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(Flickr - Bobo Hodls) (Flickr - Bobo Hodls)
On September 2, 2021, more than a dozen New Yorkers lost their lives due to flash flooding when the remnants of Hurricane Ida hit New York City. The devastating toll of the floods wasn't just due to the rain that fell that evening but also the exceptionally heavy rainfall experienced the month prior. For many, the flash floods, which shut down subway lines, turned highways into rivers, and submerged basement apartments, also served as a reminder of New York City’s increasing vulnerability to catastrophic flooding.

From Tribeca to Jamaica Bay to Greenpoint, dozens of New York City neighborhoods are prone to flooding. So, if you want to stay high and dry, what are the safest neighborhoods in which to rent or buy? The first step is to understand how and why flooding happens in New York City’s five boroughs.

Coastal versus Stormwater Flooding

Unsurprisingly, low-lying areas are more vulnerable to flooding. And with 520 miles of coastline (more than the combined coastlines of Miami, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco), vast swaths of New York City are located in designated flood zones. Still, being close to the coast isn’t the only factor that can put your home at risk of flooding. During Hurricane Ida in 2021 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, stormwater flooding also proved to be a significant problem across the five boroughs.
Stormwater is rainwater that runs off streets, sidewalks, buildings, and other land surfaces. Ideally, all the city’s stormwater would consistently be absorbed into the soil or end up in one of the catch basins that flow into the city’s sewage system. Unfortunately, since the city is largely comprised of nonabsorbent surfaces (e.g., concrete sidewalks and streets), a disproportionate amount of water needs to be channeled into the city’s catch basins and sewage system. The system generally works, but when the city experiences an excessive amount of rain (as it did in August to early September 2021), its capacity can be stretched to its limit, and this is when problems arise.
When the city’s catch basins and sewage system are at capacity, water starts to back up. If you have ever seen water bubbling up out of a sewage grate in the street when it should have been going down instead, the city’s catch basins were likely at capacity. But sewage grates in the street are only one place where water can be forced back up. Since toilets are also connected to the city’s sewage system, when the system is at capacity and starts to back up, water can also be forced back up through toilets. While you’re unlikely to experience this problem if you’re living on the upper floor of a high-rise or even a walkup, people living in lower-level homes, especially in basement and first-floor apartments, can be at risk.

Flood Hazard Mapper NYC Flood Hazard Mapper (NYC Department of Planning)

Best Neighborhoods to Avoid Flooding

The best way to avoid renting or buying in a flood zone is to use FloodHelpNY to find out if your address or prospective address is located in a designated flood zone. But don't stop there. The NYC Street Flooding Map, which is based on 311 data, is also a valuable tool as it can help you determine if the sewages in your neighborhood or prospective neighborhood are prone to backing up. These tools combined can help you drill down on neighborhoods that are most and least vulnerable to both coastal and stormwater flooding events.

Preventing Future Floods

Renting and buying in a neighborhood with minimal coastal flooding risk and little or no history of street flooding is the best way to protect yourself from future floods. Still, wherever you live, it is important to be prepared and to do your part to help prevent flooding. To get started, explore New York City’s Homeowners Guide to Rain Event Preparedness.
If you own a house, there are a number of things you can do to help reduce the chance of floods impacting you or your neighbors. To begin, consider installing a backwater valve. The valves are designed to prevent sewer water from backing up into your home through plumbing fixtures such as toilets, sinks, and drains. However, it's always best to contract with a licensed plumber to install a backwater valve since an incorrect installation may have the reverse effect. If you're a homeowner, also do your part to keep sewer grates on your street clear of debris.

Better yet, if your backyard is currently a concrete jungle, consider removing the concrete and replacing it with a garden or lawn. The more gardens and lawns we create, the bigger the city's natural sponge will be, and the less likely we will be to face flash flooding on our streets or in our homes. If you live in a multi-family building, you can also do your part by encouraging your building’s board and management to invest in a green roof.

Newly Listed High-Floor Apartments
200-East-24th-Street-01 The Crystal House, #1405 (Compass)
From the Listing: This completely renovated high-floor one-bedroom, one-bathroom impresses with spacious designer interiors and excellent storage in a full-service downtown co-op. An oversized foyer welcomes you inside this lovely home to discover new hardwood floors, thoughtful updates and large west-facing windows. Enjoy an expansive open-plan living area that can easily accommodate generous seating, dining and home office areas. In the all-new chef’s kitchen, you’ll find white Shaker soft-close cabinetry with pull-out drawers, white quartz countertops with gray veining and a marble subway tiled backsplash. See floor plan and full details here.

185-Clinton-Avenue-01 Clinton Hill Co-ops, #11F (Douglas Elliman)
From the Listing: Coveted high floor true 2 bedroom with endless views from every oversized window! Relax in the large living room with original hardwood floors. Entertain in the windowed kitchen with Wolf gas stove, Bosch dishwasher, Kitchen Aid refrigerator, granite counters, oak cabinetry and a counter-height moveable island. Feel the breeze in the corner dining room while enjoying the views. Separated from the living spaces by a gallery hallway, the bedrooms can accommodate king-sized beds, as well as home offices, sitting areas, or exercise equipment. See floor plan and full details here.

230-Central-Park-West-01 The Bolivar, #16EF (Corcoran)
From the Listing: Top-floor one-bedroom has city views and superb western light throughout the day from the over sized windows. There are original, strip oak floors with a decorative border. It is in a full-service building on Central Park West with a 24-hourconcierge and doorman, live-in super, elegantly appointed petite ballroom which serves as a party space, basement laundry room, bike storage, storage bins, and one of the most beautiful roof terraces in Manhattan. See floor plan and full details here.

165-Lexington-Avenue-01 Lexi Condos, #9C (Nest Seekers)
From the Listing: A brand new Kips Bay condo saturated with natural light, this inviting 1-bedroom, 1-bathroom home is an effortless blend of classic city elegance and contemporary design. Features of this 765-square-foot apartment include beautiful white oak floors, floor-to-ceiling windows, custom light fixtures, and a convenient in-unit Miele washer/dryer. A welcoming foyer adorned with a large coat closet flows into an open-concept living room, dining room, and kitchen filled with northeast light. See floor plan and full details here.

1175-York-Avenue-01 York River House, #14FG (Douglas Elliman)
From the Listing: Enjoy breathtaking river and bridge views from this sun-splashed 3-bed/3-bath with dining room perched up high on the 14th floor. Upon entering this oasis in the sky, a welcoming entry opens to a bright, spacious and inviting living room with simply stunning views, ideal for relaxation or seamless entertaining. A cook’s kitchen enjoys finely designed custom handmade cabinetry by Smallbone of Devizes, premium appliances, ample counter space plus breakfast bar. See floor plan and full details here.

30-East-9th-Street-01 The Lafayette, #4LL (Corcoran)
From the Listing: Sun-drenched, beautifully renovated apartment boasts southern and eastern exposures, an entry foyer with an extra large walk-in closet that opens into a grand living/dining room with a flexible, open layout and large windows with charming views down Greene Street - a quintessential Village view! The spacious renovated kitchen includes GE stainless steel appliances, quartz counters, Shaker-style cabinetry, an open breakfast bar and stylish backsplash. Being open to the living/dining area makes this modern kitchen a wonderful space to gather and entertain. See floor plan and full details here.

111-East-88th-Street-01 111 East 88th Street, #7B (Compass)
From the Listing: When first entering this sprawling, sunny home a large gallery, with two large closets, awaits you. Off of the gallery and facing south over tree-lined views, is the gracious living room, complete with two sets of built-in bookcases and a fireplace. The large eat-in kitchen has white wood cabinetry and white marble countertops and a subway tiled backsplash. A Viking stove, Sub-Zero refrigerator, and Miele dishwasher, Marvel wine cooler, and a Dacor microwave, all in stainless steel, are the featured appliances. See floor plan and full details here.

230-West-56th-Street-01 The Park Imperial, #65B (Sotheby's International Realty)
From the Listing: Killer views in 3 directions from this high-floor 3-bedroom/3-bathroom home! Perfectly situated in the Park Imperial, this breathtaking property features floor-to-ceiling windows and 10’ ceilings with impressive views of the city skyline. Outstanding service along with 24-hour doorman/concierge and superior building amenities including fitness center, private residents lounge, business and conference center, catering kitchen and on-site garage make this a consummate New York City home floating high above the city. See floor plan and full details here.

15-East-30th-Street-01 Madison House, #54C (Douglas Elliman)
From the Listing: With architecture by Handel and interiors by Gachot, homes at Madison House start 150 feet in the air and soar to over 800 feet. This 1,788-square-foot two-bedroom, two and a half-bath residence opens into an elegant entry foyer, leading to a living and dining room encased with 10-foot tall windows with south and west views. Gachot-designed custom rift-cut cabinetry accentuates the open kitchen, with a honed Calacatta Borghini marble waterfall island and backsplash. Gaggenau appliances including a cooktop, combi-steam oven, convection double oven, refrigerator, and wine refrigerator outfit the kitchen. See floor plan and full details here.

8-East-96th-Street-01 8 East 96th Street, #PHA (Compass)
From the Listing: Penthouse A comprises the entire top floor of 8 East 96th Street, a Rosario Candela pre-war cooperative just off Fifth Avenue. The landscaped terrace - with space for multiple seating, living, and dining areas - wraps around the entire apartment, with 360-degree views of Central Park, East River, and the Manhattan skyline. The penthouse has classic pre-war touches throughout, like crown moldings, hardwood floors, and a working fireplace, as well as the highest ceilings in the building, just under 12 feet. See floor plan and full details here.

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Contributing Writer Cait Etherington Cait Etherington has over twenty years of experience working as a journalist and communications consultant. Her articles and reviews have been published in newspapers and magazines across the United States and internationally. An experienced financial writer, Cait is committed to exposing the human side of stories about contemporary business, banking and workplace relations. She also enjoys writing about trends, lifestyles and real estate in New York City where she lives with her family in a cozy apartment on the twentieth floor of a Manhattan high rise.