Stacey Pheffer Amato sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters to push for a renewal of and reform to the National Flood Insurance Program. Photo courtesy of the NYS Assembly
BY TRONE DOWD
Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Park) is the latest New York City elected official to ask the federal government for expanded assistance in hurricane relief efforts, citing a number of legislative suggestions that would benefit her constituents and people affected by Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria.
Pheffer Amato sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), who leads the congressional Committee on Financial Services, with feedback on her district’s experience with hurricane recovery efforts. She specifically pointed to keeping and improving the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is up for renewal in November. At a press conference in the Rockaways, which was one of the hardest hit communities during Hurricane Sandy five years ago, Pheffer Amato voiced her pleas to prevent victims of recent disasters in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico from suffering from the same type of roadblocks her community faced during the recovery process.
“There is now, tragically but also importantly, an acknowledged collective urgency of getting the NFIP right,” Pheffer Amato wrote. “As leaders like yourself and residents like us know only too well, a working and equitable program of flood insurance is absolutely vital to our country’s chances to survive a changing climate.”
The letter is co-signed by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.
According to the assemblywoman, more than half of Americans live in a county adjacent to a coastline. With the effects of climate change worsening every year, scientists predict that flooding issues for coastal cities will become a more prominent and common issue.
“Insurance shapes the whole landscape of resiliency and recovery,” Pheffer Amato said. “Insurance impacts us long-term, steering where people live and can afford to continue to live. It touches on every aspect of recovery and rebuilding. The rest of the country is, unfortunately, about to experience some of the five-year horror show we went through—red tape, bureaucracy and blatant exploitation. But we did come out stronger, with a paramount desire to protect others from the worst and least-necessary shocks. There’s no one better than a Sandy survivor to bring a list of important ‘to dos’ to a nation now grappling with these issues every year.”
“Everyone on this team rolled up their sleeves from day one in 2012,” Pheffer Amato said. “Now, they have five years of experience under their belt—rendering aid, cleaning up, comforting their neighbors, rebuilding, lobbying for help, swapping best practices, wrestling with bureaucracy, fighting with insurance companies on behalf of their families and communities.”
Despite Pheffer Amato’s effort to push for insurance for flooding-prone homeowners that is easier to obtain, there is concern that such a plan might be difficult to bring to fruition. U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) said that the current leadership in congress and the White House might need convincing to greenlight such an initiative.
“It is important that local leaders and elected officials discuss the unique challenges faced by New Yorkers, especially those in coastal communities like the ones I represent,” Meeks said. “Accessibility and affordability go hand in hand—you can’t have one without the other. My concern is that Republican members of congress and the Trump Administration think differently and would rather eliminate the government’s role in ensuring affordable access to flood insurance than reform the NFIP into a sustainable program.”