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An article that appeared recently in the New York Times examined the impact of the pandemic on New York City’s urban streetscape and explored the reimagining of urban public spaces already underway. A common theme in the article is a growing consensus that “just more greenery would be great,” which could suggest expanding opportunities for GSI.

Over the course of the past 10 months, city officials have gradually conceded 83+ miles of roadway to cyclists, runners and walkers, as close to 11,000 restaurants city-wide spilled over onto sidewalks and streets and retailers expanded their storefronts beyond their doorsteps. This Open Streets phenomenon has gained a steady following and many want to see it last and grow in post-pandemic New York City. There appears to be a shared vision for street medians to stretch and expand into small parks, parks to grow and open up to greater access by locals with paths weaving among trees and gardens, and sidewalks to incorporate more trees and plants. 

These recreational improvements would bring multiple other benefits. For instance, they would break up the flow of traffic by forcing drivers to slow down, which would increase safety. They would also allow more space for features like workout areas, playgrounds, and gardens. 

This reimagining of New York City’s urban landscape could have significant implications regarding opportunities for future GSI implementation and serve as a blueprint for other large cities to model.

In December, FEMA hosted a series of informational sessions around its 2020 Notices of Funding Opportunities for the Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) and Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant programs. If you’re still interested in applying for funding under these grant programs, you can view the session recordings, presentations, and transcripts, which offer an overview of the two programs, details about the agency’s funding priorities, and common grant application errors and how to avoid them. 

This year, $700 million in funding is available through these two programs – $200 million for qualified FMA initiatives and $500 million for qualified BRIC initiatives. Eligible applicants must apply using the new FEMA Grants Outcome (FEMA GO) system. You can learn more about both grant programs, their scope and requirements here. 

As a reminder, the application deadline is January 29th at 3pm ET.

In late December, River Network – a Kresge Foundation CREWS grantees – kicked off the release of its “Fostering Community Leadership – Tools for Equitable Climate Resilience. This is the first of two resources aimed at providing guidance and showcasing examples of two important strategies organizations can activate to promote equitable resilience. The second tool will be released later in January. Both spotlight case studies, including work done by other members of the Climate Resilient and Equitable Water Systems (CREWS) initiative of the Kresge Foundation – a key funder of the GI Exchange. Other CREWS grantees whose work and case studies are featured in this toolkit include EcoAction, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition and others. 

River Network has partnered with 11 community-based organizations to begin applying these tools across various communities, offering assistance with funding and technical support as they strive to implement community-led research initiatives (often flooding-related) and create comprehensive, community-responsive leadership development programs. 

River Network plans to host a series of trainings on these tools in late January/early February. Dates are TBD.

We’re very excited to announce that the GI Exchange has just launched our first social media page – we’re now on LinkedIn! This platform will provide a new, more casual and instantaneous medium for you to stay connected with colleagues, keep on top of new developments and opportunities, and share achievements and resources with peers in real time.

Shortly, we’ll be circulating a set of simple protocols for engaging on our LinkedIn page, to help ensure everyone feels comfortable participating and any private or confidential information is protected. Stay tuned.

As a first step, if you have an individual LinkedIn account, we invite you to visit and follow our LinkedIn page. With any questions, please reach out to Anna Radev at anna@giexchange.org.

In its year-in-review recap published in December 2020, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) commended four GI Exchange members on their article, published in ASLA’s professional practice network blog, THE FIELD, earlier in the year. This article – on “Performance-Based Plant Selection for Bioretention” – was the most visited post on THE FIELD blog in 2020, with more than 2,800 total views

The GI Exchange members who contributed to this article were Jeremy Person from Portland, Brian Wethington from Denver, Donna Evans from Montgomery County and Irene Ogata from Tucson.

Congratulations to our members for their excellent work and this well-deserved recognition!

Our heartfelt gratitude to our funders for their support of our mission, which makes our work possible.