About 4,500 property owners in the Valley Stream area next year will be removed from the federal flood map, raising the value of their homes and businesses and potentially saving them thousands of dollars a year in flood insurance premiums.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which added 90,000 Nassau and Suffolk properties to the flood-hazard zone when it issued new maps in 2009, said Tuesday it will meet in Valley Stream within three weeks to unveil proposed revisions to the map. The changes are expected to be in place by next summer.
"What we learned about the new maps today confirms what we long suspected, that the old maps, built with old data, were downright inaccurate," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who successfully sponsored legislation that required FEMA to update the map for the area of Hempstead Town that could be potentially flooded by water from Jamaica Bay with more local and up-to-date data. "This is a huge step in the right direction for many thousands of Long Island families."
Timothy Crowley, FEMA's director of the New York region's Mitigation Division, said about 4,500 homes in Valley Stream, Cedarhurst, Lynbrook and some surrounding areas will be removed from the flood zone when the base flood elevation is lowered by about a foot. The new map raised the flood zone boundary from an elevation of 8 feet to more than 11 feet.
"Any areas removed from the flood zone is a very positive thing," Valley Stream Mayor Edwin Fare said Tuesday.
Crowley said the changes would add about 60 properties to the flood zone but few structures would be affected. Buildings, not land, trigger the need for flood insurance for owners with mortgages.
"We have more particular data and more exact science," Crowley said. The revisions are based on updated information used for new New York City flood maps.
Carol Crupi, a community leader in Valley Stream's Gibson neighborhood, where 2,500 homes had been added to the map even though their owners insisted they had never been flooded, said, "If homeowners can be removed from the map and have the stigma of being in a high-risk flood zone removed and their property values restored, that is very good news."
But she added that FEMA should lower the base flood elevation back to 8 feet because flooding has never reached even that level. She also worried that homeowners would have to spend additional money for surveys to prove that their homes were above the new base flood elevation and that they won't be able to cancel their flood insurance before renewal dates and get the premiums refunded.
Crowley said the maps for all of Long Island will be reviewed with data from superstorm Sandy once it is compiled. But he added that "one storm may not change the model significantly" because the maps are based on multiple storms, including projections of some more destructive than Sandy.
Early next month in the Valley Stream area, FEMA will begin a process called Letter of Map Revision. There is a 90-day window for appeals based on the science used to create the map. Meanwhile, local officials will work with residents to identify the properties that should be removed from the flood zone. Local municipalities will have six months to adopt the maps before they go into effect.