Alfonso Apuzzo stood on the porch of his Gravesend house and pointed to a light gold minivan parked a few yards to the right of his home. That’s where the floodwater had reached when Hurricane Sandy hit just a few months ago, he said. Although his car was flooded along with the corner store and houses on the other end of the street, luckily the rushing water never made it into his home.
Many residents of Gravesend along with other neighborhoods of southern Brooklyn not designated as flood zones experienced some of the worst water damage to their properties.
“Technically, we’re sort of a flood zone because we got flooded,” Apuzzo laughed.
Post-Sandy that may now change. Because of such extensive inland flooding, the Federal Management Agency released revised maps last week designating Gravesend and other areas in South Brooklyn among them Manhattan Beach, Gerritsen Beach, and Canarsie as advisory flood zones.
“It’s a smart move as a precaution,” said 64-year-old Larry Fuller of Gravesend. “It’s right next to Coney Island. The [water] don’t have to go far [to get here].”
Even before Sandy had struck, FEMA was working to release revised flood maps for the area after three decades. However, the agency accelerated the release to serve as guidance for property owners rebuilding after the storm. That way any work done would be compliant with future city building code standards that would come into play when the maps are officially adopted a couple of years from now.
These new standards, once implemented, would require homeowners with federally backed mortgages to purchase flood insurance and some houses to be built on elevated posts, said FEMA.
Many Gravesend residents this week, however, were unaware of the new FEMA map. The full ramifications of what the new designations would entail and what they might mean to residents’ pocket books did not seem to have sunk in yet. But many agreed in principle that flood insurance would need to be purchased in the future. This is in contrast to local community board leaders in Gravesend and other nearby areas, who express unease on how willing the people in their districts will actually be to pay more when the time comes.
On Febuary 1, Lynn Disanza, who lives on West 6th Street and didn’t face any inconvenience as Sandy came through, was unfazed about living in a potential flood zone.
“I couldn’t care less if my basement flooded,” she laughed. “I live on the first and second floors.”
Despite not having dealt with any flooding personally, Disanza said it was important for people to have a safety net.
“It’s expensive if you don’t have flood insurance,” she said. “What are you going to do? You have to pay out of pocket.”
A middle-aged resident of West 12th Street in Gravesend, who refused to disclose his name, had to do just that. The floodwaters backed up the sewers causing the water to overflow into his basement. His two-year-old car, which had been parked in the garage that sloped downward into the basement, was flooded as well. He claimed to have suffered $12,000 to $15,000 in damages. He said he did receive some insurance coverage for his car, but he did not have any flood insurance to take care of the water damage to the house.
“It’s a good idea,” he said of the potential requirement for homeowners to purchase flood insurance. “It’s going to be more money, but yes you have to do it. ”
Renters like Apuzzo said their rents might rise if homeowners were asked to buy flood insurance. Residents of the Marlboro Public Housing Project in Gravesend will most likely not have to worry about that however, said Rosanne Degennaro, the director of the senior center there, because the City would absorb the cost.
The New York City Housing Authority said its rents are not based on such outside costs as residents are guaranteed under U.S. Housing and Urban Development rules to pay not more than 30 percent of their income.
A resident of Seagate for over 40 years, Degennaro said she herself paid over $2,000 annually for flood insurance. But she said, she “never had a drop of water in her house” all these years.
That all changed, however, when Sandy unleashed seven feet of water into her home. Yet, she said she still has not received any money from her home and flood insurance.
“I will get it eventually but will I get what I put back into the house?” she asked. “No. It’s crazy what they cover and what they don’t cover.” Degennaro said that one could get the money to repair a drywall, for example, but get nothing to replace all the furniture damaged by the water.
Theresa Scavo, chair of Community Board 15 and the representative for Manhattan Beach among other nearby areas, which is also listed as an advisory flood zone in the new FEMA maps, believes mandatory flood insurance would “hurt people in their pockets.”
“Although Manhattan Beach is considered an upper-class area there are still those who survive with two and three checks coming in that pay the bills,” Scavo said in an email.
Marnee Elias-Pavia district manager of Community Board 11, which represents the communities of Bath Beach, Bensonhurst, and Gravesend, said the new advisory by FEMA raised some questions. For example, the flooding in the neighborhood, she said, was reported to have resulted from overflowing sewers and not ocean water.
“Would that be covered?” she asked.
Elias-Pavia agreed with Scavo that the new flood designation would be seen as an undue financial burden. The district manager said that homeowners in the area she represents, from 26 th Ave. to Stillwell Ave., did not face any significant flooding.
“They’re not in the water – I don’t know if they would be prepared to pay extra property dollars,” Elias-Pavia said. “I don’t know if they would gain anything.”
Revised FEMA Advisory Maps can be accessed here.