Council Amends Zoning Text to Accelerate Sandy Recovery

Recently-approved text amendment streamlines the elevation process for homes in the flood zone. Image credit: Rosanna Arias/FEMA

Recently-approved text amendment streamlines the elevation process for homes in the flood zone. Image credit: Rosanna Arias/FEMA

Amendment streamlines process for reconstruction, elevation of homes.  On July 23, 2015 the City Council approved an amendment to the zoning text relating to homes in areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy.  The amendment is designed to remove complications faced by 2,000 owners of one- and two-family homes in Staten Island, Southern Queens, and Southern Brooklyn who have been working to rebuild and elevate their homes in the event of another flood, while lowering the cost of flood insurance for the residences.  The amendment was submitted jointly by the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and the Department of City Planning.

In a public hearing before the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises on July 20, Amy Peterson from Housing Recovery testified current zoning regulations require homeowners in the flood plain to present documentation about what their home looked like in the 1960s to demonstrate it was noncompliant with the regulations before they can receive their permits.  Ms. Peterson stated many homeowners in the areas never had such documentation or lost it during the storm, slowing the rebuilding process.  Nilus Klingel from DCP testified the amendment would simplify the process for documenting noncompliance and nonconformance of flood zone housing stock, remove disincentives keeping homeowners from taking advantage of the Build It Back program, and offer a new contextual zoning envelope for homes that must be completely rebuilt in the flood zone.  Mr. Klingel emphasized the amendment expires in five years with a two-year grace period to allow homeowners to receive their building permits without superseding long-term planning goals for the relevant neighborhoods.

In a statement, Councilmember and Zoning chair Donovan Richards thanked Amy Peterson and City Planning for their work, describing it as “the light at the end of the tunnel” for Sandy homeowners.  “The removal of these regulatory barriers eliminates the majority of the red tape that deterred property owners from elevating their homes and moving forward in the Build it Back program.”

City Council:  Stated Meeting LU 0252-2015 (Jul. 23, 2015).

By:  Michael Twomey (Michael is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2014)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.