Sunday, March 17, 2013
Bloomberg wants to buy and resell damaged waterfront properties
Weeks after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed buying out homeowners in flood-prone areas, the Bloomberg administration is indicating that it will offer a similar program. But the mayor’s program could differ in one significant way: the properties the city acquires could be turned over to someone else to be developed again.
Under Cuomo’s plan, the state would use $400 million in federal Sandy aid to acquire, at pre-Sandy prices, properties from owners who would prefer to move than rebuild in the flood plain. The land would be turned into open space for use as parks, wetlands, drainage or other purposes. The governor said he would start the buyouts in the Oakwood Beach area of Staten Island's East Shore.
In testimony at a City Council committee hearing Feb. 26, Brad Gair, the director of the city’s housing recovery office, said the Bloomberg administration is working on its own buyout program using federal Community Development Block Grant funding, $1.8 billion of which has been earmarked for the city so far. He said details, like how much money would be devoted to it, had yet to be worked out. But he added the city’s plan may not stipulate that the acquired properties be turned into open space.
“If there is one element that we have not yet come to full alignment on,” Gair said, “it’s whether properties acquired should be made permanently open space or whether some of those would be suitable for redevelopment—preferably for the home owners in the area.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been funding similar types of buyouts in flood prone areas for 20 years. But whenever FEMA buys out a property, it requires the land be set aside permanently for open space.
James Fraser, an associate professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, says the requirement protects taxpayers from having to pay twice for the same property: to buy it out, and then again later, if it gets flooded.