Congress OKs bill for new Nassau flood maps

Waters from Hurricane Irene flood a Long Beach Waters from Hurricane Irene flood a Long Beach street early Sunday. (Aug. 28, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

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A measure that will save thousands of Nassau County residents hundreds of dollars in flood insurance costs passed Congress on Friday.

The bill requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency to adopt new flood maps for Valley Stream, Lynbrook, Oceanside and other nearby Nassau communities. The measure corrects flood map changes in 2009 that added 25,000 property owners to the flood zone and led to higher insurance premiums.

The 2009 flood map -- in which FEMA, in a cost-saving effort, used information extrapolated from a report for Suffolk County -- caused homeowners with mortgages to spend up to $3,000 annually for flood insurance. Many of the homeowners had paid $300 or $400 before the changes.

The measure was approved by the House and U.S. Senate on Friday, and awaits President Barack Obama's signature, said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who sponsored the bill.

The bill is a victory for Nassau residents who have campaigned against the 2009 maps for the past three years, said Joseph Margolin, a member of the Valley Stream Community Association.

"If they are going to redo the maps, at least there's the possibility they will do it right," Margolin said. "We should have never been put into the high-risk zone."

The bill requires FEMA to revise portions of the Nassau County flood maps using "Nassau-specific data," Schumer said in a statement. Residents and officials will be able to challenge the map revisions once they are completed, Schumer said.

Schumer called the order to revise the maps "great news for Nassau residents," and added that Obama has made clear he will sign the bill within days.

"It was outrageous to charge [more of] people who had homes nowhere near a flood zone," Schumer said.

In a statement Friday, a FEMA spokesman said if Schumer's bill becomes law, the agency "would comply accordingly."

The revised maps will be especially beneficial to residents of the Gibson neighborhood in Valley Stream, where 2,500 families were affected by the 2009 changes, said Carol Crupi, president of the Valley Stream Community Association.

"We've been working on this for 2 1/2 years," she said. "We'll see how this shakes out -- it's a wait and see."

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