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Photo via Shutterstock
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Updated on May 21 at 1:25 p.m.

It came as a surprise to everyone at Assemblyman Brian Barnwell’s Maspeth office when, on May 16, someone came to the door with a flyer.

It was a warning, actually, that the water at the office was going to be shut off the following day. The flyer from the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) pointed out that a portion of 69th Street north of the Long Island Expressway and several side streets would be affected.

The problem was, according to staff member Mark Papish, that the flyer was only received at 3:30 p.m. — a mere 16 hours before the shutoff.

The staff acted quickly to figure out why this news was just reaching them, but calls to all the other local elected officials’ offices revealed that nobody knew this was happening. Barnwell’s office was able to get the shutoff postponed until further notice, but the situation revealed more flaws with an agency that has been causing headaches in the area as of late.

“It’s just another example of DDC coming through and not handling a situation properly,” Papish said at a Community Board 5 meeting later that night. “It’s like the 74th Street sewer project; they’re not assessing it for what it is. They’re not actually caring about the people they’re affecting.”

Nan Zhang, a real estate attorney and member of Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET) also spoke at the Board 5 meeting and said the civic association worked with Barnwell’s office to get the shutoff postponed. But Zhang also pointed out another flaw with the flyer itself.

Zhang said he looked up the demographics of the neighborhood and determined that about 300 people would have been affected by the water shutoff, and one-third of them were Chinese. The flyer was only printed in English and Spanish.

“We need to understand that the Chinese community is coming into Community Board 5,” Zhang said. “I think all the notifications starting now should be in Spanish, English, Chinese and any other language that the community needs.”

It is unclear what the construction project to the water shutoff entails, but the next day the DDC released new flyers that said the shutoff would take place on May 21 starting at 8 a.m., and some flyers were distributed in Chinese.

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