International Program Helping To Increase Resilience In South Florida To End

Apr 3, 2019

An international program that has helped South Florida cities address climate change and other livability challenges is ending. 

The Rockefeller Foundation has announced that it's terminating funding for its 100 Resilient Cities program, the largest privately-funded climate change resilience initiative in the country.

The collaboration, started in 2013, has received about $165 million in grant money. It has sought to help cities in the U.S. and abroad address livability issues and climate change-related threats by paying for them to hire chief resilience officers and develop resilience strategies.

Miami Beach, Miami and Miami-Dade County are participants.

In a press release, the foundation said it will shift some of its resilience funding to the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank, with $30 million going to the council’s Adrienne Arsht Center for Resilience. The end of the Resilient Cities program will involve the closure of its office and dismissal of its 86 staff members in July. 

A Rockefeller Foundation spokesman, Matt Herrick, told WLRN the program has mostly achieved its objectives and helped cities hire more than 80 chief resilience officers. The collaboration was not supposed to continue in perpetuity but instead serve as a kickstarter for local resilience efforts, he said.

“The idea was to build a resilience movement,” he said. “It really is the job of government to lead this work and prioritize it.”

Miami Beach’s chief resilience officer, Susanne Torriente, said she was not surprised by the announcement, adding the move won’t affect Miami Beach’s plans. In partnership with Miami-Dade and Miami, the city still intends to release in May its resilience strategy, Resilient 305.  

“We’re just going to shift into implementation mode,” she said, noting that there are other funding sources that will help the city continue its resiliency work. “Nothing changes.”

Torriente said Resilient Cities has helped Miami Beach move forward with its resilience goals, providing recommendations for the city’s stormwater program and training city officials.

The Resilient 305 plan will incorporate advice from the collaboration for how Miami-Dade can enhance livability and better address climate change.

Separately, Miami Beach launched a new phone app Wednesday that showcases the city’s resilience projects. 

The Rising Above app includes a virtual tour showing the location of resilience projects, such as raised streets and stormwater drainage pumps, and how they reduce flooding. It also educates users about historic landmarks along the coast and natural resources in Biscayne Bay, like seagrass.

City officials said the app is meant to increase awareness about the city’s efforts to address sea level rise and could potentially help other coastal cities with their own resilience initiatives.

“We know that we’re the blueprint for a lot of these projects and it’s a learning process for us,” said Yanira Pineda, a sustainability specialist with the city. “We want to be able to serve as an example for other cities that want to take on those same measures.”

The app focuses on the area around Sunset Harbour on Purdy Avenue, where the city first began raising streets and installing pumps to mitigate flooding. A video in the app shows users how the pumps work.

Pineda said future updates to the app will include a virtual tour of Brittany Bay Park. The city is installing mangroves along the park’s shoreline to serve as a natural seawall.