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Cornell University Cornell Brooks Public Policy

Applied Water Research in NYS: Equity in Flood Insurance Access in a Changing National Flood Insurance Program

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Every year, the New York State Water Resources Institute (NYSWRI) at Cornell supports research that addresses critical water resource problems in New York State and the nation. The seminar will focus on ways in which robust science can support and influence on-ground water management and policy outcomes, and center collaborative and interdisciplinary work between academics, water resource scientists, educators, managers, and policymakers.


Floods are the most costly natural hazard nationally and in New York. Flood insurance provided under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has the potential to indemnify damages from flood events and to stimulate people in flood-affected areas to undertake flood preparedness measures. Ensuring equitable access to flood insurance depends on knowing local take-up rates and understanding factors affecting access. Using Federal Emergency Management Agency NFIP policies data and additional flooding exposure, demographic, and housing datasets, we  evaluate patterns of flood insurance take-up over time and across jurisdictions within New York State from 2009 to 2020. We worked with the Hudson River Estuary Program and other state and local stakeholders to identify concerns around flood insurance access to inform our analysis and to develop research findings into outreach materials that local and state stakeholders can use to assist in ensuring widespread awareness of and equitable access to flood insurance.

Speaker Bios:

John Zinda, an environmental sociologist and assistant professor of Global Development at Cornell University, studies the ways in which people in flood-affected communities respond to and manage risk. Zinda's research examines the intersection of social disparities, collective action, and policy interventions in regards to flood risk management in New York state. Collaborating with community organizations and local and state governments, Zinda's team aims to understand how people perceive and respond to flood risk in their communities, particularly in regards to insurance, home protection, and decision-making about relocation.

Kristen Hychka is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Biological and Environmental Engineering department at Cornell, and a Research and Outreach Specialist, at NYSWRI. Kristen’s research and outreach focuses on watershed issues, particularly flood resiliency and the management of wetland and riparian systems. She works in partnership with the Syracuse University Environmental Finance Center and the Hudson River Estuary Program to promote statewide assistance to individuals and organizations regarding these issues.