FEMA flood maps may cost Sandy victims buyout option

Posted at 12:36 AM, Jun 12, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-12 00:36:19-04

Great Kills, Staten Island – Super Storm Sandy ripped apart Rosemarie Caruso’s home and shut down her business.

With no more insurance money and no income, Caruso’s only hope is the state buyout program.

“If they bought us out, we can pay off our mortgage and go get a little apartment or condo or whatever we need to have to live and be okay.  Right now, we have nothing. We are basically screwed,” said Caruso.

Screwed, she says, since FEMA released its latest flood zone maps this week that puts her Great Kills home in a less hazardous flood zone, which potentially takes the buyout option off the table because residents must live in the high velocity wave risk flood Zone V to qualify for the state program.

“It makes me wonder who the moron is who makes these maps!” said Caruso,who lives literally one block from Great Kills Harbor.

But even though she is that close to the water, FEMA designated the neighborhood’s flood Zone AE, saying it is not at risk for high velocity waves of 3 feet or more, according to the new maps.

“There was a wall of water about 3 feet tall came flying thru that backyard like rapids. Less than 30 seconds, I was knee-deep in water and in 7 minutes the water was up to my waist.  At which point in time, house was swallowed by the ocean and floated the house off the foundation.  And they say this isn’t a velocity zone,” scoffed nearby resident Richard Fabio who has owned his bungalow for 20 years.

He says it is now “unlivable” and he has been staying in the Ramada Hotel ever since.

Like Caruso, Fabio also lost his small business and is hoping for a buyout to move on with his life.  That can only potentially happen, he says, if the Feds change their flood zone.

“One individual cannot fight FEMA.  Everybody has to band together,” he said.

So they did.

Richard, Rosemarie and more than a hundred other residents in the surrounding community are now part of the Crescent Beach Buyout Committee that includes Great Kills Harbor.

They drafted a request for “enhanced zone designation” and they plan to send it to city, state and federal lawmakers this week.

Fabio is not particularly hopeful…

“After 7 months of dealing with FEMA, I don’t expect anything,” said Fabio.

Caruso, on the other hand, is hoping leaders see their plight and hear their plea.

“People are suffering and going through hell and we need our politicians help,” she said.

FEMA told PIX 11 that property owners can appeal their zone designations, which includes a public hearing, then the agency will look at each person’s case on a case-by-case basis.

FEMA officials say that process can take months.

The flip side of these new preliminary FEMA flood maps is likely good news for those Sandy victims who are NOT interested in a buyout.  In fact, chances are, your flood zone just became less hazardous which means your elevation requirements for flood insurance will go down, in turn, saving you money in the long run.