Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to spend up to $400 million to buy and demolish homes wrecked by Hurricane Sandy and permanently preserve the flood zone land as undeveloped New York coastline.
The idea received generally positive reviews Monday from New Yorkers in some of the storm’s hardest-hit communities.
Cuomo administration spokesman Rich Azzopardi told the Associated Press that the proposal calls for the state to use a portion of the $51 billion disaster relief package approved by Congress last week for the buyouts. The plan, first reported Monday by The New York Times, was presented to federal officials Friday, the spokesman said.
Judith Rodin is president of The Rockefeller Foundation, and she is one of four people who were appointed to the New York State 2100 Commission to come up with answers about how to protect the state from future storms.
“We haven’t done a lot of the flood plain mapping around the country,” Rodin told NPR. “Think about it this way: The insurance companies will keep raising the rates and public policy will have to guarantee residents if people can’t afford them.”
Rodin told the network that communities that opted for smaller sand dunes — so as not to obscure their ocean views — were dramatically more damaged than those that had opted for larger ones, sacrificing some of the view, but also bringing natural protection from high storm surges.
If approved, the buyout program would offer pre-Sandy full market value for homes in the 100-year flood plain that the storm and related flooding substantially damaged, the AP reported.
State officials have estimated that 1,000 to 1,500 homeowners might apply. Cuomo earlier raised the buyout proposal and other new measures to protect New York City’s underground infrastructure from flooding, which he said has been occurring far more often than once a century.
A spokeswoman for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said buyouts are just one of the options being considered. Others include moving electric and other critical systems to higher ground and increasing protection for coastlines, Lauren Passalacqua said.
U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, a Staten Island Republican who has been supportive in early talks with residents about buyouts, said he supported Cuomo’s proposal and will back funding for other mitigation programs, such as elevating homes.
Certain neighborhoods, such as Staten Island’s Oakwood Beach, are “prime candidates for this type of program,” the AP reported him saying in a statement.
— Compiled by Reagan Haynes