Governor Andrew Cuomo laid out his plan Monday to buy Hurricane Sandy-ravaged homes in areas at risk of future storm damage.
The state would spend as much as $400 million of its $30 billion in federal aid to buy and then clear homes from coastlines vulnerable to flooding. Those areas would never be developed again and would be converted into natural flood barriers or parkland.
People whose homes were severely damaged would be offered compensation equal to their home's value prior to the storm.
Bonuses would be offered to those whose homes were not damaged, but who are willing to move from vulnerable areas and homeowners whose whole block agrees to relocate.
"It's a high priority for the governor. It's a terrific way to get homes that are in highly susceptible flood-prone areas out of flood plains," said Joe Martens, the commissioner of the State Department of Environmental Conservation.
The state says it expects 10 to 15 percent of homeowners in affected areas to accept the buyout offer.
The plan, which still needs federal approval, is welcome news for residents of Fox Beach on Staten Island, many of whom are ready to move on.
"I can't deal with it anymore. I'm very proud of the governor and the governor's integrity," said a Staten Island resident. "This isn't a matter of taxes, this isn't a matter of money, this is a matter of people’s lives.”
Others were far more skeptical of the government's plan.
"I don’t think it's a very good plan at all," said a resident of the New Dorp Beach section of Staten Island. "You're asking people to leave their homes, leave the neighborhood, leave all they know, some of them for generations. I think his plan or his mind should be focused on protecting the people who actually live here."
State Senator Diane Savino, who is part of the state Senate's bipartisan hurricane relief task force, said that New Yorkers would have have to worry about being forced to leave their homes.
"We would not take their property. This is voluntary. The hazard mitigation program that would be funded by FEMA and then run through the State of New York is a voluntary program on the part of the homeowners," Savino said. "So if people don't want to go, they don't have to."
The senators plan to craft legislation to address needs at the state level stemming from Hurricane Sandy.
Under the governor's plan, homeowners would be bought out at the market price of the home before the storm.
Some areas will be flood-prone for the foreseeable future, and those who do not want to leave will be faced with the burden of higher insurance premiums.
"If you choose not to leave, we are not just going to abandon you," said State Senator Malcolm Smith. "We are not just going to say, 'You are on the block by yourself, good luck. That is not going to happen.'"
Members of the task force have had two press conferences in just the last week but have not provided any details about the kind of legislation they will draft. They said that is due in part to the fact that they are working closely with the governor's office and they want to make sure everyone is on the same page.