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Photo by Gina Martinez
Damage in the street after a water leak in Fresh Meadows.
By Gina Martinez

Fresh Meadows residents are footing the bill for a water leak they say is not their fault.

City Council hopeful Joseph Concannon held a news conference in Fresh Meadows Monday to address the leak affecting up to 25 homes in the area.

Concannon, who is running against Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) on the Republican line to represent District 23 in November, said residents have been forced to pay $8,000 by the Department of Environmental Protection or have no running water in the middle of the summer after a leak. Concannon contended he was forced to have the news conference because residents have turned to Grodenchik and no action has been taken.

Grodenchik said he has been in contact with four constituents who live along 188th Street who have complained and has assisted anyone who reached out to his office on a daily basis. He said there is not much he can do regarding the situation.

Construction trucks blocked traffic as they fixed holes in the street and leaking pipes in front of 188th Street and Union Turnpike by 75th Avenue. A number of homes on the east side of the street had demand notes posted on their doors.

“When I was alerted about the leaks, I was told, ‘this is probably the homeowners’ fault’ and normally it would be, except when I came down here I had people coming out of their homes saying ‘my home, too’” he said. “I thought there were maybe a half dozen homes, but then it turned out to be upwards of 25 homes. That’s not just unusual, that’s absolutely abnormal and strange.”

Concannon said the city should send DEP public affairs people everyday to the block to calm the fears and nerves of the homeowners in this area. He said the leaks are not the homeowners’ responsibility, and several homeowners at the news conference agreed. Concannon said when he spoke to the comptroller’s office, he was told the leaks are the responsibility of Verizon, and homeowners claim DEP is asking residents to pay up to $8,000 to restore water service.

The comptroller’s office sent residents a letter and spokesman Tyrone Stevens simply said: “The letter speaks for itself.” He did not disclose the contents.

A DEP spokesman said the homeowners affected might want to seek cost reimbursement from which ever utility or entity they believe may have caused the damages.

“Homeowners are responsible for all of the costs associated with repairing damaged water or sewer service lines that run from their building’s exterior to the municipal service lines in the street.” he said in a statement.

But Verizon spokesman Raymond McConville said the utility did not cause the water leak and that Concannon and residents were being mislead by the comptroller’s office.

“These water leaks damaged our underground cable conduits along this street,” McConville said in a statement. “It wasn’t until after those leaks were abated and the water was shut off that we began work to fix our damaged facilities. So it is literally impossible for us to have caused the leaks. To suggest otherwise is nonsense.”

After the press conference a resident came up to Concannon with documents showing DEP asking for $8,000 to restore service. She said it was unrealistic to expect someone to just come up with money like that on the spot. She said she reached out to Grodenchik, but he “doesn’t care,” saying she has called and emailed his office and was told “we will see” what happens.

“This is an outrage,” Concannon told her. “I’m going to make sure that not one homeowner on this block pays that money. Each one of you deserves a refund and an apology from the City of New York for putting those signs on your door.”

Grodenchik told the TimesLedger that “in the City of New York if a water line break occurs on your property, you are responsible. It’s unfortunate, but you have to hire a plumber or contractor to fix the water line.”

The councilman added, “We have not heard from anyone who said Verizon was in the area, but of course we would be happy to hear about digging. It’s unfortunate and we’re sorry for their trouble. We’ve been in touch with Department of Environmental Protection.”

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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