2012-12-21 / Top Stories

Council Set Flood Zone Building Requirements

The City Council on Tuesday proposed legislation to improve the city’s ability to withstand powerful storms like Hurricane Sandy. The package of bills would raise elevation requirements for new or substantially renovated buildings — including health care facilities — as well as boilers and other critical equipment in flood zones.

The legislation is to be introduced during the council’s main monthly meeting. A series of oversight hearings have been scheduled before more than 20 council committees over seven weeks. Substantially renovated means upgrades that amount to 50% or more of a property’s value, a City Council spokesman said.

According to a press release by the office of Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the bills would: • Study the feasibility of relocating power lines underground. The council Committee on Consumer Affairs will examine a bill that would require the mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability to conduct a study over the next six months on the feasibility of placing power lines underground. The study will review recent power outages in the city and include a list of areas that would most benefit by burying power lines. • Adopt new flood elevation maps. Legislation would adopt the new FEMA flood advisory maps, expected to be released this week. The maps would expand the areas that must adhere to floodproofing requirements in the city’s building code. • Impose new floodproofing requirements for buildings in vulnerable areas. Legislation would alter the city’s building code to raise elevation requirements for future buildings in flood zones as well as their boilers and other critical equipment. The bill would also establish more restrictive flood construction standards for buildings in coastal A-zones, which are areas that may be flooded by coastal waves. • Adopt more stringent codes for health care facilities. The proposals come as Congress debates legislation that would provide the region with tens of billions of dollars in rebuilding aid. Senator Charles Schumer was scheduled to hold a press call Tuesday afternoon to address what he called “the deeply flawed criticisms” of a proposed $60.4 billion Sandy relief package.

Conservatives have described the aid package as wasteful because it reportedly includes pork spending, such as $150 million for fishery disasters in Alaska and Mississippi. The bill also includes $50 million for the National Park Service’s historic preservation fund and nearly $9 million to replace vehicles and other equipment used by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, Reuters reported.

“When a natural disaster occurs, there is a textbook response by Congress — they cobble together an overpriced bill that isn’t paid for, there’s no accountability or oversight, and it’s filled with pork,” one observer said..

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