Archive for the tag 'flood zones'

Source: FEMA via nytimes

Source: FEMA via nytimes

As the one year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy draws near, homeowners living along the shores are staring down another potential catastrophe, skyrocketing insurance rates. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that if coastal homeowners don’t begin the costly enterprise of elevating their homes, their coastal flood insurance premiums could increase by a whopping 500 percent.

We first reported on the possibly of drastically increased insurance rates in January when FEMA expanded the flood zone lines for the first time since 1983. According to estimates, a $250,000 home with a ground floor four feet below sea level will have to pay an eye-popping $9,500 a year in flood insurance. If the owners manage to (expensively) hoist that home three feet above the flood line will only have to pay $427 a year.

The Journal is reporting that approximately 30,000 homes, now located in the redrawn FEMA flood zone lines, could be faced with paying the high rates in two years time. Many of these homes are owned by middle-class residents and the new rates represent a punishing blow to people already hammered by the winds of Sandy last year.

For its part, FEMA declared that they will undertake an affordability study to measure the economic impact of their redrawn lines. The Journal is reporting that their study will take two years to complete and cost taxpayers $1.5 million to conduct.

In the meantime, senators in Washington are rallying for their constituents, calling for delays to the rate increases until the problem can be fairly addressed. The increased rates are the result of a law, called the Biggert-Waters Act, passed just months before Superstorm Sandy struck. The law renewed the federal flood insurance program, but sought to cut subsidies to the program and force homeowners to pay the rates that reflected the actual risk of living near the water. It was proposed in response to years of concern that the flood insurance program spent taxpayer’s dollars to rebuild vacation homes for the wealthy.

But in New York City, most of the homes in the flood zone were primary residences of middle-class families, unexpected victims of the new law, which passed with support from New York senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Now Schumer and Gillibrand, as well as other supporters of the Biggert-Waters Act, are scrambling to delay the increases, and there appears to be some support from FEMA as well.

In an appearance before the Senate last month, FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate said the U.S. should stop subsidizing risk for new construction, businesses and secondary homes. “But I think we need to look at affordability people for who live there, look at how we can mitigate their risk,” he said.

Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, the Californian who co-sponsored the Biggert-Waters Act, was seeking to delay its implementation, saying in a news release that she didn’t intend for homeowners to face “outrageous” premiums.

Although FEMA says some property owners who lift structures above flood plains could see their insurance rates drop, the Biggert-Waters Act has sparked protests in at least nine states.

Sheepshead Bay, post-Sandy. Source: U.S. Coast Guard, via the Office of Response and Restoration

Sheepshead Bay, post-Sandy. Source: U.S. Coast Guard, via the Office of Response and Restoration

New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program invites the community to provide input to the Sheepshead Bay/Gerritsen Beach NY Rising Community Reconstruction Plan.

There will be two consecutive meeting dates at different locations, either of which residents are invited to attend:

  • Monday, October 7 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Waterford on the Bay, 2900 Bragg Street
  • Tuesday, October 8 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Public School 277, 2529 Gerritsen Avenue

During the meeting you will:

  • Hear about the program and how it can help your community.
  • Provide input to the community’s vision for the future to increase resilience post-Sandy.
  • Tell the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program what issues you would like addressed in the recovery and mitigation plan.

If you are unable to attend and would like to provide input, visit http://stormrecovery.ny.gov/nyrcr/community/gerritsen-beach-and-sheepshead-bay and submit your comments via the yellow contact button on the right.

You can also join the conversation using the hashtag #NYRising on Twitter (@NYStormRecovery). Follow the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program on Facebook (NYStormRecovery) or go to www.stormrecovery.ny.gov. For more information, email info@stormrecovery.ny.gov.

Allan Tannenbaum, Untitled, 2012. © Allan Tannenbaum. (Courtesy of ICP via the Epoch Times)

Allan Tannenbaum, Untitled, 2012. © Allan Tannenbaum. (Courtesy of ICP via the Epoch Times)

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, a common theme circulating in the social and political atmosphere has been one of defiance. The message has been to rebuild and redevelop, even in the most vulnerable coastal communities. A report in Mother Jones is arguing that the attitude of continually trying to defy nature is costly, risky and could very well backfire despite billions in planned improvements.

In their analysis, Mother Jones target comments made by prominent political leaders and suggest that “retreating” from the coastline might be a more a realistic option:

Retreat needs to be considered not as a defeatist last-resort, but as proactive strategy needed in some places.

Take New York City, for example, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed 257 initiatives to be pursued over the next 10 years at an estimated $20 billion. He has repeatedly emphasized that the city “will not retreat from the waterfront.” But it will be hard to stand by this categorical commitment as sea levels continue to rise.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a $400 million home-buyout program, of which a meager $170 million has been HUD-approved. Only homes with damage more than 50 percent of their value are eligible. The Oak Beach community in Staten Island has applied as a pilot program for a community-based buyout, but hasn’t yet been approved. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is encouraging rapid rebuilding while also proposing a limited buyout program. But with no funding set aside for it, he has made clear he prefers to rebuild rather than retreat.

The report lays out the case that rising flood insurance premiums coupled with expensive new building regulations laid out by FEMA create unfavorable options for homeowners trying to live in coastal communities. Previously, we had reported on the new flood lines drawn by FEMA that will drastically increase costs for homeowners in vulnerable areas. For example, if you have a $250,000 home with a ground floor four feet below sea level, and cannot meet FEMA’s new building regulations, you may have to pay $9,500 a year in flood insurance. By comparison, a home hoisted three feet above the flood line will only have to pay $427 a year, but the cost of doing so will be expensive.

It is because of these reasons that the Mother Jones report is advocating other options like buyouts, curtailing development and fixing the infrastructure:

These options should include support for buyouts in mid-Atlantic communities, at least for coastal and estuary locations that are either at elevations of ten feet or less above the local mean higher high tide or 5 feet above the latest mapped FEMA 1 percent per year base flood elevations, whichever is higher. Once buyouts at these elevations are secured, they should progress to higher elevations.

Disallow new residential development in those low-lying elevations unless it is flood-adapted (safely moored and floatable or substantially raised with raised or floodable utility connections). With urgency, local building codes need to be re-written to take this into account, since those specifications don’t yet exist.

Know that flood-protective structures—sea gates, levees, or walls—have limits. To start, sea levels will inevitably surpass their finite design heights. But before that ever happens, they introduce their own collateral hazards. A barrier system meant to protect an estuary or river with considerable discharge could flood communities behind the protective systems.

Develop a set of land-use priorities. Infrastructure, including transportation networks, sewage treatment plants, solid waste facilities, energy supply and distribution systems, utilities, and public health facilities demand the highest priorities for adaptation, whether by protectionaccommodation (some utility distribution systems could be made submergible; other system elements could be raised or made floatable); or by retreat to higher ground. In any case, for this essential infrastructure, higher flood standards need to be considered (such as the 0.2%/year flood elevations), and margins for sea level rise must be added that are in a time horizon commensurate with the expected lifetime of the facility itself. New rights of way will need to be relocated from low-lying areas to higher elevations.

The report even goes as far to suggest creating alternatives to subway systems, which they believe are too vulnerable to constant predicted future flooding, calling for an overhaul of the century old rail system.

Interesting stuff. Whether or not you accept the recommendations in this report, the critical point is that the city is at a crossroads with billions of federal dollars to spend on potential solutions. It is up to our political leaders, engineers and city planners to make sure that they are covering every angle of the recovery process and make decisions that mitigate the full impact of future natural disasters.

New evacuation map

New evacuation map

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration released a new evacuation map on Tuesday, creating a more zone system and adding 600,000 additional people to evacuation areas.

The new maps create zones numbered one through six, replacing Zones A, B and C, offering city officials more leeway in ordering specific areas to evacuate in the face of an oncoming storm and tidal surge. As many as 2,990,000 residents citywide now live in the zones – a number larger than the entire population of Brooklyn, the city’s largest borough.

Most notable, some parts of the zones extend further inland in Brooklyn and Queens, and sees areas like Gerritsen Beach – previously a secondary evacuation zone – bumped up to a primary area after it experienced extensive flooding during Superstorm Sandy.

In the new system, Zone 1 is the most vulnerable to flooding. In addition to Gerritsen Beach, Coney Island, the Rockaways, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach and all of Sheepshead Bay south of the Belt Parkway are Zone 1.

Furthermore, the new zones include the addition of 26 Housing Authority developments, four hospitals and nine nursing homes. The administration was battered by critics after Sandy for not evacuating hospitals and nursing homes, and also for poorly responding to the needs of residents living in Housing Authority facilities.

Comparing it to the old map, it appears Zone 1, the primary evacuation zone, shrank in some areas compared to Zone A, and expanded in others. The old maps included a swath of Sheepshead Bay, from approximately Bedford Avenue to Ocean Parkway, up to Avenue X in the north, as Zone A. That’s been divided up between Zone 1 and 2. Elsewhere, including Gerritsen Beach, Mill Basin, parts of Bath Beach and the Canarsie coastline have been swapped from Zone B to Zone 1, reflecting the extent of Sandy’s flooding.

In fact, it appears that Zone 1 is based almost directly on the lines of where major flooding occurred during Sandy.

The new map and current evacuation orders can be seen here.

Do you live on a block that flooded during Sandy, but is not in Zone 1? Do you think you should be in Zone 1, or in a different zone than where you are? Let us know in the comments.

old-and-new-evacmap

Left: old map; Right: new map (Click to enlarge)

Photo: http://www.farah.net.au/

This just in from the National Weather Service…

Notification issued on 5/23/13 at 3:30 PM. The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Warning citywide until 5:30 PM. Excessive runoff from heavy rainfall will cause flooding of urban areas, highways, streets and underpasses as well as other drainage areas and low lying spots. Do not drive your vehicle into areas where the water covers the roadway. The water depth may be too great to allow your car to cross safely. Move to higher ground.

Looks like we’re in for it again. Has your street changed since Superstorm Sandy? Does Sheepshead Bay and our surrounding communities have new flood zones? Does your yard or street flood more often now since Sandy? Let us know. Send pictures and tips to tips@ sheepsheadbites (dot) com.

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries

At a community press briefing, Congressional Representative Hakeem Jeffries expressed concern that FEMA was treating disaster-stricken areas in New York as generic disaster zones, inconsiderate of New York’s unique circumstances, according to a report by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

After Superstorm Sandy devastated much of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island late last October, FEMA distributed guidelines designed to prepare New Yorkers for future storms. According to Jeffries, many of these guidelines simply aren’t logical considering the reality of New York’s layout and community design. Jeffries argued that when it comes to legislating and preparing for future storms, that there would be a need for “New York solutions to New York problems.”

According to Jeffries, FEMA has recommended that homeowners in vulnerable areas elevate the foundations of their homes. This recommendation makes sense for houses located in areas where there is wide space between homes, but not for Brooklyn, where houses are crammed together. Jeffries argues that the foundation of one house cannot be altered without affecting the foundation of the houses next to it.

FEMA also recommended that homeowners in flood zones keep their basements unoccupied. Jeffries also slammed this recommendation as impractical.

“In New York, many homeowners either have relatives living in the basement, or rent out basement apartments so they can have more money to pay the mortgage,” the Daily Eagle reported Jeffries saying.

Instead of placing the burden entirely on homeowners to create costly protections for their homes, Jeffries called for new offshore barriers to prevent the flooding of beachfront lands. He also recommended that barriers be erected between separate bodies of water to limit the power of storm surges.

After Superstorm Sandy hit us late last October, everyone knew that the future of maintaining a residential home close to the water was not going to be the same. One of the earliest signs of the changing reality for coastal home owners was FEMA’s designation of flood zone lines further inward. This act forces thousands of people to buy flood insurance and further compels them to elevate their homes three feet above sea level at the risk of facing staggering insurance rates.

As homeowners prepare to meet these new regulations, a bipartisan City Council effort has proposed legislation that would ensure quality control of the tricky and expensive elevation process, according to a report by NY1.

Council members Vincent Ignizio, James Oddo and Christine Quinn expressed the need for safety regulations and quality control in the house elevation process at a press conference yesterday. Ignizio and Oddo went on a fact-finding mission to New Orleans to meet with Louisiana officials on the best way to craft legislation that would protect homeowners and ensure safety when it comes to home elevation construction:

The councilmen took a picture of a house in Louisiana that was placed on tall stilts but did not have a staircase.

“Make sure you have a process in place and you have licensed people doing it. Because what you had in New Orleans was you had people come from all over the country,” Ignizio said. “It was your classic story of, ‘Hey this guy said he would raise your house for $50,000? I’ll do it for 20 grand, just give me the 20 grand, I’ll take care of it.’ And they would do a terrible job.”

Council member and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn, also stressed the importance of getting home elevation well regulated and supervised before a slew of work gets underway.

“We want to make sure that the elevation work is done safely and appropriately. Elevating a home is simply not lifting a house and putting it on stilts. It’s a complex process and proper measures have to be taken before and during the work to make sure it’s done in the safest way possible.”

As we previously reported, expenses will be high for homeowners looking to meet the new regulations.

According to the New York Times, a $250,000 home with a ground floor four feet below sea level, will have to pay a hefty $9,500 a year in flood insurance. By comparison, a home hoisted three feet above the flood line will only have to pay $427 a year.

 

Source: 401(K) via Flickr

With the threat of climate change and redrawn flood zone lines leading to skyrocketing insurance rates, you’d think the only thing that is certain to rise along the Southern Brooklyn waterfront would be encroaching flood waters and not property taxes. Well, property taxes have been hiked for Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay and other coastal areas like Coney Island and the Rockaways, according to a report by the New York Post.

The rise in property taxes comes as a cruel blow to homeowners who have already shelled out thousands on home-repair following Sandy. According to the Post, the news of the tax hikes doesn’t sit well with local residents:

“This is totally insensitive and heartless,” said Ira Zalcman, president of the Manhattan Beach Community Group, which has received more than 30 complaints from residents about the hikes.

“We just sustained one of the worst national disasters in our nation’s history, and now the city is delusional, claiming our property values went up.”

Zalcman said that since Sandy, he has spent roughly $100,000 repairing the basement of his Dover Street oceanfront home, for which he pays more than $7,000 a year in property taxes.

According to Zalcman, the rise in assessed property values do not match market realities. While his home was assessed to be worth an additional $79,000, pushing it over the $2 million mark, he claims he’d be lucky to get $1.5 million should he decide to sell.

Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn was also vexed over the increase in property taxes for storm ravaged homeowners. She has vowed to hold an emergency oversight hearing on February 26 to address the issue.

“It raises real doubts about whether [the Finance Department] is doing enough to ensure fair and accurate assessments …” Quinn told the Post. “As New Yorkers work to rebuild their homes and lives, we cannot allow them to be hit twice.”

There seems to be a bit of confusion regarding why property taxes have gone up in the worst hit regions. City officials told the Post that the property assessments were made before the storm, despite the city’s website claiming they were made on January 5.

Mayor Bloomberg insisted that the rise in beach-front property value represented the overall national trend:

“Prices continue to go up in spite of these things,” he said.

But many local real estate brokers say property values in Big Apple neighborhoods affected by Sandy — such as Manhattan Beach and Coney Island in Brooklyn, the Rockaways and parts of Staten Island — have fallen due to storm damage and prospective buyers now leery of living in high-risk hurricane evacuation zones.

Have you been hit with higher property taxes? Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, who along with Councilman Michael Nelson and many other local pols has spoken out against the hikes, included in a recent e-mail blast information on how to file appeals on increased rates and how to apply for assistance through the Finance Department’s Hurricane Sandy Property Tax Relief Program. Relevant details from Cymbrowitz’s press release are listed below.

Property owners who oppose the hikes have until March 15 to appeal to the city Tax Commission before rates are finalized in May. To print a copy of the form you need, click here.

You also have until this Friday, February 15, to apply for assistance through the Finance Department’s Hurricane Sandy Property Tax Relief program. (The deadline was originally February 1st but was extended.) Download the necessary Property Damage Reporting Application form here.

My office also has hard copies of both forms that we can send you. Feel free to call us at (718) 743-4078, email me at cymbros@assembly.state.ny.us or stop by and visit us at my temporary district office located at 2658 Coney Island Avenue (between Avenues W and X) and we’ll be happy to help you with this or any other issue. We’re open Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., and Fridays until 5 p.m.

Source: FEMA via the New York Times

Earlier in the month, we reported that FEMA was planning to redraw and expand the flood zone lines for New York City for the first time since 1983. The redrawn flood zones, which carry heavy financial consequences for homeowners living in those regions, are officially here, according to a report in the New York Times.

FEMA was redrawing the maps right before Superstorm Sandy struck. The new lines place more 35,000 homes in flood zones, creating an unavoidable rise in insurance rates while also forcing the city to adapt the building code to account for potential floods. The Times explained in greater detail what the redrawn flood zone lines means for the city:

The maps will not formally go into effect for about two years, but the mayor’s office was already preparing an executive order to help owners of damaged homes rebuild to higher standards. That means that a badly damaged home that was not in the old flood zone, but is in the new one, would be allowed to rebuild to prepare for dangers predicted in the new maps. For instance, a home could be hoisted onto posts or pilings, which might have previously been disallowed because of zoning. “We’re working on an order that will enable people to rebuild, but rebuild in a way that’s safer,” said Caswell F. Holloway, the city’s deputy mayor for operations.

The expenses will undoubtedly be high for people forced to meet the new building regulations. According to the New York Times, a $250,000 home with a ground floor four feet below sea level, will have to pay a staggering $9,500 a year in flood insurance. By comparison, a home hoisted three feet above the flood line will only have to pay $427 a year.

FEMA is looking to help offset costs by providing $30,000 to homeowners to meet the new regulations when rebuilding. Whether that will be enough to raise a house on stilts is another question entirely.

“This is going to be very rough on people,” Chuck Reichenthal, district manager for Brooklyn’s Community Board 13, told the Times. “Insurance is going to zoom through the roof.”

Original image courtesy of nytimes.com

If you are a homeowner in Gerritsen Beach you can probably expect your insurance bills to rise when the city, in concert with federal officials, push the flood zone lines further inland, according to a report by the New York Post.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of properties not in the flood zone before and find themselves in now,” Don Griffin, a vice president at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, told the Post.

These areas include the aforementioned Gerritsen Beach, East Williamsburg and parts of Lower Manhattan.

The redrawing of the flood zone lines further inland will yield several consequences for homeowners. People who have mortgages with federally-charted banks will be forced to purchase flood insurance. The closer a homeowner is to the water, the higher the cost they will have to pay in flood insurance.

Those looking to build in a flood zone will also have to meet the stringent height requirements set by FEMA.

“Every foot below the flood plain adds to the cost,” Griffin explained.

The flood zones were last officially expanded in 1983.

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