Inches Will Mean Millions of Dollars in New Flood Maps

Bill Morris in Legal/Financial on January 9, 2018

Rockaway Beach, Queens

Flood Maps

The Rockaway Peninsula in Queens in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Jan. 9, 2018

Five years after Hurricane Sandy unleashed $19 billion worth of property damage on New York City, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is substantially redrawing the city’s flood maps for the first time in three decades. With 520 miles of coastline and more residents living in high-risk flood zones than any other city in the nation, New York will see a huge impact – both on where buildings can be built and how much flood insurance will cost – when the maps are finally redrawn. 

The battle over how many more people will fall in the flood zones will be fought building by building, block by block, with millions of dollars at stake. “It’s a game of inches,” Elizabeth Malone, program manager of resiliency and insurance at Neighborhood Housing Services Brooklyn, a community group that counsels residents in flood-prone areas, tells the New York Times

New York will be the first major metropolis to be remapped taking into account the realities of climate change, such as rising sea levels and increasingly powerful storms. The new models, for coastal areas stretching from Cape May to the Hudson Valley, will be used to shape the city’s future zoning, development and building standards, with the ultimate goal of making the city more sustainable.

The city has already pushed back against FEMA. The agency proposed preliminary maps in 2013 – soon after Hurricane Sandy – that would have doubled both the area of flood zones and the number of people inside them. The city, in an unusual move, successfully challenged the scientific assumptions underlying the new maps. 

In the coming weeks, formal discussions on the maps between New York City and the agency will likely begin. The consequences of those discussions for co-ops and condos in low-lying areas – primarily in the form of their flood-insurance premiums – will be immense.

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