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Projects & Proposals > Citywide > Flood Resilience Zoning

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Flood Resilience Zoning Text Amendment - Approved!

  Update October 9, 2013:
On October 9, 2013 the City Council adopted the Flood Resilience Zoning Text Amendment. The zoning text changes are now in effect. PDF Document View the adopted text.

The Department of City Planning is proposing a zoning text amendment to encourage flood-resilient building construction throughout designated flood zones. The proposed changes are needed in order to remove regulatory barriers that would hinder or prevent the reconstruction of storm-damaged properties. The amendment would enable new and existing buildings to comply with new, higher flood elevations issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and to new requirements in Building Code. Building to these new standards will reduce vulnerability to future floods, as well as help avoid higher flood insurance premiums.

Background and Context
Areas within which Zoning Text Would Apply (Effective and Advisory FEMA 100-year flood zones)
Areas within which Zoning Text Would Apply
(Effective and Advisory FEMA 100-year flood zones)
View a PDF Document larger image.

This proposal is one part of a wide 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.

After Hurricane Sandy, FEMA issued new, non-binding flood maps for New York City, reflecting the best available information about the city’s flood risks. These maps included higher flood elevations and a larger 100-year (1% annual chance) flood zone, containing roughly twice as many buildings as before. FEMA will continue to provide new flood maps as more accurate information becomes available. 

On January 31, 2013, the New York City Building Code was updated to match New York State standards for flood protection, requiring buildings to protect to a level one or two feet higher than the FEMA-designated flood elevation, depending on building type.  Single- and two-family homes are now required to provide two feet of extra protection (commonly called “freeboard”) above flood elevation, and most other buildings are required to provide a foot of freeboard.

Owners of severely damaged or destroyed buildings are required to comply with the flood resistant construction standards of Building Code when they rebuild. In addition, any property owner within the newly enlarged FEMA flood zones may wish to make their building comply with new FEMA standards, which call for them to be raised or floodproofed to a higher elevation. This will reduce their vulnerability to future floods, as well as help to avoid higher flood insurance premiums. However, in many instances, zoning regulations or conflicts between zoning and Building Code requirements would make it difficult, or in some cases impossible, for owners to build or retrofit to these standards. 

January 31, 2013 Executive Order

The Mayor’s emergency PDF Document Executive Order No. 230, issued on January 31, 2013, took an important first step to allow property owners rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy to meet updated FEMA flood standards. The Executive Order suspended height and other restrictions to the extent necessary to rebuild to the latest flood-resistant standards. The Executive Order is by nature an interim measure which will expire and must be codified by a zoning text amendment.

Overview of the Proposed Text Amendment

Like the Executive Order, the proposed Flood Resilience Text Amendment modifies zoning to enable flood-resistant construction. It also introduces regulations to mitigate potential negative effects of flood-resistant construction on the streetscape and public realm. Issues addressed by the text amendment include:

  • Measuring building height with respect to the latest FEMA flood elevations
  • Accommodating building access from grade
  • Locating mechanical systems above flood levels
  • Accommodating off-street parking above grade
  • Accommodating flood zone restrictions on ground floor use
  • Improving streetscape

The proposal would apply in the 100-year (1% annual chance) flood zone identified on the most recent FEMA flood maps, to all buildings that meet flood-resistant construction standards using the most recent FEMA flood elevations. In addition, all new or elevated buildings in the 100-year flood zone would be subject to rules to mitigate the potential negative effect of higher first floors on the public experience of the street.

This proposal addresses urgent issues for which solutions can be applied throughout the flood zone. Additional local planning will be necessary to address other complex and neighborhood-specific issues in areas severely affected by Hurricane Sandy.

PDF DocumentView the adopted text - adopted on October 9, 2013.

Expected Future Flood Zone Changes

FEMA is in the process of updating its Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for New York City, and the City expects to adopt new FIRMs in 2015. These maps will become the basis for building code requirements for flood-resistant construction. The proposed text amendment will enable buildings to be designed and constructed today based on the best current understanding of future flood standards.

Within a year after the adoption of new FIRMs, the Department would advance a second zoning text amendment to address any further flood zone issues resulting from the new maps and further refine the regulations as warranted. 

Public Review

The proposed text amendment was referred out on May 20, 2013 for 60 days to all affected Community Boards, Borough Boards and Borough Presidents for review and comment. View the presentation describing the original proposal.

The Department of City Planning filed a revised application on July 19, 2013 in response to public comments. View the presentation describing the modifications to the original proposal.

The City Planning Commission approved the revised application on September 11, 2013.

Milestone Date

Department of City Planning Certification/ Referral

May 20, 2013

Comment deadline for Community Boards, Borough Boards and Borough Presidents

July 29, 2013

City Planning Commission Public Hearing August 7, 2013
City Planning Commission Approval
(PDF Document Read the CPC Report)
September 11, 2013
City Council Approval October 9, 2013

Additional Resources
The following links provide more information about rebuilding in flood zones and the proposed zoning text amendment.  For additional information, contact the Zoning Division at 212-720-3325.

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