In 2012, Superstorm Sandy was a wake-up call. The storm battered our region.
Large areas of North Brooklyn, including much of Greenpoint and sections of the Northside of Williamsburg were under water. Many of the major roadways, the L train tunnel was filled with seven million gallons of water and our low-laying residential homes were flooded. North Brooklyn residents got a firsthand look at the power and force of Mother Nature.
In the wake of the storm, residents have fought to demand greater resilience, infrastructure investments and government accountability. Many of these efforts have led to hard fought victories and others have exposed frustratingly slow, outdated and inadequate systems—one of the most egregious being the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
As we look to build a more resilient community, it’s critical that we use this experience to improve emergency preparedness measures and enact meaningful reform.
It is essential that Congress reform the NFIP to include common sense solutions like mandatory disclosure which would vastly improve the program and inform our citizens.
By including disclosure requirements into the program, renters and buyers can make better informed choices about where they want to live. Currently in New York, home sellers and landlords can opt out of disclosing a property’s history of flooding to prospective consumers with payment of a small fee. This is unacceptable!
We cannot afford to hide reality. Just this week Brooklyn was rocked by flooding that severely damaged and hindered our infrastructure, including homes. Residents looking to buy or rent properties in Greenpoint and Williamsburg should have easy access to their prospective home’s history of flooding or had several feet of water during Superstorm Sandy.
Many new homeowners and renters do not realize their property is prone to flooding until after their first flood. This week, we saw If another Sandy were to hit us tomorrow, the community would still be vulnerable to damages and costs associated with them, so why are we not empowering residents with the information they need to make the best decision?
Moreover, disclosure is not a barrier to investment – just look at all the development taking place. With disclosure, buyers could factor in their budgets small projects to make the property more resilient, like moving the boiler from the basement. Renters could consider getting insurance to protect their belongings.
Disclosure is just one piece of the puzzle to ensure our communities are more prepared for the impacts of future flooding and natural disasters.
Our communities need certainty and security. Continued short-term extensions of the NFIP are not enough. We need a long-term solution to make real reform. By including mandatory disclosure in the next re-authorization, Congress would make a step in the right direction in protecting their constituents and saving taxpayer dollars.
Anthony Buissereth is Executive Director of North Brooklyn Neighbors.
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