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Mayor Provides Zoning Relief To Homeowners Rebuilding After Sandy

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued an executive order Thursday allowing homeowners in flood-prone areas looking to safely rebuild after Hurricane Sandy to construct buildings that are taller than pre-existing city height restrictions. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

Gerald Friederwitzer comes back every day to visit what's left of his beachfront house. It's a house he is planning to rebuild.

"What happens, God forbid, if something happens again?" he said. "I know, I have to build my house on pilings."

Now he can, legally. As promised, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed an executive order on Thursday allowing homeowners rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy to build higher.

"What we've done with the executive order is to increase the height limit, because if you've got to build your house up five feet, we're going to give you more feet for your roof," Bloomberg said. "Nobody expects you to cut the roof off."

Bloomberg also set a new minimum. Severely damaged homes or new construction will have to build one foot above their current flood elevation levels.

The moves come after the Federal Emergency Management Agency released new maps earlier this week that expand the city's flood zones.

Flood zones now stretch inland, adding thousands of homes in areas soaked by Hurricane Sandy.

"The risk for those homeowners of what the new maps show, which is increased flooding risk is there. It's real," said Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway. "People need to start thinking about how they are going to deal with it."

People like Friederwitzer.

"Even if he didn't want me to do it, I definitely would do it, because I wouldn't want it to happen again," he said.

The question for homeowners continues to be how much it will all cost. Even if building higher is smaller, they wonder if they should cut their losses and walk away.

"I just don't know how financially feasible it is for people who lost everything to then have to come up with more money to raise a home so high," said Kathleen Tomassetti, a Belle Harbor resident.

To the mayor, taking the homes up a foot or two is worth the cost.

"Is it going to make it more expensive? Yes," he said. "On the other hand, it's going to protect you."

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