Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) is calling on Mayor Adams to use federal funds for Hurricane Ida recovery to create a voluntary buyout program for Queens homes that are at risk of severe flooding during storms.
This comes just a week after a rainstorm left homes and roadways flooded, some with several feet of water. Many of the affected homeowners had just finished making repairs from Hurricane Ida last fall.
Though she said the homes on and near Peck Avenue off of Kissena Boulevard would be strong candidates, Meng said it’s not yet clear whether the program would include other neighborhoods, and if so, which ones.
“That’s what we want them to take a look at: Where does it make sense to have a program like this?” she told the Chronicle “Because what we saw is that some areas that flooded again — right after we commemorated the one-year anniversary — with less rain. So we want to make sure that that’s not happening every time that there’s more than an inch or two of rain.”
She noted that, for the most part, the improvements announced by the mayor on Sept. 1 do not impact her district. “The Flushing, Fresh Meadows and Forest Hills areas, and Woodside areas were not addressed at all,” she said. “We’re thinking if these are flood -prone areas, maybe for them to take a look at that.”
Asked for whether the mayor had a comment on Meng’s proposal, a City Hall spokesperson said, “New York City is actively pursuing federal and state resources to develop programs and services that support equitable, voluntary housing mobility for New Yorkers living in high-risk flood areas. Our primary goals are to prevent long-term displacement caused by flooding, and provide New Yorkers living in flood-prone areas with the resources for a future move.
“As we work with state and federal partners to secure these resources, the city continues to evaluate and explore a series of housing mobility services, including housing counseling, down payment assistance, rental assistance, real estate brokerage services, estate planning, and moving assistance.”
The city was awarded $187 million worth of aid through Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery. Asked how much of the grant such a program would use, Meng conceded, “I am being a little selfish, just taking into account the homes in my district.”
“Assuming homes are [$600,000] to a million on average, there obviously would be enough for a lot of the homes that were affected in our district. But we understand that this is for the whole city. We just want to float additional options his way.”
Meng has previously pushed for improved sewer infrastructure throughout her district. She emphasized that having a buyout program would not mean those upgrades would not be warranted.
“We still want the city and state to focus on the infrastructure improvements that need to be made, and upgrading and cleaning the sewer and catch basins in Queens,” she said. “But we understand ... in some neighborhoods, even if all that was done, it may not be enough, and flooding may still happen.”