The Federal Emergency Management Agency released its preliminary flood maps Monday which include much of coastal Queens that was flooded in Hurricane Sandy.
The new maps, the first change in New York City’s flood zones in 30 years, put nearly all of the Rockaway Peninsula, Broad Channel and Howard Beach into high-risk areas that will force residents to purchase flood insurance and follow new guidelines for home construction.
Much of Hunters Point in Long Island City, and some places as far in from the East River as 11th Street are included in the new flood maps, as well as sections of Hallets Cove in Astoria, Willets Point and Rosedale and Brookville in Southeast Queens.
The key areas in Queens are in Zone AE, identified by the yellow in the maps. These areas are locations that have a 1 percent chance of having a devastating flood in any given year. This area includes nearly the entire Rockaway Peninsula, Broad Channel, Old Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach, much of the Rockwood Park section of the neighborhood closest to Cross Bay Boulevard, extreme western parts of Lindenwood, the southern section of Rosedale, Hunters Point and Dutch Kills in Long Island City, Hallets Cove in Astoria and Willets Point.
Homeowners there will be required to purchase flood insurance and new construction will be required, and current buildings are suggested to adopt new flood zone construction requirements, including building at the base-flood level, which in most of Howard Beach is 10 feet and is 11 feet in parts of Astoria, Long Island City and Willets Point and 9 feet in Rosedale and Brookville.
The area in gray, Zone X, which includes a good portion of Lindenwood, and parts of interior Long Island City, Astoria and Springfield Gardens, have a 0.2 percent annual chance of a devastating flood. Homeowners there are not required to purchase flood insurance or retrofit their homes and buildings, but are encouraged to do so by FEMA.
The maps are not the final ones. FEMA will soon release preliminary rate maps for flood insurance to coincide with these lines. Residents will have the opportunity to appeal to the city within 90 days after their release.
After any appeals, FEMA will then release final maps which will be adopted after six months. That process may take several years.
According to the maps, however, there are properties in the Rockwood Park section of Howard Beach, Lindenwood, Rosedale and Long Island City where the border between Zone AE and Zone X cut right through the property.
FEMA spokesman Don Caetano said properties that span the zone boundaries will be classified in the more severe zone. For example, a home straddling the border between Zone AE and Zone X will be classified under Zone X, while a building on the edge of Zone X, but partially not in a flood zone, will be placed in X.
Nearly all of Willets Point is placed in Zone AE, meaning any development there will have to meet federal flood standards. But the potential developers there say that will not be an issue.
“All buildings constructed in Willets Point will account for the latest FEMA flood maps and requirements,” read a statement from Queens Development Group, the company spearheading the Willets Point project.
For high rises, such as those along the riverfront in Long Island City and future development in Hunters Point South, Caetano said the building management would purchase flood insurance for the building and spread the cost their own way. Many of the skyscrapers being built on the riverfront have taken the possibility of a flood into consideration.
Many of the high rises in Long Island City weathered Sandy well, although most lost power and those closest to the river suffered lobby damage. But new construction there takes the flood risk into consideration and important equipment for the building’s operations are moved well above flood levels.
The release of maps came as Mayor Bloomberg previewed a $20 billion, 250-point plan to protect the city from future flooding events, including building flood barriers, stronger infrastructure and higher dunes along the beaches in the Rockaways.
“This plan is incredibly ambitious, and much of the work will extend far beyond the next 203 days. But we refuse to pass responsibility for creating a plan into the next administration,” Bloomberg said Tuesday
Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) said the city should focus on helping homeowners in the flood zones. Sections of his district, like Far Rockaway, Rosedale and Brookville, are now in the more serious Zone AE. He noted that areas like Rosedale and Brookville have long had flooding problems.
“For years, these were areas that were vulnerable and now that nightmare has become a reality,” Richards said. “Homeowners are already stretched thin because of the recovery costs. I want to see what the city is going to do to aid these homeowners who now have to elevate their homes or pay more in flood insurance premiums.”
Richards suggested the city should use Sandy relief funds to subsidize the cost of retrofitting homes or for increased flood insurance premiums.
“We already have a foreclosure crisis in Southeast Queens, a lot of families are living on the brink,” he said. “You’re going to force them to go back to into their pocketbooks and wallets and worry about how they're going to pay for that. It adds another whole dimension.”