NYC Council Tightens Safety Rules for Post-Sandy Home Elevation Work

March 18, 2013

The New York City Council has approved new safety rules and procedures this week concerning the city residents’ home elevation projects following Superstorm Sandy.

The city council said these rules were prompted in part by Louisiana’s experience following Hurricane Katrina. After the storm, a rush to elevate homes, without first putting in place proper procedural safeguards, led to a home collapse and construction site death, according to the city council’s statement.

The council said Sandy destroyed or damaged over 18,500 homes and buildings in New York City. These property owners, as well as those in other areas prone to flooding, will likely want to consider how to protect against flood damage and save on future flood insurance costs, the council said.

Additionally, the city’s flood insurance rate map is currently being revised, and once finalized, it will likely identify new flood-prone areas. Many owners in these communities may also choose to elevate their existing homes or buildings, according to the city council.

The council said that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already issued an executive order allowing property owners to elevate their buildings without violating height limits in the zoning rules. The new rules are as follows:

• The title page of construction plans submitted to the city’s Department of Buildings would have to clearly state whether the project will involve elevation work.

• Contractors would have to give 48 hours’ notice to the Department of Buildings before elevating a home, which would give the department the opportunity to monitor the work if it chooses.

• Elevation work would be subject to special inspection. That means a review of the work will be conducted by a qualified person chosen by the owner or contractor and authorized by the Department of Buildings.

• The Department of Consumer Affairs would provide education to homeowners and the public regarding the types of work that home improvement contractors can do and the licenses and permits those contractors need in order to engage in certain work.

City Council Minority Leader James Oddo (R-Mid-Island) said, “Anyone can say they know how to elevate a home, but do they really? The experience in New Orleans was that many fly by night actors emerged, leading to awful, improper and even tragic results.” He said the new legislation is designed to prevent the mistakes that happened post Katrina.

“Home elevation is going to be an increasing issue in New York as we continue the recovery process, post Hurricane Sandy,” said Council Member Vincent Ignizio (R-South Shore). “We have a responsibility to both educate and protect homeowners seeking to raise their homes. This bill will do just that.”

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