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FEMA: Building A Sea Wall Would Change Home Elevation Requirements

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TWC News: FEMA: Building A Sea Wall Would Change Home Elevation Requirements
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Residents of the Rockaways learned Tuesday that building a sea wall would eliminate concerns that new federal flood levels would price them out of home ownership. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.

The community board in the Rockaways announced Tuesday that the city will spend $4 million on each of the five new lifeguard stands planned for this summer and $2 million on each of two public bathrooms to be built on Rockaway Beach.

"It's insulting to the neighborhood," said Community Board 14 member Keith Sullivan.

Many Community Board members are even referring to the shacks as "lifeguard penthouses."

"We have people who aren't even back in their homes because they don't have insurance money, they don't have 50 to $100,000 to repair their homes, and the city's gonna spend $24 million?" Sullivan said. "This is nonsense and it's got to stop."

Rockaway homeowner Rayvon Kellman doesn't believe the structures should cost that much but has her own issues.

She lost her whole first floor to Hurricane Sandy and, like dozens of other flood victims, came to this community board meeting to learn the details about elevating her home.

"If I don't get my house raised, then my insurance premium will be raised in two years, which I cannot afford," Kellman said.

A city representative was not immediately available to comment on the costs of the lifeguard stands.

Many worry they can't afford to lift their homes and if they don't, they could be forced to pay higher flood insurance premiums.

"Paying these large premiums could be an economic disaster for me as well as the whole neighborhood," said Rockaway real estate investor and agent Glen Diresto.

FEMA told residents its flood maps are preliminary and Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder said it could take five years for the city to adopt them.

That's plenty of time, he said, to make sure everyone's concerns are taken into account.

"We can find ways to change it. We change the flood maps, we use science to negate, maybe, what FEMA is saying," Goldfeder said. "In addition we find more subsidies, we look into the state budget we look into the federal grant programs. We find ways to help people do what is necessary to protect their homes."

FEMA told community board members that building a sea wall would alter the home elevation requirements.

Recommendations for permanent storm protection measures that are science based are due to be reported to the mayor in May.

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