While Zone A areas like the Rockaways were under mandatory evacuation when Superstorm Sandy arrived, Zone B areas like Howard Beach were not, though they were struck almost as hard. The revisions to the flood zones will include Howard Beach, as well as areas like East Williamsburg and Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that two-thirds of the homes damaged by Sandy were outside of Zone A. The old map, last updated in 1983, did not account for rising sea levels like this new map. To help those communities rebuild stronger, Bloomberg said the city is also planning new zoning changes that will allow residents to build higher so that they can raise their homes.
FEMA’s flood zone maps are used to set building and zoning codes, as well as for insurance purposes – homeowners looking to buy in high-risk flood zones are required to buy federal flood insurance.
In the aftermath of Howard Beach, many residents with ruined homes wondered why they were not included in Zone A and forced to evacuate. Many had to fend off deadly storm surges. Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, who represents the area, praised the redrawing of the flood zones.
“Thousands of homes were destroyed by Sandy in Southern Queens and many were unprepared for the costly damage that they endured,” Goldfeder said. “FEMA’s updated flood zones are long overdue and crucial for residents to make appropriate plans to repair, rebuild and for some to elevate the their homes to prevent future flooding. We must act immediately if we are going to rebuild and plan for the future of our community”
By Ross Barkan