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Gov. Cuomo's grand plan post-Sandy: give some of New York back to nature (+video)

New York Gov. Cuomo is proposing creation of an undeveloped coastal buffer zone by spending $400 million to buy and demolish up to 10,000 homes destroyed by superstorm Sandy.

By Husna HaqCorrespondent / February 4, 2013

Beachfront homes are damaged after a storm surge from superstorm Sandy in the Staten Island borough of New York, Nov. 2012. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to spend up to $400 million to buy and demolish homes wrecked by Superstorm Sandy and permanently preserve the land as undeveloped coastline.

John Minchillo/AP/File

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Following through on his post-Sandy assessment that protecting New York state from coastal flooding would be a “massive undertaking,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is proposing the return of some flood-prone parcels of land to Mother Nature, spending $400 million to buy and demolish as many as 10,000 homes destroyed by the October superstorm.

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Officials from Governor Cuomo’s office met with federal officials in Washington late Friday to present the ambitious hurricane recovery proposal, which would convert the purchased properties into an undeveloped buffer zone that would protect coastal communities from future storms.

The plan, which requires federal approval, would be funded in part from the $51 billion disaster relief package Congress approved in January, as well as from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, an agency Cuomo once headed.

In the wake of the Oct. 29 storm that damaged or destroyed more than 300,000 housing units in New York state, Cuomo has issued controversial warnings about climate change and has led efforts to find long-term solutions against future storms and floods.

“Climate change is a reality, extreme weather is a reality, it is a reality that we are vulnerable,” Cuomo said at a Sandy-recovery briefing in October. “Protecting this state from coastal flooding is a massive, massive undertaking. But it’s a conversation I think is overdue.”

In more recent speeches, Cuomo has suggested residents should abandon flood-prone areas. “There are some parcels that Mother Nature owns,” he said in his January State of the State address. “She may visit once every few years, but she owns the parcel and when she comes to visit, she visits.”

As part of his plan to return parcels of land to nature, Cuomo has proposed using federal and disaster relief funds to purchase and raze roughly 10,000 homes destroyed by Sandy in the 100-year floodplain, a zone that has a 1 percent chance each year of experiencing greater than normal flooding.

Under the proposal, the state would offer homeowners the pre-storm full market value of their house. Those in severe flood-prone areas would receive a 10 percent bonus above market value as an added incentive to sell. In extreme-risk areas, the state would offer an additional 10 percent bonus if every homeowner on a block signed up for the buyout.

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