Natural disasters striking New York City has become a standard plotline for multiple blockbuster Hollywood hits, reflecting both audience’s morbid fascination with the end of humanity and imminent threats to the city. After last year’s hurricane season devastated U.S. coastal cities, New York City began taking measures to minimize the potential damage of natural disasters. In the newest measures, the city is looking to remap the Big Apple’s flood zones to ensure the safety of both residents and their homes come the next hurricane.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is currently looking at redrawing New York City’s flood maps, making NYC the first American city to take such significant measures. The new maps are taking into account rising sea levels and the 100-year and 500-year floods that are increasingly hitting New York City. Once redrawn, these maps will indicate which areas of New York are prone to flooding and, accordingly, provide house owners with insurance recommendations.
When Hurricane Harvey struck Houston, 40 to 50 percent of residents lost their homes despite living outside flood-prone zones mapped by FEMA. In order for residents living within and outside of these flood zones to ensure that they do not lose their homes to flooding, they are encouraged to purchase premiums or flood insurance. Homes located in FEMA’s flood zones are required by law to purchase a flood insurance policy until their mortgage is paid off. But as Next City pointed out, the price of insuring a home located in a flood zone is rising.
The city has entertained the possibility of other preventative measures like installing flood gates to protect residents from flooding. For this initiative, the city teamed up with the National Institute for Coastal and Harbor Infrastructure to install five underwater flood gates to prevent flooding in the city.
New York City faces another challenge in flood-preventative measures. Almost 80 percent of the city’s buildings were built before the current flood maps were drawn, according to The New York Times. The article also highlighted the difficulties that New York residents face in taking the necessary financial and infrastructural measures to prevent flood-damage to their homes. The City successfully opposed FEMA’s recommendations before when the governmental agency released flood maps for the city in 2013.
Formal discussions between New York City and FEMA on the flood maps are expected to take place in the following weeks. And while mapping flood zones may protect against damage to homes in America, residents will likely bear the brunt of the process, as increasing the cost of procuring insurance and adjusting homes to prevent damage may shrink the number of affordable homes available to the public.