Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that new progress is being made toward protecting vulnerable NYC communities from the effects of climate change. As part of the OneNYC plan for increased sustainability, the city is now accepting proposals for the first phase of the Raised Shorelines initiative, which focuses on managing sea level rise and erosion in low-lying areas of the city.

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The mayor’s announcement, timed in advance of Earth Day, solidifies the city’s response to recent criticism about the motivations behind sustainability projects. Some community advocates have claimed that the city’s $20 billion climate resiliency program hasn’t done enough to protect NYC’s most vulnerable residents.

Related: Is NYC’s sustainability plan hurting the people it should be helping the most?

“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing our city, our country, and our planet. For a coastal city like ours, rising sea levels mean rising risk for our neighborhoods, infrastructure, and economy – and that is why we’re making an unprecedented investment in the City’s resiliency,” said de Blasio.

The first phase of the Raised Shorelines project will include several low-lying neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn, as well as the FDR Drive and East River Esplanade in Manhattan. The city is calling for proposals for design services for infrastructure and waterfront improvements that will mitigate flood risks, which increase with global sea level rise and storm activity.

+ Office of the Mayor of New York City

Images via Bill de Blasio/Facebook, Inhabitat and Bennett D. Bennett/Twitter