Volume 74, Number 44 | March 09 - 15, 2005

Tenants at Baruch Houses smell more than a rat

By Aman Singh

The 30,000 residents of Baruch Houses have been living with a recognizable stink for the past one-year, coming from sewage-filled basements in the housing complexes.

A labor activist group, Committee for Progress, protested in front of 100 Columbia St. Sunday to demand action from the New York City Housing Authority for what, according to George Contoveros, the President of the group, “is becoming an environmental hazard”.

Residents of Baruch Houses, the 2,400- apartment complex on the Lower East Side, have been living with this foul stench for more than a year now.

According to Keishe Winfield, who lives on the ground floor of 521 FDR Drive, the smell has become a part of their daily environment. “It was in the back of the complex initially, then it moved to the front side. That’s when it became unbearable,” said Winfield.

“People cannot move freely, the lobby stinks and the residents are worried that the Authorities might retaliate if they protest,” said Contoveros. “I became more intensely involved when I saw one of the tenants having mosquito bite-marks on her hands. The sewage creates these bugs which can be so hazardous,” he added.

Winfield agreed saying, “There is frequent air bubbling in the toilet making the entire apartment reek of sewage. I didn’t notice it initially because it wasn’t distinct enough to make me think, there was a genuine problem going on here.”

A day after the protest, the Housing Authority ordered an investigation into the issue denying any former knowledge of the problem. “There are no sewage backups at Baruch houses. The inspections were made of all crawl spaces and no backups were found. Some minor leaks, unrelated sewage, were discovered and they were repaired,” Howard Marder, NYCHA spokesperson, said in a prepared statement.

Another resident of 521, Wilton King, who lives on the fourth floor, denounced the NYCHA, saying, “The Housing Authority usually pretends they’re working on the problem but never solve it completely.”

“How is it possible that they work on these premises every single day of the year and don’t notice the smell and the obvious source of the smell?” questioned Winfield.

Many residents were pleased to hear their neighbors organized a protest.

“I wasn’t even aware of the protest, but am so thankful that it happened. I’m sick of it but didn’t do anything about it because I kept assuming the authorities knew about it,” said King.

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