Some Residents Who've Never Experienced Flooding Wonder Why They Remain

VALLEY STREAM, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has unveiled its new flood zone map for Nassau County’s South Shore.

The federal government added 90,000 properties to the flood hazard zone when it issued new maps in 2009. But now, FEMA has pledged to revise those maps following angry outcry from families who live nowhere near the water.

At a FEMA community meeting Wednesday night at Valley Stream Village Hall, the federal agency displayed two new maps that showed thousands of South Shore properties no longer listed in the flood zone.

WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reports

Valley Stream resident James McKnight’s home was not among the homes taken off the list and he said he is baffled by it.


“I have to get flood insurance. It costs me an extra $2,000 [per year],” McKnight told WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs. “We’ve never flooded, we’ve never had anything. You can ring every doorbell. There’s never been a flood here.”

McKnight has been living in Valley Stream for 27 years. He said the cost of flood insurance affects people’s ability to sell their homes.

“I’ve seen a lot of sales go down the drain,” McKnight added.

Other residents voiced similar frustrations.

“You are standing in a house now that’s never experienced a flood. During Hurricane Sandy, I didn’t even lose my power,” Valley Stream resident Joseph Margolin told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.

The Margolins are among thousands in Nassau fighting FEMA’s controversial federal flood zone map, which requires homeowners to buy flood insurance even when they don’t live near the water.

“We are not going to be filing claims for floods, it doesn’t happen here. So somebody, maybe FEMA, is using us as a source of cash to pay off, I believe, a very large debt,” Margolin told McLogan.

With pressure from U.S. and state senators, FEMA agreed to drop 4,500 Nassau property owners from the federal high-risk flood zone.

That change will raise the values of the homes and potentially save homeowners up to $3,000 a year in flood insurance premiums.

“I think it’s going to be a problem down the line when we go to sell the house. The first questions I think people are going to ask, ‘are you in the flood zone?'” said Valley Stream homeowner Susan Delatorre.

The Delatorres live near a creek but said their street has never once flooded.

“Sad day here, but I am going to appeal it,” she told McLogan.

Kenneth Halpern’s family found a loophole. If you owe nothing on your house, flood insurance is not mandatory.

“We decided to pay off our mortgage rather than pay the flood insurance,” Halpern told CBS 2’s McLogan.

Homes in Cedarhurst, Lynbrook and Valley Stream, were among those removed from the flood zone in the new maps.

FEMA recently completed its analysis of the New York City coastline, which led to revisions of the flood insurance and flood zone maps.

Senator Charles Schumer sponsored a measure that required FEMA to look at data from Jamaica Bay to update Nassau County’s flood maps.

About 60 properties were added to the new maps.

FEMA said the changes to the flood maps will go into effect next summer. Homeowners will be notified by banks and towns within two months if there is a change to their flood zone status.

The 4,500 homeowners about to be removed from the list will be reimbursed for this year’s flood insurance, but not for any prior years, according to FEMA.

Villages and towns will have all the revised flood zone maps by Feb. 1. Residents can call 877-FEMA-MAP for more information.

According to the agency’s website, FEMA has given more than $90 million in individual assistance to New York residents affected by superstorm Sandy.

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