By Mark Hallum
City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), chairman of the Committee on Environmental Protection, introduced legislation to protect residents from unsanitary water supplies coming from buildings with storage tanks kept in poor shape by landlords and building managers.
Constantinides’ bill would abolish an aspect of the system that gives landlords forewarnings of inspections, thus allowing them time to clean their buildings’ water tanks before city Health Department inspectors can make an examination to improve the accuracy of assessments and protect residents.
“New Yorkers shouldn’t have to worry about what will come out of the faucet when they get a glass of water. Unfortunately, that appears to be the case for many, especially our low-income residents, as loopholes are exploited to misrepresent what’s in these water tanks,” Constantinides said.
The bill was introduced last Friday by Constantinides in front of Astoria Houses, a NYCHA complex, alongside Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) and Claudia Coger, the Astoria Houses Tenants Association president.
“I’m glad that our councilman is concerned enough to present legislation that will insure that this type of poisonous oversight doesn’t happen again. We have to be able to trust the water. In light of what we’ve seen in recent months at NYCHA, trust is a rare commodity,” Bishop Mitchell Taylor, co-founder and CEO of Urban Upbound, said.
According to the elected officials, the bill would not only protect tenants, but would give the city a clearer picture of what toxins, bacteria or vermin carcasses end up in water tanks across the city. The results of the surprise exams would be posted online for tenants to review and compare to other buildings.
“The reports on contamination in NYCHA water tanks are unacceptable. NYCHA needs to make sure residents’ water is safe to drink. NYCHA needs to get its act together – quickly. The hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who live in NYCHA buildings deserve better,” Johnson said. “Council member Costa Constantinides’ bill is the first step in holding NYCHA accountable, and I look forward to working with him on behalf of all NYCHA residents,” Johnson said.
Landlords are already required to submit annual inspections of tanks, but many are completed after the tanks have already been cleaned, according to a press release from Constantinides office.
Between 2015 and 2017, fewer than half of the 10,000 buildings in the city with water towers rising above six stories had filed inspections, the councilman said.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall