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Projects & Proposals > Resilient Neighborhoods > Canarsie

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As part of the Resilient Neighborhoods initiative, the Department of City Planning is working with the community in Canarsie to identify changes to zoning and land use and other actions that support the continued vitality of this neighborhood, reduce its risk associated with coastal flooding, and ensure the long-term resiliency of its built environment. Canarsie was selected for the study not only because it was severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy, but also because of the very large expansion of the Federal flood maps and concentration of characteristic building types that present challenges to resiliency.

Canarsie Map
Study Area and Flood Risk (FEMA Flood Zones)
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Community Profile

What defines the neighborhood?
Canarsie is a residential neighborhood of more than 83,000 people bounded by Paerdegat Basin, Fresh Creek and Jamaica Bay.  It is characterized by one- and two-family detached, semi-detached, and row houses with commercial activity along Flatlands Ave and Rockaway Parkway. The building scale is predominantly low-rise, with both the residential and commercial or mixed-use buildings ranging from one -to three-stories in height. There are over 17,000 residential units in the study area.

The Canarsie waterfront has a long history of active use—from commercial fishing in the 19th century and yacht clubs in the early 20th century, to the development of the 600-foot Canarsie Pier for use as a commercial dock in the 1920s. Today, the Canarsie Pier is part of the Gateway National Area on Jamaica Bay and the waterfront is predominantly used as a fishing and recreational area.

Typical housing stock in Canarsie
Typical housing stock in Canarsie
View down the Canarsie Pier
View down the Canarsie Pier
Flood Risk and Neighborhood Resiliency

What type of flood risk exists?
During Hurricane Sandy, there was extensive flooding that entered the neighborhood from the Fresh Creek and Paerdegat Basin inlets, with floodwaters reaching elevations of 5 to 7 feet above ground. This caused significant damage to basements and ground floor levels throughout Canarsie.

Prior to FEMA’s release of the Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps (PFIRMs) in 2013, very little of Canarsie was in the federally designated flood zone. In the PFIRMS, however, two-thirds of the neighborhood was included, and the number of buildings in the flood zone increased from approximately 26 to 5,000 buildings. In addition to new areas being added to the 100-year flood zone, the new Federal flood maps also have generally higher base flood elevations, ranging from 10 to 11 feet above sea level, or 2 to 6 feet above ground level. The PFIRMs more accurately represent current flood risk in Canarsie and raise concerns about the neighborhood’s vulnerability to future storms.

1983 FEMA Flood Map
1983 FEMA Flood Map
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New Preliminary FEMA Flood Maps (2013)
New Preliminary FEMA Flood Maps (2013)
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What are the challenges to resiliency?
Given the average age of construction and the fact that most of Canarsie was not included in the 1983 FEMA flood maps, very few of the buildings in the neighborhood include flood-resistant construction techniques. However, the recent expansion of the federal flood zones and national changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) will result in higher insurance premiums for homeowners with federally regulated mortgages, many of whom may not have had flood insurance in the past. Flood-proofing homes to meet federal requirements would allow property owners to reduce insurance premiums; however these strategies present physical challenges and require significant investment.

Close to 70% of buildings in Canarsie are either attached or semi-detached and many are located on sunken lots. This makes it difficult to implement some of the more common resiliency measures such as elevating the first floor.  Many homes also have ground floor or basement residential units that are used as dwelling space for families or as rental units, further complicating available retrofitting strategies.

Attached and semi-detached homes in Canarsie
Attached and semi-detached homes in Canarsie
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Attached home with residential unit on ground floor
Attached home with residential unit on ground floor

How Are We Working With Communities?

The Resilient Neighborhoods Initiative will build off of the recovery and planning work that has been done through local, state, and federal organizations, including the citywide Flood Zoning Text Amendment, the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, and New York Rising,  to increase the long-term resiliency of the neighborhood. During the course of the Resilient Neighborhoods study, DCP will work closely with members of the community, local groups and elected officials to prepare for future storms and ensure the long-term resiliency and livability of the neighborhood.

On June 18, 2014, DCP presented the Southern Brooklyn Resilient Neighborhoods Initiative to Community Board 18. The presentation can be viewed PDF Document here.

In the Fall of 2014, DCP convened the first Community Advisory Committee to present the goals of the study. The Committee includes representatives from Canarsie Merchant Association, Canarsie Disaster Recovery Coalition and the Fresh Creek Association. The Advisory Committee met periodically through the Winter of 2015 to discuss local issues related to flood risk and the rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy and to identify strategies to incentivize resilient investments in Canarsie.

DCP anticipates to present findings and recommendations to the local community board and elected officials in late 2015. Check this page for notifications on public meetings and future updates.

Related Projects and Initiatives In This Area

The Resilient Neighborhoods Initiative is part of a broad range of efforts by the City to recover from Hurricane Sandy, promote rebuilding and increase the city’s resilience to climate-related events, including coastal flooding and storm surge.  Recommendations from this program will be developed in close consultation with area stakeholders and will coordinate with other initiatives, including:

View a flyer in PDF Document English or PDF Document Haitian Creole on the Resilient Neighborhood initiative in Canarsie.

For more information contact:

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