U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer is stepping into the debate over whether thousands of mostly lower-income homeowners will have to buy flood insurance. In Syracuse's Armory Square area this afternoon, Schumer said the mapping that includes new areas of Syracuse's southside, the Armory Square business district, and more of the town of Manlius is incorrect, and that with a comment period, the community could prove it.The Federal Emergency Management Agency's redrawing of flood-vulnerable maps would put 2,383 properties, mostly on Syracuse's poorer south side, into the pool that's required to buy flood insurance, which would cost an average $800 yearly. Businesses would pay even more. Tony Ortega, president of the Armory Square Association, says there's probably never been a time when the area's less flood prone, with all the retaining walls and other work going on along Onondaga Creek. Manlius Mayor Mark Paul Serafin says the work along Limestone Creek has also reduced flood dangers in some parts of his town, but homeowners there are being included in the mandatory insurance orders, too.
Senator Schumer promises to get in touch with FEMA to ask that the comment process for the flood plain designation be re-opened. The original comment period closed on March 24th with few realizing that they were in the mandatory insurance area. Without the extension, Schumer says the appeal process would be much more expensive. Others at this afternoon's announcement, including Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and representatives of Onondaga County, said they'd tried to call FEMA but have not gotten calls returned. Schumer says the maps were re-drawn inaccurately, and not just in Syracuse: he says he's fought the same issue for Buffalo and for Gates, near Rochester, and FEMA has made modifications. If there's no change, those in the floodplain designated area will start getting the mandatory flood insurance bills in the next six months.That would be an especial hardship to Syracuse's southside, where residents are among the area's poorest. Jubilee Homes has built over a hundred new homes in the area, which are now tagged for the insurance increase, and Walt Dixie says the owners just cannot afford it. Syracuse United Neighbors is not waiting for confirmation that the comment period is re-opening. It has a meeting on flood insurance planned for Thursday evening at 7, at Living Waters Church, on Huron Street at Bellevue.