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NYC Lives Beyond Floods

A product of Virginia based Syndeste LLC, the Beyond Floods platform gives New Yorkers access to Flood Outlook Scores for over one million properties in 300 NYC neighborhoods. The aftermaths of hurricanes like Katrina and large storms like Sandy invariably bring public attention to the global issue of flooding. In the area of New York City alone, flooding from Superstorm Sandy damaged 90,000 buildings to the tune of $19 billion dollars in losses. It is estimated that more than 400,000 New Yorkers live in areas of high flood risk today. Utilizing public data offerings from the U.S. Census Bureau, NYC Department of Information Technology, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, National Flood Insurance Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal Emergency Management System, and CARTO, the Beyond Floods team has developed a user-friendly web application for property owners to better understand and manage flood risk. Beyond Floods is the first of its kind in providing citizens with comprehensive flood risk data.

Challenge

Who could forget Superstorm Sandy? In a post-Sandy survey, 77% of New Yorkers reported that inland flooding was much higher than they expected, which upped the shock-factor considering Sandy was weaker than a Category 1 hurricane. Unfortunately, collective attention wanes rapidly and we continue to underestimate and misrepresent our flood risk, leading to potentially dangerous insurance and real estate decisions. Just six months after Sandy, a survey discovered that 91% of New Yorkers miscategorized their flood probability and underestimated the flood damage they could suffer. Beyond Floods tackles a challenging problem: how can we increase flood risk understanding and encourage action when the available information is deemed too complex for the average citizen? Public misinformation and misconceptions compounded the misalignment of public awareness and responsiveness to future environmental threats.

Solution

To resolve these issues and help New Yorker's prepare for future floods, Beyond Floods developed a multi-tiered solution system:

1. Flood Outlook Score. A single number provides an idea of the resiliency of a property to the effects of flood risk. The higher the score, the better the outlook. The score is the result of an abstraction of more than 25 different factors that affect, and are the result of, real estate, social perception, flood insurance, flood mitigation and losses, infrastructure, and geomorphology. The Flood Outlook Score considers past, present, and future scenarios, including impact due to sea level rise.

2. Estimation of flood insurance premium. This estimate can help prospective and current homeowners kickstart their risk management strategies.

3. Detailed flood risk report. For those who want to better understand their risk and the reasons behind the score, this report provides a support summary of flood related risk information.

The backbone of Beyond Floods is CARTO Enterprise implementation. CARTO web interface and API drive the platform's data processing pipeline by enabling wall-to-wall analysis of of every property in New York City. CARTO provides a spatial database system from which web and mobile applications swiftly render and interact with more than 1.1 million building footprints, 600K tax parcels, and 300 neighborhoods. Real-time spatial and tabular queries ensure that the information is provided to the prospective or current homeowner, in milliseconds. CARTO’s Startup program has supported this project's development. Highlights include: leveraging unlimited map views, increased storage, and quick turnarounds from ad hoc requests to the CARTO support team.

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