Cuomo Seeks $400 Million to Buy New York Beachfront Homes

Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to use $400 million in federal funding to buy beachfront homes as he seeks to reshape the New York coastline so the state is better prepared for storms like Hurricane Sandy.

The cash would come from the $51 billion Congress approved last month to help the region recover from the Oct. 29 storm, according to Commissioner Joseph Martens of the Environmental Conservation Department. The governor would use the money to pay owners the pre-storm value of their homes. More than 300,000 houses in New York were damaged by Sandy.

Once sold, the houses would be razed and the land would remain vacant. The program is part of a wider effort to reshape the coastline that Cuomo proposed in his January State of the State address. The 55-year-old Democrat also wants to build dunes, wetlands and other natural barriers.

“The goal is that when these buyouts occur, that the property be held as open space,” Martens said today at a budget hearing in Albany. “In some cases, there’ll be an opportunity to use those properties for shoreline protection.”

HUD Approval

A state Senate task force released preliminary recommendations today on how New York should prepare for storms. Last month, a panel commissioned by Cuomo proposed building oyster beds, a rapid bus network and storm barriers in New York Harbor that would cost from $7 billion to $29 billion.

Cuomo’s buyout plan needs approval from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department, which he headed during President Bill Clinton’s second term. Brendan Gilfillan, a spokesman for the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force headed by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, didn’t respond to an e-mail requesting comment. The New York Times reported the specifics of the proposal today.

About 10,000 homes in the 100-year flood plain that were damaged by Sandy would qualify for buyouts, and the Cuomo administration said it expects between 10 and 15 percent to take the option, an administration official with knowledge of the specifics said. The official requested anonymity because Cuomo hasn’t announced the plan.

Homeowners relocating within the county in which they live would get a 5 percent bonus above market value. A 10 percent bonus would be available to owners who live in vulnerable areas yet suffered little to no damage. In highest-risk areas, a 10 percent bonus would be given to owners along specific blocks if everyone on the block agrees to sell.

Flood Control

Martens said the Army Corps of Engineers has already agreed to do $150 million in repairs to existing coastal protections. His department has asked the corps to consider work on other projects, including a new dune system to protect Long Beach, he said. The city on Long Island was devastated by flooding when the ocean crossed over it and met the bay to its north.

Of the $51 billion Congress appropriated for storm recovery and flood mitigation, the corps is getting almost $5.4 billion, including $1 billion for flood control, according to the state Senate’s report.

Cuomo expects New York to get about $30 billion of the funding, including $6.7 billion for fixes and flood preparation for transit agencies including the New York City subway system, which saw the worst flooding in its more than 100-year history, the report said. About $8.1 billion is set aside for housing losses and $6 billion for businesses. Congress is also providing $462 million for government operating-revenue losses, the report said.