FEMA maps put Howard Beach in flood zone

New Federal Emergency Management Agency advisory flood maps put much of Howard Beach and the Rockaways in flood zones. Map courtesy FEMA
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Many parts of Howard Beach and the Rockaways that were not previously listed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as being at a high risk for flooding are now grouped into the flood zones in new maps released by the agency Monday.

The maps are only advisory, with official flood maps expected to be released later this year. But FEMA says the official maps will closely resemble the advisory maps and it is encouraging homeowners to rebuild based on the advisory maps’ projections.

The advisory maps thus strongly suggest that homes and businesses within the new flood zones will face new building requirements and hikes in flood insurance premiums in the future.

FEMA’s flood maps were last updated in the early 1980s and the agency was in the process of drafting new maps based on current scientific data when Hurricane Sandy hit. It released the advisory maps to offer guidance to hurricane victims in the rebuilding process.

“We know people have been impacted by the storm,” said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Byrne on NY1. “We want to give them some information because they’re not waiting to rebuild. People want to rebuild now.”

The new maps would loop virtually all of new Howard Beach and all areas of old Howard Beach not already on existing flood maps into high-risk flood zones. In addition, nearly all of the Rockaway peninsula would be considered high-risk under the new maps, instead of just Breezy Point and land along the coasts.

FEMA is encouraging people who are in the midst of rebuilding badly damaged homes and are within the new advisory flood zones to elevate their homes above the projected height water could reach during severe storms or floods. This is often done through stilts or posts and could help to lower flood insurance premiums. FEMA projected homeowners could save $90,000 over 10 years in flood insurance premiums if they elevated homes 3 feet above the flood line.

But state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said he was concerned about what the new maps will mean for his district.

“We have the potential here of really changing the characteristic of Howard Beach,” he said.

He said he worries some residents might not be able to conform to new building requirements and that some may not be able to afford steeper flood insurance.

“I’ve got this feeling that there’s going to be a large outcry about the requirements of raising their home a number of feet,” he said.

He also is concerned some residents may pack up and move from Howard Beach rather than shoulder the cost of rebuilding to stricter standards.

But in the meantime, he said Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signified there may be some state help for people who are rebuilding.

“We do see the state has a vision for helping people that have been negatively affected by Hurricane Sandy, but there’s so much more work to do, especially in light of these new maps,” he said.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 9:02 pm, January 31, 2013
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