2014-03-14 / Front Page

LATE BREAKING NEWS!

SENATE PASSES FLOOD BILL
By Kevin Boyle

The Senate must’ve heard Chuck Schumer. As The Wave was going to press, the United States Senate gave its approval to the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act in a vote that was swift and bi-partisan.

With empty housing lots and an undernourished beach as backdrop, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer came to Belle Harbor on Monday to call upon his colleagues in the Senate to pass the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act.

On Tuesday, March 4th, with a 306- 91 vote, the bill got bipartisan support in the House of Representatives. Senate approval was needed before moving to the White House for the President’s signature to make it law. With Thursday’s 72-22 vote in favor, it is now President Obama’s turn.

Schumer and many members of Congress have been trying to undo many of the provisions of the Biggert- Waters Act which they, themselves, voted into law in 2012. Just a few months after the legislation was passed, FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program issued startling sample flood rate premiums. Some Rockaway and Broad Channel homeowners would soon be facing insurance bills of $30,000 per year. The sticker shock galvanized communities and spurred many representatives to undo or fix the Biggert-Waters Act.

The Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act counteracts some of the extreme provisions of Biggert-Waters and Schumer pressed for it approval. “It’s not perfect. And it will have to be tweaked. But it’s darn good,” he said. Schumer sidestepped the question about how Biggert-Waters was passed in the first place. “Biggert-Waters put the viability of the flood program ahead of the well-being of homeowners it was supposed to protect. They did not do the affordability study like they were supposed to. The flood insurance relief bill that just passed the House will prevent New Yorkers from facing crippling flood insurance.”

Schumer told a gathering of press, homeowners, and civic leaders that the flood insurance hit was particularly cruel and unreasonable because it came on the heels of Sandy devastation. “People were using all their savings to put their houses back together and then were told flood insurance was going to cost $10,000 or $20,000 dollars. It was wrong.”

When thanked by a neighbor for his leadership on the matter and for drawing needed attention to Rockaway Schumer said, “I care about this place. And it’s very important. I love it. With no aspersions to anyone, I still consider myself your Congressman.” Before getting elected to the Senate in 1998, Schumer represented Rockaway in the House of Representatives.

Although flood insurance was topic number one, Schumer took the occasion to express frustration with the city and its lackluster performance in its post- Sandy efforts. “The city has been much too slow. And the city has tiered things. I busted my chops as did a good number of my colleagues to make sure there was adequate money for every homeowner regardless of income, so the $60 billion could cover everybody. And the city is just taking its sweet time.”

Schumer says he is waiting for Mayor de Blasio “to get a little more settled.” He drew laughter as he let his next comment drift, “I thought he would….”

Schumer says the city is falling far behind the state. “Go look in Nassau and Suffolk. People in the third tier are getting money. The city is ridiculously flyspecking. I intend to sit down with the mayor and his people, though I don’t think he even has people in place, and I will tell him he has to change it [the way the city is managing Sandy money].”

The city has often blamed HUD guidelines as the reason why Build It Back and other CDBG efforts have stalled. When asked if the fault was the city’s, Schumer said, “Absolutely. We wrote the bill so it would be easy. Whenever there’s been a problem, and I’ve called Shaun Donovan (Secretary of HUD), he’s taken care of it. With the city, we get a stonewall.”

In his wide-ranging remarks, Schumer said he’ll be pushing the city to finish the boardwalk sooner, “Once they get a commissioner.” As for beach protection, Schumer said, “We are gonna get jetties. I’ve talked to the Army Corps. We will get jetties.”

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