On Earth Day, Mayor de Blasio released his OneNYC plan, a blueprint of policies and goals intended to help make New York City more sustainable, resilient, and equitable. The “Resiliency” plank of the Mayor’s plan includes ensuring that the city’s infrastructure is robust enough to withstand the challenges of natural disasters and climate change. As part of this effort, the City plans to develop a “Comprehensive Coastal Protection Plan” that will help the City respond effectively to future natural disasters.
The plan also highlights the importance of preparedness and awareness. One long-term challenge that stems in part from rising sea levels, but also from changing federal policies, is the issue of flood insurance. In response, the City is working to create resources for the public regarding flood risk and flood insurance, in part through a partnership with the Center. Senior staff from the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency provided invaluable expertise and feedback as the Center developed FloodHelpNY.org. The site helps homeowners understand whether their flood zone is changing and the possible impact of such changes. The City plans to launch a consumer education campaign on the issue before new FEMA maps are adopted, and we look forward to supporting the campaign with our ongoing outreach work.
The Center believes that raising awareness about the challenges that middle- and working-class homeowners living in the floodplain face, such as the rising cost of flood insurance, is a critical part of building equitable resiliency. Left unchecked, rising flood insurance costs could lead to displacement, foreclosure, underwater mortgages, short sales, turnover, vacant homes, and declining tax revenue. If the problem of rising flood insurance premiums and the need for greater coastal resiliency are not addressed, these major flood insurance changes could spur a gradual exodus of middle- and working-class people from large parts of New York City.