NYC's outdated flood maps leave thousands at risk for disaster bills

By Jaclyn Jeffrey-Wilensky

New York City’s flood maps haven’t been updated in 14 years, potentially putting tens of thousands more New Yorkers in harm’s way and leaving them without a means of paying for damage if a storm should hit.

That’s according to researchers at the New School, who tracked new construction and population changes in six flood-prone neighborhoods between 2007 and 2018. Currently, a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) map last updated in 2007 determines how much of New York City is at risk of flooding—and which homeowners are required to reference by law when purchasing flood insurance.

The study shows that due to a steady stream of building developments, these high-risk flood zones have become denser, putting more people in these budding communities in the path of dangerous and destructive floodwaters than before Superstorm Sandy. Income levels have dropped across some of these neighborhoods, making it harder for them to prepare for future natural disasters.

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WNYC/Gothamist contacted the mayor’s office for comment, and a spokesperson pointed to a press release from May citing a new set of city rules that restricts the construction of nursing homes in flood-prone areas and allows for more updates that shore up buildings against flooding, like elevating electrical equipment. Jessel says the city should prioritize the most vulnerable flood-prone neighborhoods for such efforts—and soon.

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