Canarsie Courier: Will Canarsie Be Ready For The Next Big Storm?
Area residents who suffered damage to their homes from Superstorm Sandy are finally picking up the pieces of their shattered homes and lives. But what happens if another hurricane of similar magnitude tears through our community? Will we be ready for the next storm? “Refortification” and “Reformulation” were the buzzwords at Monday night’s Resiliency Town Hall meeting for Canarsie, Mill Basin andBergen Beach. Armed with detailed plans to repair our faulty sewer infrastructure and strengthen our shorelines, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries hosted the event and assured storm-weary residents that Canarsie would no longer be forgotten.
“The challenge for Canarsie and Bergen Beach is our sewer infrastructure,” Jeffries told attendees in the packed room at the Hebrew Educational Society, at 9502 Seaview Avenue. “We need significant intervention on this. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has taken on two local projects. The DEP will conduct a systematic review on the quality of infrastructure in our area.”
The first project is in the northeast section of Canarsie – from Fresh Creek, starting at East 108th Street running toEast 98th Street. This project is fully funded and groundbreaking will begin in early 2015.
The second project is for Bergen Beach but the DEP has not given a definite date as to when it will start.
It’s important that Canarsie has a voice and Jeffries explained that the DEP reviews the number of sewer complaints made to 311. “The DEP conducts an annual review which provides important metrics and information relating to our sewer system.”
Colonel Paul E. Owen of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers explained that the impacts from Superstorm Sandy could have been more severe if actions were not taken prior to the storm. “The Plumb Beach project, which added a significant amount of sand to the beach area before the storm, saved much of the Belt Parkway,” Owen said. He continued, “The ecosystem restoration project on the marsh islands of Jamaica Bay also reduced the impact of tides that could have caused even more damage.”
The Army Corps of Engineers’ comprehensive resiliency study has three phases relating to storm risk reduction. The first phase addresses previous projects with the goal of bringing them back to their original design construction. In 2013, the Army Corps added sand (10 feet high) back to Rockaway Beach extending from Beach 19th to Beach 149th streets. The project, which was started in the 1970s and continued until 2004, was “reformulated” to find a long-term, cost-effective solution to restore the beach. According to Owens, “the additional sand should absorb future tidal surges.”
During Phase 2, projects that were previously authorized but not implemented will be “reformulated.” For instance, previous studies on the East Rockaway Inlet to Rockaway Inlet (Rockaway Beach) were only directed toward the Atlantic side but will now focus on the “back bay side.”
Jeffries further assured the audience by stating, “Canarsie will not be left behind. I have pushed for resiliency studies on the back bay side of the Rockaways.”
To fund the resiliency studies, significant federal funding is in place. According to Jeffries, “Fifty billion dollars in federal monies have been allocated, including $5 billion for the North Atlantic Division and $3 billion for the New York specific area. The Marine Park storm risk reduction study will be funded 65/35 – meaning that 65 percent will be federally funded and 35 percent will be funded locally.”
There are also ongoing studies on the Jamaica Bay, Marine Park and Plumb Beach coastal regions. “This study covers eight sites and 550 acres will undergo restoration,” Owen said. One concerned resident asked whether Paerdegat Basin and Fresh Creek were included in those sites and Owen confirmed that both bodies of water were part of the eight sites included in the study.
Phase 3 includes studies and projects that have no authorization yet. The North Atlantic division comprehensive study will look at Sandy vulnerable areas.
The Army Corps works closely with the Mayor’s office and the NYC Parks Department on storm mitigation. “One of the proposals that Mayor Michael Bloomberg put forth is to build a storm surge barrier from the Rockaway Inlet to theBrooklyn side. The Army Corps of Engineers is looking into the proposal,” Jeffries said. “It will be time and cost intensive but will provide storm surge protection for our area.”
Thomas Song, Project Specialist for FEMA’s Risk Analysis Branch, said that his job is to try to make the community more resilient and put FEMA out of business. “While that will never happen,” he said, “there are steps that you can take that may reduce future storm impact – even on one less family, one less block or a entire community.” The project specialist suggested that something as simple as elevating the utilities in your basement up to two feet could have saved homeowners a lot of money.
“It’s also important to know your flood risk. You can find out what flood zone you are in by logging ontowww.region2coastal.com,” Song said. “With the newly released FEMA Flood Zone Maps, flood zones have increased in NYC,” Song said. “The flood maps have not been approved yet and are subject to a 90-day comment period beginning next year.”
Song strongly encouraged homeowners to get flood insurance. “You will get favorable premium rates by getting flood insurance now,” Song said.
Jeffries confirmed that most area residents are in Zone X, indicating a moderate flood risk with less than a 0.2 percent chance of their homes flooding annually. “There are no mandatory requirements for residents in Zone X to purchase flood insurance and elevation requirements to raise your home do not kick in. That’s fortunate because how would you raise an attached home?” the congressman mused.
Another resident wanted to know if the cost of federal flood insurance would remain the same. Song explained, “As long as your flood risk is the same, your rate should be the same. I strongly suggest that homeowners get flood insurance under the preferred rate. You will keep that rate until (of if) your flood risk changes.”
To assist in that effort, Jeffries is working on a bipartisan bill, of which he is the co-sponsor, to suspend the Biggerts-Waters Act of 2012. The Act was passed to address the National Flood Insurance Program’s deficit and phases out federal subsidies on national flood insurance policies starting in 2014. Under the Jeffries-sponsored bill, the federal subsidies will not be removed.
“If your flood zone has changed, it’s important that you get flood insurance now so you can keep the rates when the FEMA maps are approved,” Jeffries said.
“If you don’t, your insurance will be adjusted by 20 percent per year for five years until you hit the new rate. This could mean the difference of $400 per year or $10,000 annually,” Jeffries concluded.
For more information on the Army Corps of Engineers resiliency studies, go to www.nan.usace.army.mil.