Time was when the average New Yorker didn’t think much about floods. Sure, there were severe storms here, such as the infamous Hurricane of 1938 that hit Long Island and the Great Nor’easter of 1992, but these were few and far between.
Then came the debate over global warming, and above all, Hurricane Katrina. It seemed like there were more and more floods, and suddenly people began to wonder about the possibility of floods and hurricanes threatening New York. Various government agencies began putting out maps of what parts of the city were vulnerable to storms. In some areas, insurance companies refused to renew homeowners’ policies because the homeowners lived in a “flood zone.” And many people, including condo and co-op owners, began to wonder about flood insurance.
How at-risk is the city when it comes to flooding? It’s hard to say, but floods are the number one disaster in the United States. And remember that much of New York—including large parts of Lower Manhattan—is built on landfill.
“The city actually ranks quite high,” says Alan Lyons, of counsel with the New York City law office of Arent Fox LLP, “Right up there with communities in the Gulf Coast and Mississippi River in the number and dollar value of flood insurance claims paid. New York City has 578 miles of waterfront and ranked third in the number of paid flood insurance claims from Jan. 1, 1978 to July 31, 1983.”
And more recently, readers may remember this past December’s heavy flood in which water from Jamaica Bay flooded onto the Belt Parkway for a couple of hours.