2013-02-14 / Other News

New Map Places Many Brooklynites In “Flood Zones”

By Linda Steinmuller

Rough image of FEMA map, designating more areas as flood zones. Rough image of FEMA map, designating more areas as flood zones. Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released preliminary advisory flood maps for over 35,000 homes and businesses in New York City and Westchester County.

The maps double the number of properties in flood zones and are expected to affect flood insurance rates and zoning rules.

Revised maps for New York City include Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. Maps for the rest of the city are expected to be released later this month. Current flood maps have not been updated since the 1980s. There were plans to update the maps before Hurricane Sandy tore through our area, but the storm created an urgency to revise maps – especially since severely flooded sections of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island were expected to stay dry.

New maps will become a basis for changes to building laws, codes and insurance requirements over time. There will also be up to a two-year review period before the federal maps become official. In the meantime, the city is planning short-term steps that will encourage homeowners to rebuild.

Homeowners may be urged to elevate ground floors of their homes three to six feet higher than the zoning rules previously required. Even undamaged homes (previously considered “safe”) now located in flood zones may have to be elevated – or homeowners will get slapped with higher policy rates.

As a result of the expanded flood zones, more residents may have to buy flood insurance for the first time. Those who already have flood insurance could pay substantially more for existing policies.

The cost of all this is not yet clear and FEMA officials say they will have to figure out what type of government help will be available.

FEMA, along with the administrator of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), has created Advisory Base Flood Elevations (ABFEs), which will show a more recent map of flood risk zones for communities that were affected by Hurricane Sandy. ABFE information can be accessed on FEMA’s website at http://www.region2coastal.com. A document that can be located on the web site explains how to use the interactive ABFE map.

The best way to access your ABFE information is to enter your address in the interactive “address lookup” tool at http://www.region2coastal.com./sandy /table, click “Get Details,” and a flag will appear over your location. The ABFE information will help you determine the current advisory flood risk of your home. The sit will also provide you with an understanding of possible flooding and coastal wave actions that could affect your property.

FEMA and other organizations conducted investigations following other major coastal disasters. Those findings have consistently shown that properly, well-designed and well-constructed coastal residential buildings generally perform well. In addition, the ABFE information is designed to assist you in rebuilding efforts.

The report is printable and can be used when discussing permit requirements with Department of Buildings officials.

Before building, property owners should:

•Consult local government officials to determine mandatory elevations and construction requirements for their homes.

• Consider elevating their home above the Base Flood Elevation or Advisory Base Flood Elevation (whichever is higher). This will reduce the risk of future flooding and provide a future reduction in flood insurance premiums.

• Consider adding breakaway walls and other structural building measures if your property is subject to coastal wave action. This will allow the building to remain after a storm event.

For more information and answers to common questions, visit the ABFE Toolkit for Property Owners webpage at http://www.region2coastal.com/sandy/a bfe/property_ owners.

You can also call the National Flood Insurance program Help Center at 1- 800-427-4661 or contact them through their online form at http://www.region2coastal.com./contacts.

Map courtesy of FEMA

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