An open letter to Ivanka Trump (5/5/17)

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7 May 2017

Dear Ms. Trump,

I am an Architect and once worked on one of your grandfather’s Trump building projects in New York when I was an intern. Forgive me for being forward; this has made me feel a particular connection to your family’s work in the real estate world of New York.

The building site I worked on is at approximately 4.43 feet above sea level, by current map estimates. Although there are ground floor lobby spaces that could accommodate a storm surge or monthly higher tides, there are still mechanical spaces below, and elevator access above, through which the residents of the building need to access basic utilities, services and vertical transportation. Most of the residents are long term, and elderly.

As an Architect, this concerns me. And even though an intern on that particular project, I feel a connection to the site, the building and its residents, even today. Such is the inner world of the Architect: we remain connected, and we care. That does not go away.

I learned a lot about my desires and my limitations on that project. In fact, part of the experience spurred me on to create my own business, and prior to that, was even a step to meeting my now-husband, becoming a new American citizen, and having American babies here, now growing up as young teens. I have your grandfather’s legacy in building to thank, in small part, for this trajectory in my life.

And so I am connected, and as such, I must speak out. Not about the politics of the day (which frankly overwhelm me) but of this one building site that connects us, and that sits at approximately four feet above sea level.

There is an easy path to doing our best to preserve building sites—legacies—like this one. The preservation (or adaptation, as the case may require) will be in response to three things:

1. monthly high tides increasing;

2. storm surges; and

3. general sea level rise.

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I don’t need to tell you this is a controversial topic today in politics. You know that. What I will affirm, is that there is a mechanism already in place to address and to mitigate the changes I listed above, that involve our waters. And it does not require that the body politic agree on every aspect of this, or that governments follow the same guidelines. It is a flexible mechanism.

It is the Paris Agreement.

By upholding and remaining true to the Paris Agreement, we, as an American nation, are saying that we care about sites like the one I worked on, that we care about the people who inhabit those buildings, and that we will do our best and give it our brightest advancement of thought in extending care to those intertidal edges we find ourselves inhabiting.

I live in New Jersey now. The coastal edges of New York and New Jersey are often impacted by the same storm systems and similar tidal experiences. I see that:

1. NY/NJ are partly coastal and are subject to sea level rise.

2. Sea level rise, like it or not, is occurring. It does not matter whether one believes in climate change being largely human-driven.

3. NY/NJ are subject to hurricanes, and those hurricanes become more frequent as ocean waters warm.

4. Ocean waters are warming, like it or not (see #2).

5. The Paris Agreement deals with the human-controlled impacts on the environment.

6. It does not matter whether one believes…(see #2).

7. The Paris Agreement allows for goals and targets to be set by every country involved, in order to minimize human-controlled impacts on climate, that in turn affect sea level rise and warming oceans.

8. NY/NJ’s coastal and inland river-edge towns that are subject to storm surge, will benefit from reduced damage from storms and flooding. A win for the region.

9. NY/NJ will benefit from reduced insurance premiums if flood zone maps are able to be redrawn as a result of lower sea level/flooding/tidal range that are touched on by the Paris Agreement. Another win for the region.

10. NY/NJ will stand out as state leaders among other states, in a bipartisan act to support livable, manageable and resilient communities.

By staying true to the Paris Agreement, we show global respect for those built edges, where grandfathers and grandmothers worldwide have invested in families, communities and infrastructure. By staying in the Paris Agreement, we show our ability to work beyond politics, and with ecology and love of nature at our back, ever the driver of the healthy world I know we want to leave our children, to leave our grandfathers’ great-grandchildren, and beyond.

I come to this last part, “my ask” as we say in my women’s business networking group: I ask you, with all your power and conviction, to stand strong and with all the care in the world, to speak truth to power, and to help to turn the tide in the White House on this issue.

With certainty,

Maia Kumari Gilman,
Registered Architect, LEED-AP BD+C
Chatham, New Jersey

Cc:

@IvankaTrump (Twitter)
@IvankaTrump (Instagram)
@IvankaTrump (Facebook)
#womenwhoworkbook
#ivankatrump

Venice, Sea Change

VeniceFromCampanile_MaiaKumariGilmanWhen I pulled the “freehand sketches” card from my editorial calendar inspiration bin, my first thought was to share this quick sketch of Venice, Italy. I drew this on vacation, and was intrigued by the peaks and valleys of the Venetian cityscape, as seen from the top of the Campanile.

To tie this into the blog’s theme of environmental change, I composed a list of all those aspects of Venice I think we can learn from, around the world, as so many other coastlines face their own sea change. Granted, the causes of Venice’s sea change are unique. It’s on a leading edge of its own.

On tourism:

  • a tourist economy is key to an evolving waterfront
  • there is tourist interest in the changing intertidal/urban interface
  • temporary accommodations like hotels and hostels provide a continual opportunity for visitors and funds to flow into a place.

On transportation:

  • understanding marine transportation for an urban environment without cars is helpful and so is planning for the public infrastructure around it
  • a mix of private and public investment in transportation infrastructure allows for a variety of access and experience in a place
  • planning ahead can reduce frustrations and losses and lead to a smoother experience for businesses, institutions and residents.

On infrastructure:

  • movable walkways are helpful
  • drainage is manipulable and has plasticity
  • regular maintenance, repair and replacement of below-water foundations are part of the life cycle planning of a waterfront in flux.

On the long term:

  • it’s ok to let some parts go
  • long term vision to moving inland, or upward, or over water to new land, is always an opportunity on the horizon and for those who want to do so, those channels for change exist
  • there is not a one-size fits all solution to resolve issues around water level rise, and building subsidence.

What else would you add?

-Maia

maiakumarigilman.com