Tag Archives: Sewage

NYCHA South Jamaica Houses experience extensive flooding

| amatua@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Councilman Ruben Will's office

Residents are facing flooding yet again at NYCHA South Jamaica Houses after wastewater inundated parts of the building.

Ebony Holmes, a resident at 190-10 160th St., lives on the second floor where the majority of the flooding is located. Holmes said the problem started at 6 p.m. Sunday and occurred last year. In both cases, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) employees mopped her floor and snaked her drain but the problem kept coming back. This year, the flood in her apartment is seeping down into the community center, which houses the Southern Queens Park Association (SQPA) after-school programs for children.

“It’s extreme. It’s all the way out of the apartment, in the hallway,” Holmes said. “The furniture is wet, the rug is wet, everything is done.”

Holmes had to leave her apartment Sunday night because it was not suitable for sleeping. She expressed her frustration with NYCHA officials and is requesting that they give her a new apartment.

Last year, the cleanup job left mold and mildew in her home and Holmes said cigarettes and feces are spilling into her bathroom, tub and living room. She purchased new furniture for her living room after last year’s flooding and was not reimbursed.

“The cleaning they’re doing is not cleaning,” Holmes said. “I’m not waiting for this to happen again.”

South Jamaica Houses on 160th St. started experiencing extensive flooding last night.

Councilman Ruben Wills toured the area to witness the extent of the damage firsthand and was told by NYCHA that the agency is willing to relocate Holmes until her apartment is cleaned.

“It was wholly unacceptable for the tenants and families of the NYCHA South Jamaica Houses to have endured putrid wastewater flowing through their building for more than 12 hours, and not receive a timely and robust response by its maintenance staff,” Wills said in a statement. “Had the constituent who came to my office this morning not taken the initiative to bring this issue to my attention, this problem may well have continued to go unnoticed.”

He also blasted the property’s superintendent James Sanders for his lack of response and said that the tenants “deserve better.”

NYCHA did not immediately respond to The Courier’s request for comment.


Rep. Meng joins the fight to clean up Flushing Creek

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Call out the Army.

Rep. Grace Meng has put out the call to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help come up with a plan to stop more than 2 billion gallons of untreated sewage from flowing into Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay every year — more sewage overflow than any other waterway in New York City has to handle.

“Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay are precious natural resources, and it is imperative that we protect and clean up these critical bodies of water,” Meng said. “The pollution that exists in these waterways is unacceptable.”

During heavy rainstorms, the infrastructure that processes sewage becomes flooded, resulting in untreated human waste being dumped into Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay. The two bodies of water receive the highest amount of pollutants, according to city records, out of any other waterway in the city. Meng hasn’t specified what she plans to do with the corps but there are several organizations advocating for the same goal of cleaning up the creek and bay.

The city currently has no plan to reduce the sewage flow into the creek and Flushing Bay. The creek receives 1,166 million gallons per year and the bay receives 1,499 million gallons per year. Jamaica Bay, which is often thought of as one of the most polluted bodies of water in the city, receives a comparatively small dose of 317 million gallons per year.

“Do you know how much human waste that is?” said Alex Rosa, a consultant for Friends of Flushing Creek, which is advocating for the city and state to reduce the amount of filth going into the Flushing bodies of water. “I’ve never calculated how many people you need to make that much waste. But I’m sure it’s a whole lot.”

City environmental officials recently took a look at the problem. Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd toured the overworked sewage system near the waterway with Councilman Peter Koo. But the city has yet to introduce a plan to fix the problem or say when it might do so.

Calls for cleaning up the waterway come as there is increased interest in redeveloping former industrial areas along the banks of the bay and the creek.


Woodhaven residents upset over slow response to sewage issue

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Ed Wendell

Woodhaven residents want to know why it took so long to stop the sewage that was spewing into the streets of their neighborhood.

At the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) March 16 meeting, several members inquired why the feces-ridden puddle continued to be a problem, considering how close it was to a nursery school.

“When there’s a fire, the Fire Department can rush into a house,” said WRBA President Ed Wendell. “They don’t need to ring the doorbell and get permission – there’s a fire. In this case here, this to me was every bit as bad as a fire, because you had human waste spilling out into a street right next to a nursery school.”

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) put out an emergency bid to finally fix the lingering problem. Until then, agencies could only slap the landlord with fines, officials said. There’s a $20,000 lien against the house because of fines racking up since 2005, according to Assemblymember Michael Miller’s office.

Children from neighboring St. Luke’s Nursery School had to walk into the street to get out of the waste-filled puddle coming from the house, Wendell said, and the block was never closed off or a crossing guard installed at the site.

“That sidewalk should have been closed, it should have been a hazmat situation,” he said. “Something should have been done.”

The situation with this house was unique because it dealt with tenants, according to Rudy S. Giuliani, chief of staff for Councilmember Eric Ulrich. In normal circumstances, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would shut the water off, he said. But since the city did not want to make the tenants suffer for an absentee landlord, the city looked to take other options such as sending in HPD.

Giuliani said Ulrich’s office is working on finding out what took so long to fix the problem.




Broken sewage pipe soils Woodhaven street

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Ed Wendell

A broken pipe in Woodhaven has residents concerned about public safety after gushing water, rife with human waste, has soiled the corner of 85th Street and 88th Avenue.

“It’s disgusting,” said Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) president Ed Wendell, who’s been tracking the problem for a few weeks now. Wendell and other WRBA members have contacted city agencies about the problem, but most agencies cannot interfere with a private residence.

Wendell said he drove past the house a few weeks ago and water had been pouring into the street. When he went back two days later, during a bad cold snap, he said the water had frozen with bits of toilet paper and other unmentionables solidified. A snow storm a few days later covered the ice, leading people to think there was nothing but sidewalk underneath. As a result, Wendell said, people were slipping and sliding on the feces-infested ice.

But a bigger problem is one particular neighbor: St. Luke’s Nursery School next door.

The school’s director did not want to comment on the matter.

For everyone’s safety — especially that of the children — the sidewalk either needs to be closed off, or the city needs to install a crossing guard during school hours, Wendell said.

The home’s owner, Noris Requena, according to records, could not be reached at press time, nor could the person listed as the home’s resident.

Because it’s a private home, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) cannot forcibly go inside.

Since the problem is inside the house, the city is limited on how it can intervene, said Rudy Giuliani, chief of staff for Councilmember Eric Ulrich. In a normal situation, the city would shut water supply to the home, but since the home is rented out authorities have opted to keep the water on. DEP has visited the home several times, Giuliani said, but the problem seems to be with an absentee landlord.

The next step, he said, was for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to intervene since the city has not been able to track down the landlord.



Southeast Queens residents deal with flooding, sewage

| mchan@queenscourier.com


Thousands of residents in southeast Queens are sinking deeper into the sewage that now engulfs their homes.

Mold spores and flooding have become and remain a constant problem for homeowners after the city took over the area’s water supply in 1996.

“It smells terrible. You see feces in the water and black stuff. It’s just terrible,” said Lurline Williams, 73, of Jamaica.

Williams said she uses five pumps a day to try and alleviate the flooding, but “the water never goes away,” she said.

Prior to 1996, the southeast Queens community received water from the Jamaica Water Supply Company, according to Assemblymember William Scarborough. The private company pumped, purified and distributed water from 68 wells.

When the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) took over, it stopped draining and pumping water out of the ground, making the water level rise higher than certain basements in the area, he said.

“These are people’s homes that are being ruined,” Scarborough said. “They’re spending a lot of money year after year for water pumps and they still can’t make their basements fully dry. Their floors and furniture in their basement are ruined. Some of them can’t even go into their basements anymore.”

Williams, a homeowner in Jamaica for 43 years, said that despite extreme damages, she still has to go down to her basement frequently to use her washer and dryer.

“I feel terrible. It’s heart breaking,” she said. “I just pray to God that something or someone will step up and go on and help us with the problem we’ve been having.”

The DEP has invested nearly $242 million since 2002 to build out the storm sewer system and reduce surface flooding in the southeast Queens area, said spokesperson Farrell Sklerov. The department also plans to invest $124 million in sewers over the next five years to help reduce further flooding.

Aside from that, the DEP has no plans to permanently pump out the groundwater due to a “prohibitively costly and extremely energy intensive process that would have to be paid for by increased water rates.”

City Councilmember Leroy Comrie told The Courier that the issue needs to be addressed immediately.

“I’m not happy that the DEP has not really dealt with the issue. It came up in meetings that they’ve kind of given up on a groundwater solution,” he said. “They don’t want to answer any questions or deal with it. It’s creating a major problem for the community.”

Scarborough also expressed concerns for the health of the residents.

“People are working hard to keep these properties nice and — to no fault of their own — their property is being damaged and their health is being threatened because of constant exposure,” he said. “That is unacceptable. People are suffering.”