NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Queens community is still trying to get rising sewer water out of residents’ homes after a blockage caused a crisis over the weekend.
Now, Mayor Bill de Blasio is vowing to visit with homeowners and provide real solutions, CBS2’s Tara Jakeway reported Monday.
“I’m going out there today. I want to assure all the homeowners we’re going to stand with them and we are going to help them get back on their feet,” de Blasio said.
Three days into the sewage ordeal on the border of Jamaica and South Ozone Park, 18-year-old Navila Meem stayed home from school Monday to hold down the fort for her family after the water in their basement rose again in the morning.
“The city could be doing so much more honestly. It has been extremely exhausting,” Meem said. “That’s been an endless cycle and my mom is sleeping right now because we haven’t slept a lot in the last couple of days.”
Her mother doesn’t speak English, so the high school senior has been communicating the problems to Department of Environmental Conservation crews she said have tried to pump the water out, only to have it keep coming back.
“I don’t know the words to describe it. It smells like hot garbage,” Meem said.
Her siblings have been sent to relatives because of the fumes, and she’s not the only family torn apart.
Around the corner on Inwood Street, Leron Harmon’s basement was a mess all weekend after a blocked sewer main pushed human waste into homes within a 15-block radius late Friday into early Saturday.
“My kids are displaced. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know where to go. I don’t know who to talk to. I’m lost,” Harmon said on Sunday.
At a meeting later that afternoon at Public School 223, residents demanded a solution.
“People slept in cars, kids slept in cars. We can’t do that all week. That’s not okay,” one person said.
Red Cross workers took down names as they scrambled to provide hotel rooms for the 74 families the DEP said had sewage in their homes.
Meem said she can’t go to a hotel because she needs the help of the city workers that have been in and out and she doesn’t want to leave all of her family’s possessions in an unlocked home.
The DEP said the bypass system was activated overnight, which should end any further backups into basements. But as Jakeway found out Monday, so far, not so good.
She caught up with Harmon at the Courtyard Marriott, the headquarters for the Red Cross and emergency services. He said there was still water in his basement and that he has been out of pocket for two nights in hotels, has missed two days of work and still has no answers.
“All of them have little desks there to try and answer all kind of questions that they can assist us with, but they still don’t know where exactly the issue is,” Harmon said.
Harmon and his four kids don’t know when they can return to their home, but some have not been able to leave.
“I have a handicapped granddaughter and a 93-year-old mother-in-law, so, no, I can’t go nowhere,” homeowner Laura Hubbard said.
Gaile Newsome said she doesn’t want to abandon her childhood home she’s had since 1957.
“Compared to what some others are experiencing, I have a lot to be thankful for,” Newsome said.