Green Infrastructure

Building Climate Resiliency with Green Infrastructure

Communities are feeling the effects of climate change, as some parts of the country become drier and others become wetter. Green infrastructure can improve communities’ resiliency by helping manage flood risk, prepare for drought, reduce urban heat island effects, and protect coasts. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to climate adaptation, sharing best practices, learning by doing, and iterative problem solving can help communities develop adaptation strategies to meet environmental, quality of life, and public health goals. This 90-minute webcast highlights Climate Interactive’s new Green Infrastructure Decision Support Tool, followed by a presentation on the New York City Green Infrastructure Program’s efforts to incorporate climate resiliency into system planning.


Session 1—The Green Infrastructure Decision Support Tool: A Pilot Project in the Kinnickinnic River Watershed of Milwaukee

Elizabeth Sawin, Co-Director of Climate Interactive Exit

This interactive session demonstrates a computer-simulation tool for community, business, and municipal engagement on green infrastructure. The tool—first used in Milwaukee—allows people to see the impact green versus gray investments in stormwater management infrastructure can have on water quality, air quality, jobs, and community wellbeing. The discussion includes developing the tool in partnership with community organizations and leaders and using it to stimulate new green investment.

Learn more about the Green Infrastructure Decision Support Tool Exit.

Session 2—Green Infrastructure and Climate Change in New York City

  • Alan Cohn, Director of Climate and Water Quality, New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP)
  • Mikelle Adgate, Project Manager, Green Infrastructure Partnerships, NYC DEP
  • Carolina Griggs, Deputy Director of Planning Projections and Demand Management, Sustainability Division, NYC DEP

The NYC DEP’s mission is to protect public health and the environment by supplying clean drinking water; collecting and treating wastewater; and reducing air, noise, and hazardous materials pollution. In this presentation, DEP staff discusses incorporating climate resiliency into system planning in support of the agency’s mission—specifically the ongoing work to monitor and quantify the effects of green infrastructure. They also present DEP’s work on developing a tool that identifies and quantifies costs and benefits of green infrastructure practices throughout NYC.


Elizabeth Sawin is co-director of Climate Interactive. A biologist with a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she trained in system dynamics and sustainability with Donella Meadows. She worked at Sustainability Institute, the research institute founded by Meadows, for 13 years before cofounding Climate Interactive in 2010. Her work has involved tracking and assessing pledges in international climate treaty negotiations, with an increasing focus on helping people find ways to prevent future climate change, build resilience to unavoidable climate impacts, and provide opportunities to the most needy.

Alan Cohn is director of Climate and Water Quality at the NYC DEP, where he develops cost-effective solutions to advance resiliency and prioritize investments in water and wastewater infrastructure. He leads efforts on flood protection, coordinates regional and national climate change initiatives, promotes green approaches to drainage and water quality improvement, and advances studies of climate change impacts on water supply, stormwater management, and wastewater treatment. Alan works closely with other NYC agencies to coordinate citywide resiliency and waterfront planning efforts, and with the Water Utility Climate Alliance to advance climate research, decision-making tools, and flexible, adaptive regulations. He managed development of the NYC Wastewater Resiliency Plan and contributed to NYC's Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, Green Infrastructure Plan, and PlaNYC: A Stronger, More Resilient New York.

Mikelle Adgate is a project manager in the DEP’s Office of Green Infrastructure. She develops outreach and engagement strategies for the NYC Green Infrastructure Program, including engaging environmental stakeholders, neighborhood construction notification, and Long Term Control Planning public participation. She also drives program and project development for DEP’s Green Infrastructure Grant Program, through which DEP has committed over $11.5 million to private partners.

Carolina Griggs is deputy director of Planning Projections and Demand Management in the Sustainability Division of the NYC DEP. She has worked on stormwater, wastewater, climate change, and water demand management planning projects. Previously, she served as an analyst in the NYC

Office of Management and Budget’s Environmental Unit and worked in debt capital markets and agricultural and energy commodities markets.