2013-02-01 / Top Stories

FEMA Announces New Rockaway And Broad Channel Flood Elevations

By Dan Guarino

FEMA Coordinator Officer Michael Byrne details new Advisory Base Flood Elevation guidelines. FEMA Coordinator Officer Michael Byrne details new Advisory Base Flood Elevation guidelines. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has announced the release of new elevation guidelines for homes within flood risk areas in the Rockaways, Broad Channel and other parts of New York City.

In a joint press conference held at the City’s Office of Emergency Management headquarters in Brooklyn, the Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway and Michael Byrne, Federal Coordination Officer for FEMA, detailed what the new guidelines will mean for homeowners in New York.

Said Holloway, “There are people who need this information now, so they can rebuild safely.”

Added Byrne, “If you’re armed with the information now, we can show you ways to build and protect yourself from future damage” and survive safely.

Advisory Base Flood Elevations (ABFE), guidelines issued by FEMA, reflect the maximum projected flood heights for “at risk” areas. These guidelines also state the minimum elevation structures need to be above sea level.

Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway speaks with reporters at a joint OEM/FEMA press conference on Monday, January 28th. (Photos by Dan Guarino) Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway speaks with reporters at a joint OEM/FEMA press conference on Monday, January 28th. (Photos by Dan Guarino) FEMA’s previous ABFE guidelines were last produced in the 1980’s. Preparation of new guidelines for a mid-2013 release was in progress prior to hurricane Sandy.

The newly released ABFE’s are also based on assessments of recent storm data, such as from Sandy.

According to FEMA, the agency, as the administrator of the National Flood Insurance Program was already in the process of re-studying the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) for coastal New York and New Jersey prior to the storm.

The newly released flood maps, made available to the public as of Monday, January 28th, cover all coastal areas of New York City, including the Rockaways and Broad Channel, and Westchester County.

Individuals may access information about their address, as well as other important data, by going to www.region2coastal.com.

Advisory Flood Hazard Zones designate areas subject to “storm surge flooding” and/or “high velocity wave action (a 3-foot breaking wave).”

Zone A indicates areas that are most at risk for storm surge flooding. Zone V indicates areas that are at maximum risk due to storm surges driven upward by higher wind forces.

These factors also determined FEMA’s new flood elevation recommendations.

On the new maps most of the Rockaways are now within Zone A. Portions of Rockaway and all of Broad Channel are now Zone V.

OEM and FEMA officials stated about 35,000 homes have been added to the new at risk flood zones or have been upgraded into higher risk zones than they were before. There are now approximately 70,000 structures within this ‘at risk’ designation within the New York/ Westchester area.

“A number of the houses that are red tagged, yellow tagged and some green tagged homes have now moved into new zones,” said Holloway.

The officials at the press briefing clarified that these elevations apply to how high the structure’s living space overall is above sea-level.

Homeowners would also need to consider if their dwelling already includes an under the house garage, above ground basement or is built on a rise, which already elevates the structure’s living space.

FEMA’s Base Flood Elevation advisories have now been passed on to New York City, where, after public comment, debate and review, these guidelines are expected to be made into law with the next two years.

Officials were clear that there will be no grandfathering of properties within the designated areas.

Said Byrne, “We are really committed to being more resilient, not just building back the way it was.”

Speaking about how this new data will affect flood insurance rates, he said “Flood insurance rates are risk based. The same kind of formulas are used in other forms of insurance.”

Homeowners may also be eligible for Increased Cost of Compliance funds included in their insurance to cover rebuilding their properties to meet new regulations.

Rebuilding to these updated specifications will also clear the way for homeowners to be in line for FEMA grants, low-cost loans and other assistance programs.

Said Byrne, “We are trying to make it possible to do what you need to do right now.”

Byrne stated that rebuilding above the new elevations, along with other measures, would allow residents to weather future storms without major damage or disruption.

Deputy Mayor Holloway stated, “Rebuilding the areas that were hardest hit is a top priority of the (city’s) administration.”

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