunity in the Complexity: Recommendations for Equitable Climate Resilience in East Boston, released December 17, was requested by a group of local advocacy organizations convened by the Barr Foundation called the Waterfront Partners.

The report was authored by Patricio Belloy, PhD candidate in the Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs; Antonio Raciti, assistant professor of community planning and ecological design in the School for the Environment; Katsyris Rivera-Kientz, PhD candidate in the College of Liberal Arts; and Rebecca Herst, director of the Sustainable Solutions Lab.

East Boston is very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, particularly flooding. Some of the projects the City of Boston would like to advance in East Boston are not currently possible due to the regulatory restrictions of “Designated Port Areas” (DPAs). It is within this context that the Boston Planning and Development Agency requested that the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management review the boundaries of the DPAs in East Boston. Local residents, however, are concerned that if these areas are de-designated, high-end housing developments will come in. Since East Boston is currently facing a housing crisis and long-time residents are being displaced as housing costs skyrocket, there are valid concerns about additional high-end development. While these new developments might help reduce flooding in the neighborhood, they would also continue to drive up housing costs.

“It’s a challenging problem,” acknowledged Belloy, lead author of the report. “But through our research we heard from residents that they have hopes that climate resilience can also be a vehicle for concurrently addressing the most pressing economic, social, and environmental problems of East Boston.”

The paper focused on three main themes to advance equitable climate resilience: inclusive decision making, a holistic perspective on the interconnection between challenges residents face, and re-evaluating success incrementally to ensure desired results are happening. Recommendations include using neutral professional mediators to help manage community engagement and prioritizing the vision East Boston residents have for access to the waterfront for community members and small businesses.

“This research provides relevant evidence around preparing the built environment to be protected by the effects of climate change, reflects critically on the ongoing adaptation planning, and focuses on what approach to planning is desirable for these coastal communities to move forward,” Raciti said.

This project was partly funded by a grant from the McCormack Graduate School Dean’s Office for Student Success Program. The report is available in English and in Spanish; the recording of the report briefing is also available in English and Spanish.

About Sustainable Solutions Lab
The Sustainable Solutions Lab at UMass Boston is a collaborative research and action institute focused on keeping historically excluded people and communities safe and healthy as our climate changes. We are a groundbreaking, cross-disciplinary partnership of four institutes and five schools across the University: the Collaborative of Asian American, Native American, Latino, and African American Institutes (CANALA), College of Liberal Arts, College of Management, College of Nursing and Health Sciences, John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, and School for the Environment. For more information: visit www.umb.edu/ssl.