It was a range of reactions from fear to hope as concerned east Bronx shoreline residents gathered a town hall meeting with Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives and elected officials earlier this month over new flood zone maps after Hurricane Sandy.
The new flood-zone maps, slated for release in one to two months, are the first draft versions of fully revised flood zone maps which will be released in about two years.
FEMA representatives answered a flood of questions from concerned homeowners at the May 2 meeting at the City Island Community Center. The meeting was co-sponsored by Rep. Joe Crowley and Councilman Jimmy Vacca.
The new maps will contain updated scientific data from Superstorm Sandy and other events since 1983, when the last major collections of scientific data were done to determine flood risk in New York City, said Michael Klitzke, an insurance group supervisor for FEMA.
Klitzke explained that since the insurance program is run by the federal government, it is different from regular homeowners insurance, since market forces that normally govern policies oftentimes don’t apply with the federal government’s programs.
For example, he said, national weather data and events affect the program.
“Your individual rates will not go up because they file a claim,” said Klitzke, adding that “as long as you pay your premium and keep that active policy going, FEMA will not cancel that policy.”
But many in the audience were concerned insurance costs will skyrocket once the new maps are finalized, even forcing some to leave the area.
“I wasn’t told I would have to have flood insurance when I bought my house,” said Sonia Cotto Diaz, 66, of the “village,” an area next to Section 5 of Co-op City. “All I am concerned about now is that I may have to sell my house.”
Some from areas such as Edgewater Park that were hard hit by Superstorm Sandy, asked FEMA officials about already rising rates they attributed to far-away events such as Hurricane Katrina.
The FEMA officials cautioned that new flood insurance rates could not be determined until the new maps are finalized several years from now, based on scientific data like the elevation of a house or structure and the land it sits on.
Congressman Crowley said he was concerned about middle-class home owners being able to afford remaining in shoreline communities.
“I used to think this was an issue that affected hurricane-prone areas,” like Florida, Texas, and North Carolina, he said.
Concern among attendees varied, with Dorothy DiPierro of Spencer Estate saying she was there to learn more about what was happening and the programs, while George Milano of Throggs Neck especially wanted to learn if his house would be placed into a more high-risk flood-zone and if he would still be able to afford his flood insurance.
Vacca said that it would be irresponsible for he and Crowley not to have a meeting to talk about the preliminaries.
“This is a work in process,” said Vacca. “I like to come to meetings where the politicians have all the answers, but I have a lot of questions too.”
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393