Our local Community Board #14 (CB14) held its monthly meeting Thursday evening, April 9th at the Scholars Academy in Rockaway.
The West 12th Road Block Association attended this meeting because we had received information that representatives from FEMA would be present to discuss the new Advisory Base Flood Elevations for our area.
FEMA Representatives in attendance were: Greg Coulson and Mike Klitzke.
CB14 advised that the evening's meeting would be streamed live via the internet by the Scholars’ Academy Television Crew. The video stream can be accessed via CB14's website.
Park's Department: CB14 advised that the Park's Department has indicated that the cost for each of the public bathrooms being constructed on the beach will be $2 million dollars each. Additionally, each new Life Guard Station will cost $4 million dollars each.
Mayor's Office of Community Affairs: CB14 introduced the new Queens Borough Director for the Mayor's Office of Community Affairs, Ido Shargal. Shargal can be contacted via email at ishargal@ cityhall.nyc.gov.
Street Activity Permits: CB14 advised that all applications for street activity permits (i.e. block parties) must be submitted no less than 60 days prior to the date of the event...no exceptions. Additional information may be obtained by calling 311 or contacting CB14 at 718- 471-7300.
Mosquito Control: CB14 advised that we are fast approaching warmer weather months and the start of mosquito season. Properties should be inspected for areas of ponded or standing water that would support mosquito eggs and larvae. Abandoned properties (due to Hurricane Sandy) observed with such conditions (i.e. kiddy pools, etc.) should be reported to the Health Department via 311.
Transportation: CB14 advised that they met with Norman Silverman, V.P. of Operations for MTA Bus Service and pointed out that there is no Q52/Q53/Shuttle public bus transportation available between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. and recommended that bus service be operated on a 24 hour basis.
Additionally, CB14 recommended that as a means of alleviating severe overcrowding on the Q53 bus line in the morning, the Q53 stagger start points between Beach 116th Street and 108th Street to ensure boarding space for passengers east of Beach 116th Street.
FEMA: Mike Klitzke (FEMA) provided an overview of that organization's Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM).
Klitzke stated that the present day Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) in FIRMs for Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) were "...established in 2007 based on 1983 science." and that the newly proposed Advisory BFEs had been arrived at via current day scientific modeling protocols. Klitzke then added that he "...does not understand the science behind the formulation of the new Advisory Base Flood Elevations."
Klitzke stressed that, at this time, the new Advisory Base Flood Elevations are just that...advisory.
He explained that there is a process whereby the new ABFEs are provided to the City for its review and comments and then returned to FEMA whereupon there will be a 90 day public appeal period regarding the ABFEs. Klitzke added that any appeal to the ABFEs must be based on scientific fact.
After the appeal period the city is then provided six months to adapt the new flood maps to building codes and regulations.
When asked about the new FEMA Special Flood Hazard Area designations ("V", "A", etc.) he could not identify such specific SFHA zone designations for the Rockaways or Broad Channel areas, nor could he identify specific Sandy flooding heights for those areas.
Klitzke was asked if local flood mitigation efforts in our area would result in FEMA revising their new BFE's to which he replied that "if the mitigation was scientifically sound, 100% funded and 50% complete..." FEMA would then consider revising the BFE for that area."
Klitzke pointed out that only those houses that were substantially damaged (damage more than 50% of the pre-Sandy value of the home) would be required by law to elevate. After some discussion, the FEMA representative also allowed that if your house was not substantially damaged and you chose not to elevate to the new BFEs, your insurance premiums would rise dramatically. After much prodding he admitted that such premiums could range from $15,000 to $25,000!
Klitzke stated that your flood insurance premiums would not rise simply because you filed a claim for damages due to Hurricane Sandy. He also assured everyone that no flood insurance coverage would be dropped because of such claims.
Finally, he added that, as he foresees this process, finalization of the new BFEs and FIRM relations will "...probably take two years to take effect."
At the end of his presentation, Klitzke was questioned at length by members of CB14 regarding the methodology utilized by FEMA in formulating the new BFEs, specifics of area BFEs, pending regulations, etc. Klitzke was unable to satisfactorily answer most, if not all, of these questions.
The general consensus among those in attendance was that Klitzke's presentation had resulted in significantly more questions than answers.
Public Statements: The floor was then opened to those in attendance who had registered to make a three minute public statement.
Of particular note were: Dan Mundy Jr., President of the Broad Channel Civic Association remarked that the FEMA maps are flawed and stressed that such maps, rates and data must be 100 percent correct because even slightly wrong data will translate into severe financial hardship for homeowners.
George Kasimos, founder of the New Jersey based organization Stop FEMA Now related the story of his New Jersey town's dealings with the new FEMA maps and BFE's resulting in his insurance premium rocketing to $15,000 annually and his neighbor’s to $25.000!
Kevin Boyle, editor of our local newspaper The WAVE, indicated that [a portion of the] information provided him by FEMA “experts” for his current editorial series on FEMA and the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act had proved to be incorrect.
Lew Simon, Democratic District Leader, stated that he is leaving this meeting with more questions than he came with and that FEMA had been unprepared.
Sophia DiVirgilio, West 12th Road Block Association stated that these new BFEs and Zones will cause widespread abandonment of properties in hard-hit areas, blight and financial destruction to countless families.
Additionally, many speakers questioned what our two New York Senators (Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand) were doing to provide their constituents relief from the new FEMA maps and zones as well as the financially crippling regulations stemming from the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012.
In speaking to several individuals at the close of the meeting it was readily apparent that there is a growing resentment, if not anger, among local residents who feel that they are being led down the path of financial ruin and community abandonment by circumstances that appear out of their control with little assistance forthcoming from those we have elected to "watch our backs."
Unless this situation is addressed, this resentment will continue to grow and fester as more and more residents become aware and knowledgeable of this FEMA fiasco!