Tenants in a New York Housing Authority-run apartment complex in Jamaica, Queens spent more than 12-hours being besieged with raw sewage starting Sunday night, and residents and elected officials say it's just the latest example of problems that have long-since been plaguing the development.
Officials say the flooding started at about 6 p.m. on Sunday at the South Jamaica Houses, with raw sewage infiltrating the complex's basement, the Community Center on the first floor, and an apartment on the second floor. "Come in the bathroom and I notice that there's water coming up in the toilet and the tub and so before I know it's like overflowing," Ebony Holmes, a resident of the flooded apartment, told ABC News. She says she reported the problem, but it took Housing Authority workers hours to respond to her complaint.
"By the time they got there, everything is flooded, everything is wet, it stinks, there's feces, there's cigarette butts, it's sewer water, it's disgusting," she said, adding that the experience was "dehumanizing."
City Council Member Ruben Wills, who represents the district, slammed NYCHA for its slow response to the flooding. “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 twelve hours, and not receive a timely and robust response by its maintenance staff," he 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."
Indeed, a spokesperson with Wills's office told us that NYCHA had not relocated Holmes and her two children as of 2 p.m. yesterday, and that maintenance workers had only just begun mopping the affected area that afternoon. Thankfully, NYCHA has since confirmed Holmes will be reimbursed for her ruined possessions and is being moved temporarily. But Holmes says this is the second time her apartment has been bombarded with sewage. "I already lost all my stuff last year," she told NBC News. "This shouldn't have happened again."
Wills's office tells us the sewage problem has been an ongoing issue for the last three years. "I’m pleased the Authority’s senior staff has since compensated for this deficiency by swiftly arranging for the relocation of my constituent, Ms. Holmes," the Council Member said in a statement. "Now, it must take action to ensure this problem is resolved, and that the community center, Cornerstone program, and apartments affected by the flood are restored to their previous condition, as the response by the property’s superintendent, James Sanders, was totally abysmal."