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Few New Yorkers in Vulnerable Coastal Areas Have Flood Insurance

Rockaway Beach, Queens

Flood Insurance

Homes on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens after Hurricane Sandy hit seven years ago.

Oct. 29, 2019

New Yorkers are playing Russian Roulette. Seven years after Hurricane Sandy savaged New York City, more than eight out of 10 properties in coastal areas the federal government deems extremely vulnerable to the next disaster are without flood insurance, according to an investigation by The City website.

Meanwhile, the number of flood insurance policies protecting New Yorkers has dropped markedly since the end of 2013 in two of the boroughs hardest hit by the storm: Staten Island, which saw an 18 percent decline, and Queens, which experienced an 8 percent decrease. Residents of roughly 250,000 houses and apartments within red-flagged flood zones are left exposed – thanks to the high cost of insurance policies and a protracted disagreement between local and federal officials. 

Flood insurance is required for any homeowner who has a federally backed mortgage on property located in a flood zone. After Hurricane Sandy struck in October 2012, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) redrew the city’s flood maps for the first time since 1983, doubling the number of properties that required flood insurance. Responding to an appeal from Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2016, federal officials agreed to redraw the city’s redrawn flood maps, which eventually could reduce or eliminate insurance premiums for thousands of buildings currently in flood zones. It will likely be years before a final set of flood maps is released. 

As it all gets sorted out, many homeowners are playing Russian Roulette – relying on risk ratings from the 1980s or skipping often-pricey flood insurance and praying another storm doesn’t send the waters of New York Harbor or Jamaica Bay roaring into their living rooms. 

“I know the danger. Trust me, I know,” says Semyon Krugolets, 66, a retired cabinet maker whose Staten Island home took on two feet of water during Sandy. “But sometimes you have to make these decisions.”

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