Jenkins, who has lived in the public housing development since she was four years old, said she is the caregiver for her sick brother. The lack of water, which was first turned off on July 16, has caused problems for the most vulnerable residents, she said.
“You’ve got children in here, you’ve got senior citizens, you’ve got people who come out of the hospital and need water,” Jenkins said. “When you can’t wash your dishes in the sink, there’s food in the sink that attracts bugs. Now you’ve got another problem.”
White, Jenkins’s fiance, said if residents don’t catch the water in the morning, they’re often “out of luck” and have to pray that it’s on in the afternoon or later that night. He said he feels slighted by NYCHA workers who can’t address tenants’ concerns.
“It’s total disrespect to the community itself,” White said. “When you call and ask for an explanation, nobody can give you a good explanation.”
According to NYCHA spokesperson Michael Giardina, 896 households were affected by the outage. Water was initially turned off for a scheduled roof tank cleaning, but the next day, the house pumps experienced issues, leading to intermittent outages for the next 10 days.
Giardina said the house pumps are being repaired, and NYCHA contacted mobility-impaired and senior residents to see if they need any assistance.
“Our residents shouldn’t have to deal with these unreliable services,” he said in a statement, “which is why we will continue to monitor the situation to ensure service improves.”
The outages infuriated local elected officials, who blasted NYCHA on Friday in front of the 13-building development. Borough President Eric Adams said he was disgusted by the “culture of indifference” shown by NYCHA officials.
“It should not take public pressure to increase the damn water pressure,” he said. “We’ve reached the point that NYCHA residents feel as though they’re in purgatory.”
The borough president noted that spigots were set up outside buildings, and residents had to carry buckets of water up to their apartments.
“This is g--damn America, not Afghanistan,” he said. “This cannot be happening.”
Adams also criticized NYCHA for “misreporting” the outages on their online complaint system.
He accused the agency of posting that the outage was only for a few hours, rather than several days, and closing the complaint after the water turned on momentarily, forcing residents to make another complaint.
“These are professional liars,” Adams said. “Problems are not fixed when they are temporarily fixed.
“They’re fixed when they are properly done and completed,” he added. “When the problem is resolved, that’s when the ticket is closed.”
He suggested using a model similar to the NYPD’s Compstat system to track and resolve repair issues across public housing developments. The borough president said he will ask the governor’s office for funding for the initiative.
“You can’t still be using composition black notebooks to document the problems in NYCHA,” Adams said. “That is a rotary phone method in an iPhone age. The game must change.”
Giardina said that the NYCHA website is a tracker of current outages. It is not reset, but updated to reflect where the repairs are at the moment.
Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuels recalled that several years ago she worked for the State Department working in developing countries. She compared what she saw there to what residents back in her home district were going through.
“It sounds a lot like a developing country in one of the wealthiest cities in America. How is that possible?” Ampry-Samuels asked. “It sounds like a war zone, but we have the resources to not allow this to happen.”