"NYC Flooding Renews Calls for Safer Basement Apartments"

"Friday’s deluge was yet another reminder that little has been done to make basement dwellings safer, and that the risk for residents is only increasing."

"Torrential downpours in New York caused flash flooding across much of the city on Friday, leading both New York Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams to declare a state of emergency. With streets inundated and subway lines closed, residents in some parts of the city faced dangerous conditions, both outside and inside their homes.

For residents of basement apartments, which are a largely illegal and unregulated housing option in New York, storms like the one that swept through the New York metro area on Friday can be deadly. During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, 44 residents were killed, many of them found in basements. Eleven people died in basement homes during Hurricane Ida in 2021 — including three family members who lived in a basement apartment in Queens that flooded again on Friday.

As of this writing, no deaths have been attributed to the Friday flooding, but Deputy Mayor Fabien Levy said in a press briefing that there had been successful rescues at six basement apartments. As the frequency and severity of stormwater events increases, the risk only grows. By 2050, one out of three basements and cellars in New York will be at high risk of flooding, according to a report released last year by the city’s comptroller. The exposure that basement residents face from natural disasters is the reason that some advocates want to see these units legalized and regulated. The units are prevalent in community districts that are disproportionately home to Black, Latino and immigrant populations, the report found."

Kriston Capps and Sarah Holder report for Bloomberg CityLab September 29, 2023.

Source: Bloomberg CityLab, 10/03/2023