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Flood Risks in New York City’s Child Care System: Using Spatial Analysis to Identify Water Vulnerabilities in Family Child Care Homes

Written by Joe Fretwell, Isabelle Donohoe and Amy Shea

On Election Day, Nov. 8, 2022, New York voters passed a $4.2 billion environmental bond. This bond, known as the “Clean Water, Clean Air, Green Jobs Act,” is the most significant climate intervention in the state’s history and the largest green borrowing referendum in the nation. The bond has the potential to help equip state infrastructure to face climate change by improving water quality, retrofitting older buildings to use renewable energy and flood-proofing neighborhoods. There is $1.1 billion of the bond act dedicated to flood-risk reduction to address the present risk of rising sea levels, and the urgent need to reshape infrastructure and the cityscape to survive the impacts of climate emergency-related hurricanes in the neighborhoods most vulnerable, as well as the geographies where a disaster is likely to strike in the near future.

More than 100,000 properties in New York City are at risk of being severely affected by flooding over the next 30 years, and 25% of all residential lots in the city intersect with a stormwater flood zone. Dwellings in basements and cellars – important and often more affordable housing opportunities for low-income residents who continue to struggle with rising housing costs – are likely most at risk.

In a new report and interactive mapping tool, LIIF finds that Family Child Care (FCC) providers – who offer licensed, quality care and education to thousands of young children in New York City – face unique risks from rising seas and intensifying flooding and rainfall. An estimated 2,172 (37.2% of all licensed FCCs citywide) operate from homes with directly accessible basement space. Mapping state child care licensing data in the context of projected long-term sea-level rise and stormwater flood scenarios suggests that 1,638 licensed FCC programs caring for 22,702 children in New York City face immediate risk of flood and water damage. By 2080, a flood mirroring what occurred in 2021, as a result of Hurricane Ida, would put nearly 80% of licensed FCCs at risk. 

Despite overwhelming evidence that infants and toddlers face unique, disproportionate harm from the climate emergency, climate analysis, disaster response and city resilience efforts rarely place deliberate attention on the places where young children spend their time. LIIF’s paper, Flood Risks in New York City’s Child Care System: Using Spatial Analysis to Identify Water Vulnerabilities in Family Child Care Homes, includes specific recommendations for policymakers and funders to make young children a focal point in broad responses to flood and water vulnerabilities. New York’s climate response could be a catalyst for the social promise we make to future generations, improving neighborhoods from the ground up with support for developing new, green anchor institutions to which every family deserves access: abundant affordable housing; quality early care and education programs; safe streets and engaging play spaces; accessible health care; diverse and sprawling cultural institutions; and the many other places and amenities that make a community feel like home. New York City and the United States face enormous climate challenges, and our solutions should seek to fundamentally change the way we value and support our youngest neighbors. 

Climate Emergency