NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Queens residents still living in filth days after a sewage pipe backed up and flooded their basements want to know why the city has been so slow to respond, and who is going to pay for the damage.
CBS2’s Marcia Kramer took their questions to the mayor on Monday and demanded answers.
Two days after a massive sewage backup, water was still being pumped out of Bena Balgobin’s home.
The flood had been as high as 3 feet and her basement is still filled with debris — dirt mixed with human waste.
She wants Mayor Bill de Blasio to do something.
“I want Mayor de Blasio to fix it, bring it back to normal. Let us know who is going to pick up the tab,” Balgobin told CBS2’s Marcia Kramer.
Balgobin and many other residents said they are furious that it took so long for the city to start doing something.
“Nobody came to help until now,” Balgobin said.
Many of the residents of the approximately 75 homes affected by the sewer backup say calls to 311 didn’t bring help.
“We was all shutdown by 311, 311 was taking it like they were independent issues, as if I was calling them about my broken pipe,” one resident said.
“They kept shuffling me around to this person to that person,” Cherry Stoud added.
Kramer asked Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Vincent Sapienza why 311 was not responsive.
“Our folks are out here on Saturday thinking it was a localized issue, but it wasn’t until later in the day that they realized it was a large 42-inch sewer south of here,” Sapienza said. “That’s why it took so long to connect those dots to get folks help.”
Mayor de Blasio, who was criticized by residents for not coming personally to help them, finally showed up late Monday afternoon. Officials said that because it was sewer water, the homes have to be professionally cleaned and decontaminated.
“I’m here now to let people know that everything they need that we have in our power, we’re gonna do for them,” de Blasio said.
Kramer demanded answers about the city’s delayed response.
“There are people who said they called 311 and sometimes got a response in 12 hours, sometimes not at all. Why did it take so long? How is that acceptable?” Kramer asked the mayor.
“It’s not acceptable,” de Blasio said. “We’re gonna investigate what happened. It cannot happen again.”
Officials told Kramer it could take days, if not longer, to fix the backed-up pipe because they have to break the pipe to do the fix.