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Projects & Proposals > Resilient Neighborhoods > Sheepshead Bay

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Sheepshead Bay

As part of the Resilient Neighborhoods initiative, the Department of City Planning is working with the community in Sheepshead Bay to identify changes to zoning and land use to support the continued vitality of this neighborhood, reduce its exposure to risk associated with coastal flooding, and promote the long-term resiliency of its built environment. Sheepshead Bay was selected for the study not only because it was severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy, but also because of its diverse building stock [the presence of below-grade bungalows] as well as its commercial corridors where high flood elevations coupled with below-grade retail spaces exacerbate vulnerability to flooding.

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

What defines the neighborhood?
Sheepshead Bay is a vibrant, growing community with thriving commercial corridors, a working and recreational waterfront along Sheepshead Bay, and a diverse built environment featuring blocks of single-family bungalows and larger multi-family apartments. Much of Sheepshead Bay is located in the updated federal flood maps, which includes over 15,400 residential units and 1,250 commercial units in the neighborhood. There are approximately 3,600 buildings in the flood zone, 70% of which are single- and two-family homes.

Bungalow in Sheepshead Bay
Bungalow in Sheepshead Bay
Recreational Waterfront at Emmons Avenue
Recreational Waterfront at Emmons Avenue
Flood Risk and Neighborhood Resiliency

What type of flood risk exists?
Sheepshead Bay was severely impacted during Hurricane Sandy, with the tidal surge coming up from the bay and extending north to Avenue X. Single-family homes and apartment buildings south of the Belt Parkway were especially hard-hit and faced extensive damage caused by floodwaters entering through stormwater outlets and a surge that reached up to 10 feet above the ground. Small, ground-floor businesses on Emmons Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Road experienced flood levels up to 6 feet, resulting in the temporary and permanent closure of local businesses on both corridors.

The flood zone was recently expanded by FEMA to include much of Sheepshead Bay and provides a more accurate representation of current flood risk in the area. For example, the number of buildings in the flood zone south of the Belt Parkway increased by over 200%. In addition to the inclusion of new areas in the 100-year flood zone, the new federal flood maps also have higher base flood elevations, ranging from 11 to 12 feet above sea level, or 3 to 7 feet above ground level. Due to the neighborhood’s coastal exposure and low-lying topography, flood risks in Sheepshead Bay will also increase in the future due to climate change. Further, the risk of flooding from routine storms is also high, especially in areas where infrastructure is limited.

View of Sheepshead Bay
View of Sheepshead Bay
Sub-standard drainage
Sub-standard drainage


What are the challenges to resiliency?
Prior to Sandy, there were approximately 150 buildings in the Sheepshead Bay Study Area located in the flood zone. This number increased over 200% with the release of new federal flood maps in 2013 and now includes approximately 480 buildings. Since many of these homes were not previously within the flood zone, they were not built to current flood resilient construction standards. Moreover, many of these buildings were built before flood resilience standards were introduced through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Homeowners with federally regulated mortgages may need to make significant investments in retrofitting these buildings to meet NFIP requirements.

Sheepshead Bay has the unique condition of featuring approximately 200 single-family bungalows, the majority of which are located in courts that are up to 5 feet below grade and front on narrow, unmapped pedestrian alleys. The lot configurations—often small and narrow with limited space between buildings—pose challenges to resilient retrofitting strategies and existing zoning compliance. 

Ensuring the resiliency of the community’s commercial corridors is critical to the economic vibrancy of Sheepshead Bay. Emmons Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Road, for example, are characterized by local retail with storefronts at the ground floor or below street grade. Retrofitting these commercial buildings is not only complicated due to the location of the business, but can also be expensive for small business owners.

Below-grade businesses on Emmons Avenue
Below-grade businesses on Emmons Avenue
Bungalows in below-grade courts
Bungalows in below-grade courts
How Are We Working With Communities?

The Resilient Neighborhoods initiative in Sheepshead Bay 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 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.

In summary, this study will:

  • Build off outreach from other efforts, including SIRR and NY Rising programs.
  • Identify land use and zoning strategies that allows for a resilient re-building of homes
  • Identify long-term strategies for areas of high risk
  • Develop a long-term, comprehensive vision for retail corridors to accommodate flood risk.
  • Shape recommendations based on robust public outreach.

On June 24, 2014, DCP presented the Southern Brooklyn Resilient Neighborhoods Initiative to Community Board 15. The presentation can be viewed PDF Document here.

On November 6th, DCP convened the first Community Advisory Committee. The Committee includes representatives from Community Board 15, Bay Improvement Group, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz’s office, and the Sheepshead Bay Plumb Beach Civic Association.

Through the Winter and Spring of 2015, the Community Advisory Committee convened periodically to discuss local issues related to flood risk and potential zoning strategies to foster resilient development in Sheepshead Bay.

DCP will be presenting findings from the study and draft zoning recommendations on October 27th, 2015 at the Community Board 15 Meeting. For more information on this meeting, please visit Community Board 15 webpage.

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 build on other initiatives including:

For more information contact:

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