Now in a Flood Zone, Residents of Gerritsen Beach Struggle to Stay Afloat

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Residents of this Brooklyn neighborhood aren't happy that they're on the map.

Gerritsen Beach, a working-class Brooklyn neighborhood of low-slung bungalows hard hit by Sandy, is among the communities included in FEMA's updated flood maps released this week. The 35,000 homes and businesses in and around parts of New York City added to the flood zone may have to pay either higher flood insurance rates or raise their homes above sea level.

Jennifer Avena, 35, was born in Gerristen Beach. She said she can't afford to buy flood insurance right now.

"When I bought my house that was not in the arrangements," she said, standing outside her two-story clapboard home that took on nearly five feet of water during Sandy. "That wasn't in the budget. It wasn't in the pay checks to own our homes. And I don't know what I'm going to do."

All that's left of the first story of her home is the wooden frame, a metal sink on the floor and a dangling white shower head. It's uninhabitable and she's staying with her neighbor across the street. She will need to raise her home 11 feet above sea level in order to comply with the new flood maps, she said.

Her neighbor, Michael Murr, is in the midst of renovating his damaged basement and wonders what's the point?

"To sink money into repairing a house you may have to raise up, means you're demolishing a lot of what you just spent a lot of money to repair also not a sensible move," he said.

It's still unclear how these preliminary maps will affect individual flood insurance rates. But Murr, 49, worries his neighbors will be priced out the close-knit community. Many of them are retired city employees living on pensions. 

"It'll also accomplish turning these houses into unsellable or sellable only to contractors or developers or people with a lot of money," Murr said. 

Congress approved a more than $50 billion Sandy relief package, and residents of Gerritsen Beach hope some of that trickles down to them.

Listen to the audio above to hear WNYC's Amy Eddings ask Michael Byrne, FEMA's federal coordinating officer for New York, on the latest on the flood maps.

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Comments [3]

Justin from New Jersey

This story does listeners a disservice by not making the proper distinction between flood maps and requirements based on flood maps. There's no way to "comply with the new flood maps," as the story suggests, because they're just maps documenting ground elevations and flood zones. You can't comply with something that just records the facts as they are at the time the map was made. One might have to comply with government or insurer requirements based on those maps, but those requirements will vary from property to property. The audio version of the story is even less precise, referring to something vaguely termed "compliance codes." What the heck is a compliance code?!?

Jan. 30 2013 08:49 AM
Kay from Brooklyn

*Many homes in Coney Island are part of the NYC and NYS program so people can afford homes. Therefore, homeowners are required to buy insurance since the gov't loan money out to help purchase those homes. Homeowners just happens to live in Coney Island because that's where homes are affordable

Jan. 29 2013 07:04 PM
Kay from Brooklyn

I think it is ridiculous for the gov't to expect home owners in FEMA's new flood zones to raise their home or start paying a higher premium for flood insurance. If you are currently restoring your home, money is already tight with the very little amount that insurance companies end up paying to rebuild if you have insurance; how do they expect home owners to raise their homes above a certain height? If they told people that right after the storm before people started to rebuild it would make more sense. I only see this as a way to get home owners to pay higher premiums to insurance companies without protest, especially when a lot of home owners here are required to purchase flood insurance (part of the State and NYC If they think people who live in Coney Island (except maybe people who are living in Sea Gate) can afford to do this, they must be kidding themselves.

Jan. 29 2013 06:54 PM

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