Miner, Schumer urge FEMA to update flood maps in Syracuse

Dec 23, 2014

The city of Syracuse is continuing its fight for accurate FEMA maps that will cut down on the number of homeowners who have to buy expensive flood insurance, and they have a powerful ally.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has stood on the banks of Onondaga Creek before to highlight the plight of homeowners who could be forced to buy flood insurance because of inaccurate maps drawn up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He was there again yesterday, as Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner pointed out that information from an independent source shows that the creeks are wider than FEMA says, which means there’s less of a chance of flooding and insurance isn’t necessary.

“They feel under pressure to release maps under a deadline," Miner said. "And what we’ve said to that is we want to make sure you release accurate maps first. We think it’s more important to release accurate maps than to meet some arbitrary deadline.”

Miner also says FEMA has said homeowners can always go through a process to have the maps updated later on.

“That’s not the way government should work," Miner said. "That’s not serving the public. That’s why we have been working with Sen. Schumer and others in sharing the data with them.”

Schumer agreed, saying he is pushing FEMA to incorporate the new data in the flood maps that will be published in coming months. He says inaccurate FEMA flood maps are a problem across the state.

“I just sum it up to say that accurate maps that take a little longer are better than inaccurate maps that come out right now,” Schumer explained.

Miner says these new maps need to take into account the new information.

“By having accurate maps when they publish it, it will impact the lives of 150 families," Miner said. "It will enable them to spend money to improve properties, and making sure they’re paying for other things. Not paying for flood insurance for a 100-year flood that’ll never come, according to the data we have.”

The city says accurate maps could reduce the number of people in the flood plain, many of them in a lower income area on the city’s Southside. Flood insurance can cost homeowners up to $1,200 a year.