Valley Stream residents will get their say on July 15 on proposed new flood maps that would remove more than 1,500 homes in the south end of the village from the high-risk flood zone.
The village has until July 16 to accept or reject the new maps, which were created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In January, FEMA presented the revised plan to the community at a packed meeting at Village Hall. It is expected that the Board of Trustees will approve the maps in an effort to give homeowners relief from the flood insurance requirement. “I can’t see a benefit to saying no,” Mayor Ed Fare said.
According to village officials, 1,572 homes, primarily in the Gibson neighborhood, will be removed from the high-risk flood zone.
In 2009, about 2,500 homes in Valley Stream were added to the zone. Residents holding federally backed mortgages were forced to buy flood insurance, with annual premiums exceeding $2,000 for some. Last year, a study of Jamaica Bay was completed as part of an effort to redraw flood maps for Queens, which led to some changes in the Nassau County maps as well.
“There’s no questions that these maps are more accurate,” Fare said. “They should have been accurate the first time around. Are they perfect? I doubt it, but they’ve got to be better.”
Nonetheless, several leaders in the fight against the flood maps, which is entering its fourth year, want village officials to think carefully before adopting the maps. They say there are still errors. “The new flood maps I consider to be preposterous,” said Joseph Margolin, a board member of the Valley Stream Community Association. “As far as I can see, there’s no logic to the maps.”
Margolin noted that several hundred homes would remain in the flood zone, even in areas that have no history of flooding. These homes will be very difficult, if not impossible, to sell, he said, because of the high insurance premiums and the stigma of being in a flood zone.
Margolin said he has asked the village to hire independent engineers to validate the flood zone, and planned to question board members about why this hasn’t been done at Monday’s hearing.
According to Fare, village officials have reviewed the data provided by FEMA relating to the latest flood maps. And Trustee Vincent Grasso said that the new maps are the result of more than two years of effort by community activists and local government officials to have them changed. “We feel this is the best deal the village could get from the federal government,” Grasso said. “The difference between responsible governance and perpetual peevishness is knowing when to say yes to benefit as many residents as possible.”
He added that if the new maps are adopted, residents remaining in the flood zone would still be able to appeal. The village, however, is not in a position to contest the science used to create the maps.
Margolin and Community Association President Carol Crupi were two of 10 or so Valley Stream residents to take part in a Stop FEMA Now rally in Massapequa on June 29. Crupi said that they met with residents of several communities who feel that the flood maps in their areas are wrong.
“We’re all in the same boat with FEMA,” Crupi said. “I think that movement is growing, and I think it’s going to take off on Long Island.”
She said she also shared what has been done in Valley Stream to fight the flood maps, including efforts to work with federal representatives. She also plans to be at Monday night’s meeting, even though her house will be removed from the flood zone.
“I will do my best to get as many people as possible there,” she said. “I would like correct maps. I don’t think those maps are correct.”
Fare said he is concerned that if the village does not adopt the maps, it will not be able to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. That would hurt people who want and need flood insurance, such as those on Hungry Harbor Road whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Monday’s public hearing begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Village Hall courtroom. FEMA officials have been invited, but Fare said he is not sure whether they will attend. The board is expected to vote on the new maps at the business meeting, which follows.