Urban Systems Lab Selected for Interdisciplinary Research Team Studying Stormwater Flood Risks in New York City


Hurricanes Florence, Maria, and Harvey are just a few of the devastating storms that have hit parts of the United States in the past year, leading to millions of dollars in damage, displacement, and death.  

In New York City, a new team of interdisciplinary researchers will work with NYC’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency to carry out a $1.8M study of urban and compound flood risks associated with current and future extreme rain events.

New York City’s location and dense urban environment make it uniquely vulnerable to flooding. Hurricane Sandy dramatically demonstrated New York’s vulnerability to coastal flooding. In New York City, urban flood risk is compounded when rainfall and storm surge occur simultaneously. However, less is known about inland and precipitation driven flooding. The combination of more frequent extreme precipitation events, ongoing sea-level rise, coastal flooding, and land use change increasingly overwhelms the city’s stormwater conveyance systems, leading to both flooding and degraded water quality.

Led by Brooklyn College-CUNY, the academic team includes leading scientists from The Urban Systems Lab (USL) at The New School, SUNY-Stony Brook University, Colorado State University, and Stevens Institute of Technology. The team also includes private sector firm Jupiter Intelligence, Inc.

“The Urban Systems Lab was invited to be part of the research team because of our previous urban modeling experience and our commitment to strong data visualization and design,” says Dr. Timon McPhearson, director of the USL and associate professor of Urban Ecology. “Our team, including Daniel Sauter from the Parsons Data Visualization program, Elizabeth Cook from the Environmental Studies program, and students and experts from the Urban Systems Lab are critical to the success of this project.”

Together, this team will work collaboratively to create a scientific foundation to support New York City in allocating resources to improve stormwater resilience by examining data from New York City's complex network of 'grey' and 'green' stormwater infrastructure to create models to assess at-risk areas for urban flooding. The group will also identify areas where the city may prioritize interventions to mitigate flood impacts.