Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 1–17 | Cite as

Visions of resilience: lessons from applying a digital democracy tool in New York’s Jamaica Bay watershed

  • Mario A. GiampieriEmail author
  • Bryce DuBois
  • Shorna Allred
  • Katherine Bunting-Howarth
  • Kim Fisher
  • Jesse Moy
  • Eric W. Sanderson


Resilience to extreme weather events and other sudden changes is an issue facing many communities in the early twenty-first century. Planning to respond to disasters is particularly complicated in densely inhabited, multi-jurisdictional urban social-ecological systems like the watershed of Jamaica Bay, a large urbanized estuary on the south side of New York City. This area contains parklands managed by New York City, the National Park Service, and other agencies, four sewage treatment plants, three former landfills, and urban and suburban communities, all of which were heavily impacted by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Here successful resilience planning and response requires participation from a wide variety of government and civil society players each with different types of knowledge, value systems, and expectations about what resilience means. To investigate how “visions” of future resilience differed among several communities living in or concerned with Jamaica Bay, New York, we deployed a free, Internet-based modeling framework called Visionmaker that enabled interactive scenario creation and testing. Through a series of standardized workshops, we recruited participants from a variety of different communities of practice (i.e. researchers, land managers, educators, non-governmental organization staff, and community board members) to design “visions of resilience”. Visions spanned terrestrial and marine environments and contained natural and built ecosystems. Most users favored increasing resilience through expanding salt marsh and green infrastructure while, for the most part, keeping the built city landscape of streets and buildings intact. We compare and contrast these visions and discuss the implications for future resilience planning in coastal cities.


Visionmaker Climate adaptation Green infrastructure Urban estuary Community-based planning 



This study was supported by funding from the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service [Cooperative agreement: P14AC01473]. Additional funding for development of Visionmaker was provided by the Rockefeller Foundation, Brooke Astor Fund for New York City Education at the New York Community Trust, and the Summit Foundation. We would also like to acknowledge and thank all the participants in the Visionmaker workshops and the support of the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay for this effort.

Supplementary material

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Online resource 1 (PDF 2350 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mario A. Giampieri
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Bryce DuBois
    • 3
  • Shorna Allred
    • 3
  • Katherine Bunting-Howarth
    • 4
  • Kim Fisher
    • 1
  • Jesse Moy
    • 1
  • Eric W. Sanderson
    • 1
  1. 1.Wildlife Conservation SocietyBronxUSA
  2. 2.Department of Urban Studies and PlanningMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Natural ResourcesCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  4. 4.New York Sea GrantCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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