The city of Syracuse urges FEMA to reconsider flood maps

Apr 30, 2012

The battle raging over federal flood maps in Central New York hits a deadline today. The city of Syracuse will file a challenge to maps proposed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency which, if approved, would drive up flood insurance costs dramatically for homeowners in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods.

Some residents in other city neighborhoods have already lived through these kind of increases. Dorothy Holiday lives in Skunk City, a neighborhood on Syracuse's west side near Western Lights. She paid $373 dollars a year on flood insurance for years until it started going up three years ago in the aftermath of some national natural disasters. It now costs $2,200 a year and she can't afford it.

"No, I can't. I'm on Social Security. I'm retired form Lockheed Martin and I can't afford it," Holiday said.

So, she finally decided the way to get around it was to pay off her house.

"In December I skimped and I got money from relatives and I paid it off," Holiday said.

Because she knows how it can sink a budget, Holiday hopes the city can convince FEMA to change the maps so fewer people will be forced to buy the pricey flood insurance. The flood insurance covers the full replacement value of these homes, says Syracuse United Neighbors Director Rich Puchalski.

In that neighborhood, the houses are worth between $35,000 and $45,000, he said.

"They're saying houses range from $120,000 to $220,000 in terms of replacement value and their really nailing it to the folks," Puchalski said.

Almost 11,000 homeowners would see their rates rise if the maps were approved. City engineers contend that number could be cut in half if the maps were accurate.