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NY State's Governor Cuomo's Solution for Ravaged Homes in NYC's Coastal Region

© Governor’s Office / Tim Larsen
© Governor’s Office / Tim Larsen

After months of debate, the United States Congress has passed a bill that will allocate $51 billion to Hurricane Sandy relief helping the thousands who lost their homes and businesses to the devastating storm last October.  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that $400 million of the aid will be used to fund New York's buyout program, an initiative to help address the damaged homes and coastline.  The program is two-fold; in part it will help reimburse the property damage caused by the storm, but the initiative has a larger goal, which is to address the nature of coastal flooding and create a barrier that would mitigate the damage created to the coast by storm surges in the future.  Since the storm, there have been many suggestions as to how to prepare for the type of damage brought on by Hurricane Sandy of 2012 and Hurricane Irene of 2011.  These suggestions range from flood gates to barrier reefs.  Cuomo's buyout program, as reported by the Architect's Newspaper Blog, hopes to encourage residents along vulnerable flood zones to sell their land to the city for the development of a natural coast that would absorb the impact of strong winds and storm surges.  

There is a lot to be learned from natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy.  Nature has a way of reclaiming the land that we have populated and developed.  These storms are a reminder that despite how often or with how much gusto we try to alter our environment, we are always vulnerable to nature's power.  That is why among the numerous suggestions that have surfaced since the storm that ravaged America's coast, the most prominent is that which calls for creating a natural coast.  

Wetlands in Lower Manhattan / Architecture Research Office and DLANDSTUDIO
Wetlands in Lower Manhattan / Architecture Research Office and DLANDSTUDIO

An estimated 300,000 New York homes were destroyed either by flooding, winds or rampant fires during the storm.  Many of these homes belonged to middle-class families that settled along the coast of the Far Rockaways, Long Island and Staten Island for generations.  The development plan for the property is to convert it into natural coastal barriers, buffers, dunes, wetlands and public parkland, making it more resistant to flooding and barring homes from being rebuilt on the purchased land.  The state is not claiming eminent domain, but an effort to an encourage residents to apply for the buyout program is important.

The buyout program that Cuomo has developed offers residents of these regions compensation for the pre-storm value of their properties to relocate to other, less vulnerable regions.  The program is voluntary and is expected to appeal to only 10-15% of the population.  There are initiatives in place to convince long-time residents to take the buyout, which includes a 10% increase in compensation if a whole block agrees to the buyout terms or a 5% increase for those who will move within the same county.

Now that storms like Sandy have become more powerful and more frequent, the government is responding with solutions that work with the residents of these vulnerable waterfront communities in an effort to ensure preparedness for future storms.  It appears to be the most respectful solution for these circumstances, as many residents of these communities would prefer to rebuild their homes than abandon them.  By offering residents the option of gaining compensation for the destruction and relocating within the same county is a way for the government to legally and ethically obtain the property for future development of safeguards against this class of natural disasters.

Cite:Irina Vinnitskaya. "NY State's Governor Cuomo's Solution for Ravaged Homes in NYC's Coastal Region" 12 Feb 2013. ArchDaily. Accesed . <http://www.archdaily.com/331154/governor-cuomos-solution-for-ravaged-homes-in-nycs-coastal-region/>