Climate change has increased the frequency and severity of weather events, so it seems inevitable that calamitous floods — such as the one that decimated the greater Mohawk Valley after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, or the more localized one that hit Fort Plain last summer — will continue to plague New Yorkers who live even remotely near a body of water in the years to come.
The state has had a history of addressing these calamities in ad hoc fashion, and while this may once have been a reasonable way of doing it, the changing meteorological landscape argues for a more consistent and permanent approach.
For example, a newly passed provision in the state budget giving 10 upstate counties the right to cut tax assessments for homeowners whose properties were substantially damaged in last summer’s floods is surely justified, but why limit it to just one or two weather events in 10 counties? For one thing, storms and floods have no respect for municipal boundaries. For another, a small but intense localized storm is just as capable of causing a flash flood and destroying a house as a notorious whopper like a hurricane.
The fairest and most efficient way to deal with this is to pass a law that permits relief for any homeowner anywhere in the state who is substantially victimized by a natural disaster, regardless of its size.