As the storm surge of Hurricane Sandy overwhelmed his neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York City’s chief urban designer Alexandros Washburn took refuge on the upper floors of his house. For years he had played an integral role in creating the city that has become a model of vibrant urban design, and now he watched as flooding wreaked havoc. When the water receded, he saw devastation—but also dedication. The disaster revealed that what makes New York great is not only its physical setting, but also its citizens’ will to rebuild their communities better than before.

In his book, The Nature of Urban Design: A New York Perspective on Resilience, newly available in paperback, Washburn explores how citizens change cities to meet the challenges of our times, like improving resilience in the face of climate change. Read on below.