Photo courtesy of Weprin's office
Assembly Members David I. Weprin & Nily Rozic, Council Members Barry S. Grodenchik & Costa Constantinides, and residents speak about the stray voltage issue on 188th Street on Jan. 14.

Eastern Queens lawmakers gathered with Fresh Meadows residents on Sunday demanding that something finally be done to fix a pervasive water leak on 188th Street that’s damaged the pipes of nearby homes.

At least 32 private water service lines along the east side of 188th Street and between 73rd Avenue and the Grand Central Parkway have failed since 2017 due to stray voltage beneath the street. The city and Verizon.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which oversees New York City’s water system, has informed the residents that repairing or replacing the affected pipes is the responsibility of the home owners, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in costs for local residents.

At this point, the DEP has indicated that Verizon is likely the responsible party. Still, little has been done to alleviate the problem.

On Jan. 14, Assemblymembers David Weprin and Nily Rozic sought to bring public attention to the damage and called on the city and Verizon to take corrective action. They were joined at the press conference by City Councilmen Barry Grodenchik and Costa Constantinides, along with members of the West Cunningham Park Civic Association and the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association, and residents at the intersection of 188th Street and 81st Avenue.

Weprin inspects water leaking from underground.

Rozic said Fresh Meadows residents affected by the water leaks have “suffered damages, financial loss, and unacceptable conditions for years.”

“They deserve answers,” said Rozic. “I strongly urge the city and Verizon to take responsibility and necessary action to finally resolve this nightmare scenario facing local homeowners.”

Since 2017, the DEP has been utilizing the services of an independent consultant, Corr-Tech, to identify the source of the leaks. In a 2018 report, the consultant stated that the leaks were not caused by city infrastructure but rather by stray voltage from a private utility.

Specifically, the report indicated that Verizon infrastructure was the probable cause of the water line failures. Since then, the state Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities across New York state, has requested additional testing from Verizon and DEP, in a letter to the company’s general counsel, has called for a concrete course of action.

The Public Service Commission is “currently investigating the problem and will take whatever action is appropriate to address the issue,” according to a spokesman.

The Eastern Queens elected officials strongly urged Verizon to responsibly address the matter in a timely manner for both the safety of the community and the financial wellbeing of the residents.

“We are aware of this issue and sensitive to its possible impacts.  That’s why we’ve been working closely with experts, local and state officials, and utility companies to determine what is going on.  That work is ongoing,” a Verizon spokesman told QNS. “This situation requires complex research and analysis, but it is our hope that the cause of the problem can quickly be determined, so that it can be fully addressed.”

Weprin is also introducing legislation in Albany that would mandate that homeowners be reimbursed the full cost of any repairs that are the result damages from a third party.

“It is unfair to our neighbors to be burdened by damages and costs that are no fault of their own but the fault of a multibillion dollar corporation.” said Weprin. “I call upon Verizon not only to take action and fix the stray voltage issue but also to provide restitution to the homeowners who were forced to pay out of pocket for damages they caused.”

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