Coastal Processes, Hazards, and Society

Retreat as a Response to Disaster: New York Example


Retreat as a Response to Disaster: New York Example

Hurricane Sandy Recovery: Staten Island’s Fox Beach Community.

Following a natural disaster caused by a storm such as Sandy, a different approach to retreat is often considered. In this case, rather than using the managed retreat projects described previously in this module, which are carefully planned and take place in discrete locations with a long-term vision, the action of moving homes and businesses to safer locations urgently comes to the forefront. In these cases, decisions are often made quickly and are driven by economic necessity and the availability of funds resulting from the disaster itself.

Required Reading

The following two articles from the Module 9 Roadmap look at the case of the New York Smart Home Buyout Program in the Fox Beach community of Staten Island, initiated by Governor Cuomo in 2013 (see press release excerpt further below). The program provided funds to purchase homes in particularly flood-prone areas severely impacted by Sandy’s storm surge. In addition, the program was designed to discourage rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy, by providing a monetary incentive to move to higher ground, and was met with a measure of success in certain areas.

Learning Check Point

Government Buy-Out of At-Risk Coastal Properties – New York Example following Sandy

Objective: Investigate alternative methods for non-structural shoreline hazard mitigation, including managed retreat and multi-layered defenses.

Although this Learning Check Point is not for credit, you will be expected to know the material in the Module 9 Quiz. Once you read and understand the articles referenced above as well as the excerpt below, take a few minutes to answer the questions about the New York Home Buyout Program in the space provided.

Government Buy-Out of At-Risk Coastal Properties – New York Example following Sandy

Excerpted from a March 2013 press release from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Office:

Recreate NY Smart Home Buyout Program - $171 million: Certain areas are at high risk for repeated flooding, causing damage to homes and risking the lives of residents and emergency responders. To reduce those risks and provide residents with an opportunity to leave their properties, New York State will offer voluntary Buyouts for homes that were:

  • substantially damaged inside the 500-year flood plain, or
  • located within designated buyout areas where damage has occurred and where property may be susceptible to future damage due to sea level rise and other factors. These enhanced buyout areas will be selected in consultation with county and local government officials.
  • In very high-risk areas, there will be a prohibition on rebuilding and these areas will be used as buffer zones. Under the state's proposal, and subject to approval by HUD, re-development of property outside of the 100-year floodplain that is acquired through a buyout would be permitted, so long as the new structure is built to mitigate future flood impact. Homeowners will be notified if they are eligible for a buyout after HUD has approved this plan.

Definition for "500-year flood plain" and "100-year flood plain"

A "100-year flood" is not a flood that will occur once every 100 years. Instead, it should be thought of as flood elevation that has a 1-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded each year. Therefore, a 100-year flood could occur more than once in a relatively short period of time. A 500-year flood elevation has a 0.2% chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year.

If the trend of more frequent storms and increased sea level rise continues, these types of solutions will likely become more common. Who will foot the bill to move coastal communities? Will it happen only after disasters, or in a more planned way? In the case of Isle de Jean Charles, government funding was found in the form of a grant awarded to relocate the entire community. However, many challenges have plagued even this small-scale relocation project. We saw that long-term planning was lacking in Ocean Beach, CA. What will the approaches to these dilemmas be in 10 or 15 years from today? These are questions for us to ponder at this point. Policymakers, planners, community leaders, and politicians will have to quickly find solutions to these challenges for many communities soon.