Here comes the flood (maps): NYC and FEMA to discuss redrawing flood zones

It will likely be years before maps are ready

The remains of burned homes after Sandy in 2012 in the Breezy Point neighborhood of Queens (Credit: Getty Images)
The remains of burned homes after Sandy in 2012 in the Breezy Point neighborhood of Queens (Credit: Getty Images)

In the next couple of weeks, officials are expected to meet with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help redraw New York City’s flood maps.

The change will impact where developers can build and how much homeowners spend on flood insurance. It’s likely going to be a meticulous block-by-block process that won’t be finalized for a few years but will certainly have far-reaching implications, the New York Times reported.

“It’s a game of inches,” Elizabeth Malone, program manager of resiliency and insurance at Neighborhood Housing Services Brooklyn, told the Times.

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The city’s flood maps haven’t been updated since 1983. Though changes have been floated before, city officials have objected. The city argued that FEMA’s 2013 proposal exaggerated the height of flooding expected in a 100-year flood by two feet in some area. The city also maintained that the federal government inflated the flood zone by a third, causing an “affordability challenge.” For example, the proposal would’ve increased the number of buildings in the flood zone from 26 to 5,000 in Canarsie, Brooklyn.

Flood maps, of course, are not infallible. Of the 116 properties where owners have filed FEMA claims after suffering flood damage, a quarter are not located in the flood zone. According to the Times, Broad Channel in Queens and Edgewater Park in the Bronx had the most properties with repeat flood damage claims.

Homeowners may be stuck in “limbo” for a few years while the new maps are finalized, Daniel Zarrilli, the city’s chief resilience officer and senior director for climate policy and programs, told the newspaper. But, he said, it’s better than the alternative.

“We don’t want to jack up insurance rates and cause a foreclosure crisis, and we want a smoother glide path to a better flood insurance program, and more accurate maps,” he said. [NYT]Kathryn Brenzel

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