1. IntroductionAt the summit organized by the New York Panel on Climate Change (NYPCC) in March 2019, during the Q&A, a woman stood from the audience and told to a panel made of predominantly city officers, that she was using the online Flood Hazard Mapper to identify an area in Manhattan where she and her husband could move to from Princeton. She was interested in understanding whether buying a property located within a 100-year floodplain was a good decision and, if so, she asked authorities to add information about where the location of evacuation zones in the Flood Hazard Mapper, so she could be sure that in a flooding event, the evacuation centers were within reach. Whether or not this was a real question or a provocation, I immediately made a connection with the slowly growing literature linking coastal flood risk and environmental justice, specifically the debates around living in a floodplain by choice, which the woman was an example of, or because of historical planning decisions that placed some homes and people in areas more at risk than others.The issue of social justice in relation climate change induced flooding is not new and research on the topic has been growing in many directions where justice dilemmas emerge. In this paper I briefly review the long history of Environmental Justice (EJ) movement in the US, including its meanings, scope and relationship to nature with the aim of contextualizing how, more recently, the movement expanded to concerns related to climate change. Then, I review how questions of distributional and procedural justice are used in EJ literature as well as climate change, specifically in relationship to coastal flooding. I tease out the concepts of procedural justice that can complement a distributional justice understanding of coastal flooding and I apply those in the context of East Harlem, in Northwestern Manhattan, a community district where issues of climate change and gentrification act like a double edge sword towards it’s already burdened share of low-income black and brown communities.1. 1 The Evolving Environmental Justice Movement in the United StatesSince the environmental reforms of the 1970s, according to Faber and McCarthy (2001), the environmental justice movement in the U.S. has not been effective because it has been dominated by single issue approaches, affecting the quality of environmental laws that were approved (for instance privileging control of pollution rather than prevention). The authors attribute this crisis largely to, on the one hand, environmental organizations of the time being composed of white, middle-class professionals who were unable to draw linkages between racism, abuse and economic inequality. On the other, in an effort to draft legislation and make environmentally friendly initiatives, the movement had become increasingly detached to those it was supposed to serve. The movement was not oriented towards public participation but established corporate-like organizational models that inhibited citizen involvement. From the mid-eighties, however, a subaltern movement grew emphasizing the need to re-establish a connection with constituents who were predominantly black and brown communities of color victim of toxic pollution in cities, connecting them across a variety of issues and allowing for their own voices to emerge. According to Faber and McCarthy, key moments in the subaltern movement were the African American protests against PCBs in North Carolina in 1982, building on other protests such as the Love Canal Homeowners Association in 1978 who were able to successfully relocate 900 families away from the toxic dump on which their homes were built in Niagara (NY).From the late-nineties, following the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit of 1991, we see the emergence of regional and national campaigning networks striving to create stronger institutional linkages between the local groups that emerged in earlier years. By the late nineties local groups began to connect environmental issues of exposure to and impacts of pollutants, to broader issues (e.g. gun violence, occupational health and safety, immigration rights, human rights, anti-globalization, indigenous rights to land and community empowerment), moving from single-issue reforms to addressing the systemic causes of injustice by bringing together a diverse group of impacted communities (Faber and McCarthy, 2001). A landmark moment was when in 1994 when the networks pressured the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue the Executive Order 12898 titled “Federal Action to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations” prohibiting discriminatory practices in federal programs and the creation of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (NEJAC) to provide independent advice to the EPA and integrate EJ within its programs (Bullard, 2001).The crisis of the U.S. environmental movement in the 70s and the emergence of a counter movement in the 1980-1990 is underscored by a fundamentally different ontology of the environment between these two periods. For Di Chirico (1995) the meaning of the environment for the historically white, predominately male, and middle-class movement, imbued with Euro-American colonist thinking, was largely associated with the preservation of an uncontaminated wilderness, outside of society and human culture. On the contrary, the definition of environment by EJ activists relates to where one works, plays and lives. This definition fits the urban dimension of EJ activism, where the victims of industrial pollution reside, but it also accounts for the presence of people which was taken for granted in previous understandings. Since many prominent EJ activists see themselves emerging from the social movements of the sixties, it makes sense to see activists as civil society rights activists pursuing forms of grassroots political organization.The EJ movement is fundamentally urban and it became quickly embedded into struggles over gentrification and affordable housing as American cities were growing increasingly unequal. A 2015 survey of Registered Environmental Justice Organization (REJOs) revealed that organizations have become more diverse in mission and focus, including land use planning, climate and food justice, energy poverty into their priorities, and calling for intersectional approaches between geography, sociology, medicine and health. They are also seeking further connections between environmental health, reproductive health and environmental exposure and linking these with concerns of economic policy (Larsen et al. , 2015).In summary today’s EJ movement in the U.S. may be seen as the result of the organizing of local black and brown communities of color fighting for dignified living conditions in the presence of legacies of environmental racism, at first, linking race to the location of commercial hazard facilities and health outcomes. From the late nineties onwards, as the national presence of localized networks pressured national agencies to prohibit discriminatory actions on the basis of race, the movement expanded their agenda, advocacy and on the ground action to other issues, such as climate change. For decades the environmental justice literature has studied the connection between race/ethnicity and proximity to toxic facilities in cities, and the work is now being leveraged to understand how justice and flood risk combine in coastal areas.1.2 From Traditional Flood Risk Assessments to a Flood Justice FramingAs people across a variety of cities experience the increasing effects of climate change, researchers’ interests in understanding the multi-dimensional nature of coastal areas - simultaneously attractive, biophysically dynamic, while subject to political decision making - has increased. In comparison to research from other environmental hazards, the literature regarding EJ implications of flood hazards is smaller and more recent. A whole issue of Regional Environmental Change was recently dedicated to research that takes inspiration from findings within the EJ literature, extending the field to find applicability to Flood Risk Management (FRM) (Thaler et al. , 2018).The research collected in the volume borrows notions of distributive and procedural justice and applies it to urban flood risk in both the U.S and European cities. Although notions of sensitivity and vulnerability have gained growing consideration in traditional FRM (Cutter et al. , 2009), as well as the notion that vulnerability to flooding may be only one of the issues among many others faced by low-income communities (Lopez-Marrero and Tschakert, 2011), assessments are often only able to convey an abstract snapshot with significant assumptions and uncertainties about risks and possible mitigation measures, simplified into variables easily measurable through cost-benefit analysis (Bos and Zwaneveld, 2017). Flood risk assessments and maps are frequently updated by authorities, as they incorporate new knowledge from modeling, however these alternations tend to take place closed doors and in largely opaque manner so that what was previously considered ‘safe’ under one model, now becomes ‘at risk’ with little opportunity for discussion with those who will be affected by this change (O’Hare and White, 2018).An example of both the opaqueness of maps and models is the ongoing debate between the City of New York, FEMA’s flood zones and their ongoing update. In PLANYC, Bloomberg’s 2007 vision for New York, authorities recognized that FEMA’s flood maps were severely outdated (the last revisions were carried out in 1983) and warned “in areas where insurers feel the risk is too great, or their ability to raise premiums is hampered by political or regulatory limitations, the risk burden will be shifted to the public as well as to banks and investors” (p.139). The stakes are so high that when in 2015, the federal government issued a preliminary draft of its updated 100-year flood maps, which greatly expanded New York City’s flood zones, the city rejected the maps. An additional 35,000 buildings, for a total of 72,000 buildings and 400,000 New York City residents were now in the 100-year floodplain, according to the update, which meant thousands of additional residents now had to purchase flood insurance (The New York Times, 2013). The city appealed by saying that as a result of technical errors, FEMA overestimated the size of the floodplain, with a resulting huge cost burden for homeowners and more so for low-income renters in public housing units built on the waterfront. FEMA agreed there were errors and that the maps should be revised, but for some planners, the fact that FEMA maps are often subject to such dispute is a cause for concern. Citizens are left in a limbo. Even though new maps allow property owners to check their address to determine whether they are in a flood zone, and how severe the flooding could be, there are considerable uncertainties around whether a home falling into a floodplain map will actually be affected by the next big storm.The distributive dimensions of injustice, like costs and benefits of measures to adapt to flooding through insurance, are influenced by broader, often intangible, process-based inequities. Vulnerability research shows that people living in poverty and/or socially marginalized have reduced capacity for self-protection in terms of mitigating flood hazards at home pre-event, evacuating in response to flooding, or returning home or to employment in the aftermath of a flooding event, accessing social protection such as flood insurance, hazard mitigation infrastructure, emergency response information and assistance (Green, Bates and Smyth, 2007; Collins, Grineski and Chakraborty, 2018). The distribution of emergency response may also be unequal. Based on physical damage calculations after superstorm Sandy, populations living in some NYCHA towers suffered disproportionately from delays in emergency response, living with no running water, heat or lack of repair work until long after the storm (Sellers, 2017).In conclusion flood risk researchers realized that the abstract and aggregate information of FRM need richer accounts provided by a justice framing in order “to capture fine-grained differences between affected populations, particularly those that are rooted in more complex societal disadvantage stemming from outside the flood risk arena” (O’Hare and White, 2018:385).