Residents of Aster Street in Massapequa Park grilled officials last night on why FEMA has decided their homes now sit in a flood zone, requiring them to buy expensive insurance.
About 15 residents who attended the meeting at Village Hall said they felt their homes were arbitrarily singled out by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which finalized its new flood maps last September. No homes on neighboring streets were included in the new flood maps.
James Fazio, an Aster Street resident for eight years, said he paid a $1,800 insurance premium in January because of the new maps. And he worries about the value of his home. "To us, it's like a tax on our homes," he said.
FEMA has defended its designation of Aster Street as a flood zone, but officials acknowledged at the meeting the agency's data was partly based on a study of the street done in 1980.
Asked by one resident if FEMA could do another study, Rich Einhorn of FEMA said he would discuss the matter with an engineer, but added, "I cannot guarantee you anything."
Lenders usually require homeowners in flood zones to carry insurance, which can cost thousands of dollars. About 25,000 Long Island properties became part of flood zones as part of the new maps. They include a handful of homes on Aster Street, a road south of the Southern State Parkway but about four miles north of the bay.
Aster Street residents have filed appeals to have their homes rezoned, arguing they're safe from flooding. All but one were denied, said resident Margery Weinroth. "The ones that have been mandated by their banks to pay these $2,500 premiums, they can't do it," she said.
FEMA has agreed to offer cheaper, "preferred" insurance rates for two years to homeowners just added to flood zones, but the cheaper rates won't start until January.
Mary Colvin, regional head of FEMA's flood insurance program, said Thursday the agency couldn't offer cheaper rates sooner for two reasons. It plans to hike preferred rates by about $10 to pay for the influx of new homes and that increase also won't take effect until January. FEMA also needs until January to prepare for the changes, she said.