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FEMA Flood Zones Continue to Raise Flood Insurance Questions

Concerned residents on Syracuse's south side say there are still too many unanswered questions about who will have to pay for flood insurance.  FEMA added 876 new properties to the flood zone along Onondaga Creek in August, and that means  homeowners will soon have to start paying up to $2,000 a year.  Syracuse United Neighbors Executive Director Rich Puchalski says recent meetings haven’t been helpful.

People are still confused," Puchalski said. "They have questions of when flood insurance is going to kick in. How is it going to kick in? How much do they have to pay?”     

SUN recently appealed to Congressmember John Katko’s office for help, he hasn't responded.  They’re hoping Katko will hold a community meeting.  

“It’s unfortunate that this conversation didn’t take place. We believe it should. It’s imperative that the congressman talks to us about what the federal agency is doing in terms of this outcome of designating this neighborhood flood zone,” Puchalski said.

Puchalski says they also wonder why the federal government is willing to spend millions of dollars to extend the Creekwalk, but not to mitigate flooding by removing brush or dredging the creek.

  " There has been discussion in the last year and probably for the next year or two about extending the Creek walk from Armory Square down to Kirk park right in the same neighborhood that people are faced with this flood insurance," Puchalski said.

The Phase II extension to Kirk Park will increase the current length of 2.6 miles. Upon completion an additional extension is in discussion to Dorwin Ave.

Puchalski is still hoping Congressmember Katko will respond to their request for a meeting nearly a month after reaching out to his office.  Affected homeowners will have to start paying flood insurance premiums on Nov. 1st.  


Katko's Communications Director and Counsel Erin O'Connor issued the following statement in response to SUN's attempt to meet with the Congressman.

"The FEMA flood map designation process has been years in the making.  While Rep. Katko was not in office during the time that the City of Syracuse was negotiating its remapping, he is working now to assist his constituents and the City in any way that he can.  He and his staff have assisted constituents throughout the 24th Congressional District on this issue and recently joined City of Syracuse residents at the public meeting on flood zone mapping at the Southwest Community Center. While Rep. Katko cannot simply halt a remapping process that has been underway for years, he will continue to work with Mayor Miner and his constituents to mitigate flood dangers in the Syracuse area, and to help those who believe they were erroneously placed in a flood zone.

"Members of Syracuse United Neighbors (SUN) appeared at Rep. Katko's Syracuse District Office last Friday to discuss this issue.  Since the visit was unannounced, the office was not able to accommodate the entire group at that time, but invited a SUN representative into the office to discuss how the Congressman could help.  That offer was declined; however, Rep. Katko remains happy to engage with SUN, and any other concerned constituents about this issue, and looks forward to being of assistance in any way possible."

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at