The Federal Emergency Management Agency released Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps for New York City last week that reflect the latest updates to the agency’s redrawing of the coastal flood zones.
The Preliminary FIRMs replace the Preliminary Work Maps that were released in June as an interim product. Those maps, placed much of Howard Beach into a new zone, Zone A, would require residents to have flood insurance and take measures, such as raising their homes, or risk substantially higher flood insurance premiums.
The new maps reflect the same coastal flood risks as the Preliminary Work Maps and have now been updated to include river flooding in the Bronx and Staten Island. When they are finalized, the maps will determine future flood insurance rates, but do not have anything to do with the recent rise in rates. Those hikes are due to a 2012 act of Congress that reformed the National Flood Insurance Program.
Just as the June maps indicated, the entire Rockaway Peninsula will be in Zone AE, an area of high flood risk with a 1 percent annual chance of a catastrophic flood. The Zone AE area includes all of the old side of Howard Beach south of 157th Avenue, much of Lindenwood near Spring Creek and most of the Rockwood Park.
But several homes, many mid-block, on the Rockwood Park side are placed in Zone X, an area of only moderate flood risk with a .02 percent annual chance of a major flood. These areas include homes on 78th through 83rd streets between 159th and 160th avenues and 79th through 82nd streets between 160th and 161st avenues.
One block — between 89th and 90th streets and 159th and 160th avenues, across from PS 207 — was also placed in Zone X, the easternmost block in the zone. Houses on that square block sit on terrain that is higher than the community around it.
Several blocks in the northern end of the neighborhood that are on higher ground were also mapped into Zone X. About two-thirds of the stretch of Cohancy Street between 155th and 156th avenues was left out of all zones completely.
The maps coincide with the level of flooding seen after Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge struck the neighborhood last year.
Much of the western portion of the neighborhood, including the blocks that are in Zone X, were not as seriously flooded as the areas closer to Cross Bay Boulevard and east of Shellbank Basin, which, with Hawtree Creek, rose by almost 10 feet during the storm. The most severely damaged homes were those sitting on the two waterways.
Several houses placed in Zone X only had basement flooding, while many now classified in Zone AE saw flooding on their first floors. Those homes were protected from the more serious storm surge due to the expanse of marshes and parkland separating the community from Spring Creek.
Last month, Gov. Cuomo announced plans to fund a restoration and retrofitting of that parkland as a defense against future storms.
Parts of Lindenwood, especially homes with subterranean garages, also flooded in the storm.
The release of the Preliminary FIRMs indicates the first step in the official regulatory review process. The next step is a statutory 90-day appeal and comment period, which is expected to begin in the spring.
The public will have the opportunity to appeal the new maps to the city during this period. Once the appeal period is over, and all appeals are resolved, FEMA will issue a Letter of Final Determination to the city that initiates the six-month adoption period, which includes approval by the City Council, before the maps become effective, which FEMA expects will occur by early 2015.