NYC Housing authority directs tenants to fire hydrant when water stops working


By The New York Daily News

NYCHA managers coldly told tenants to grab a bucket and head to the nearest fire hydrant after running water went out at a Brooklyn housing development.

Residents at the Wyckoff Gardens development were forced to stand in line in the frigid cold last week filling up every manner of vessel — bowls, buckets, empty water bottles — from a lone hydrant tapped by a housing authority plumber.

“That water was cold, freezing cold,” said Monica Underwood, 63, a retiree who’s lived at Wyckoff for 33 years. “My feet and pants were wet. I was going to a fire hydrant to get water! How can you get enough water to cook, clean and flush the toilet?”

Tenants at the 527-unit development in Boerum Hill said water went out last Saturday and was off and on for the rest of the week.

As NYCHA struggled to fix its water pumps, an authority manager slapped up notices in the buildings’ lobbies warning that water would be out “until further notice.”

The notice advised tenants to “bring your buckets and containers” to a “water station” located on a streetcorner.

The “water station” was a sad looking little hydrant, cleared of snow. A NYCHA plumber had attached a device that allowed for a regulated flow of water. Underwood and other tenants said no NYCHA staff was present, so tenants were on their own.

Public Advocate Letitia James said, “I want an explanation as to why anyone would think that a fire hydrant would be an acceptable means to get water.”

Councilman Stephen Levin (D-Brooklyn), who pressed NYCHA all week to fix the problem, said the water pump failures were symptomatic of NYCHA’s aging buildings. Wyckoff was opened in 1966.

“For them to say get a bucket and go the fire hydrant, it’s not acceptable,” Levin said. ”It’s insensitive and shows an overall lack of understanding of tenants.”

For Beverly Corbin, 61, a hydrant was simply out of the question. Confined to a wheelchair, Corbin couldn’t possibly lug buckets filled with water down the street.

“I’m furious. I couldn’t go out and get water from a hydrant,” she said.

“It’s crazy. Ridiculous. They didn’t have enough respect for us to come around and tell us. They made no effort to reach the handicapped, the elderly.”

Tenant advocates, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, distributed cases of water until they ran out. By Thursday night, NYCHA said the pumps were fixed and the water was flowing again.

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