The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Tenants of NYCHA Building Flooded by Raw Sewage Say Problem Is Longstanding

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | August 27, 2015 1:06pm
 NYCHA put the building in Jamaica on a ‘prevention plan.’ 
Tenants Expect Problems To Persist After Raw Sewage Floods NYCHA Building
View Full Caption

QUEENS — Tenants in a New York City Housing Authority-run apartment building in Jamaica flooded by raw sewage earlier this week said this wasn't the first time they've faced this problem — and they fear it won't be the last.

NYCHA said that it has placed a 7-story building at 109-10 160th St. within the South Jamaica Houses on a "prevention plan, which will include a quarterly schedule for additional sewer pipe cleaning to prevent future back-ups" after sewage started to flood the first and second floors on Sunday.

But locals said that faulty drainage and clogged pipes have plagued the complex for years, and they don't expect anything to change.

Ebony Holmes, 33, whose two-bedroom apartment on the second floor was most affected by the backup, said the floor inside her home was still covered with feces.

Holmes, who lives with her daughter, 11, and son, 7, said that after she sought help at local councilman Ruben Wills’ office Monday, NYCHA provided her with a temporary one-bedroom replacement in the same housing complex. But she said the new unit has no furniture inside so for now she is staying with a friend, while her kids stay with her mother.

Holmes, who noticed the flooding on Sunday afternoon, said it took more than 12 hours for NYCHA to send workers to address the issue. 

She also said that she believes she lost at least $5,000 in ruined furniture, clothes and equipment even though she “tried to pick up" what she could after she saw the water “coming out the toilet, coming out the tub." 

Holmes said that this is the not the first time raw sewage has flooded her apartment. A backup also damaged many of her belongings in March last year. 

Now Holmes said she no longer wants to live in that apartment.

“I don’t want it to happen the third time,” she said. “This is sewer water, it has feces in it, cigarette butts, all types of stuff."

NYCHA said in a statement Wednesday that the flooding "has stopped and a plumber continues to be onsite to address the root cause stoppage in the sewer pipe."

The agency also said that “property management will be reviewing additional transfer options with the family and information on submitting a damage claim for the family’s possessions.”

Councilman Wills, who has been working with Holmes, slammed the agency in a statement. 

“Our tenants deserve better than the lackluster efforts shown by those NYCHA has delegated to address longstanding maintenance issues, such as the one that resulted in the sewage flood at South Jamaica,” he said.

Steven Gaither, 56, said that since he moved to the building in 2007, his sink has clogged at least six times. Each time he had to call multiple times before anyone showed up. Last time, he said, “it took them a good month and a half” to come.

He said when a plumber finally showed up, he didn’t “even have a plunger.”

“He asked me if I had a plunger,” he said. “It’s ridiculous."

“They take their time when it comes to repairs,” said another tenant, who identified herself only as Tee. “You need to make an appointment but a lot of times the appointment is not for months later, depending what it is.”

She said a sink also clogged in her apartment some time ago. While making repairs, workers accidentally punctured a pipe, and she said her family ended up having a leak for about a year before it was finally fixed.