Astoria, N.Y. — Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection, today spoke outside the Astoria Houses in support of Intro. 1056, which would give the City a clearer picture of what potentially hazardous materials are inside a drinking water tower on any given day.
Constantinides, along with Council Members Mark Levine and Ritchie Torres, introduced the bill Wednesday in partnership with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. The legislation calls for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to conduct spot inspections of water towers atop both public and private buildings.
“New Yorkers shouldn’t have to worry about what will come out of the faucet when they get a glass of water. Unfortunately, that appears to be the case for many, especially our low-income residents, as loopholes are exploited to misrepresent what’s in these water tanks. I am thankful for Speaker Corey Johnson’s call to action on this crisis, and proud to partner with Council Members Levine and Torres as well as Bronx Borough President Diaz Jr. to make a step forward in addressing this issue,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides.
On Friday, the Council Member was joined by Deputy Bronx Borough President Marricka Scott-McFadden on behalf of Bronx Borough President Diaz Jr.; Claudia Coger, the Astoria Houses Tenants Association President; and Bethany Goldszer, Senior Director of Programs & Development at Urban Upbound.
“The reports on contamination in NYCHA water tanks are unacceptable. NYCHA needs to make sure residents’ water is safe to drink. NYCHA needs to get its act together – quickly. The hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who live in NYCHA buildings deserve better. Council Member Costa Constantinides’ bill is the first step in holding NYCHA accountable, and I look forward to working with him on behalf of all NYCHA residents,” said Speaker Corey Johnson.
“Recent reports make it crystal clear that our city’s water tanks are not getting the attention they need. This legislation will provide increased health and safety protocols for water tanks as well as much-need transparency regarding their inspections, and I am proud to stand with Council Member Constantinides on this important issue,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
“The recent news reports of contaminated water tanks that are rarely inspected and unregulated have made it clear that the City and the Health Department must intervene. Requiring unannounced inspections will ensure that water tanks aren’t hastily fixed in a pinch, will protect public health and safety, and ensure that drinking water is safe to consume,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, Chair of the Committee on Investigations and Oversight.
“I glad that our councilman is concerned enough to present legislation that will insure that this type of poisonous oversight doesn’t happen again. We have to be able to trust the water. In light of what we’ve seen in recent months at NYCHA – trust is a rare commodity,” said Bishop Mitchell Taylor, co-founder and CEO of Urban Upbound.
Intro. 1056 would add an extra layer of oversight to water tanks, requiring DOHMH to conduct periodic inspections without advanced notice to the landlord. Findings of the surprise reviews would then be posted online to ensure this process remains transparent. This will give the City a clearer picture of the conditions inside a tank on the average day — not immediately after sediment, muck, and rodent carcasses have been washed away.
The tanks are used in more than 10,000 New York City buildings that are typically taller than six stories, according to official estimates. In recent years, landlords have been required to submit annual inspections to DOHMH that the structures are free of sediments, bacteria, or other harmful bacteria. Fewer than half did so between 2015 and 2017, the year the requirement became an official law, according to a May expose in City & State magazine. The existing law also allows the inspection to be done immediately after the tank is cleaned, meaning the City does not have a clear picture of how many dead pigeons, rats, or cockroaches are floating in the water on a given day.
NYCHA properties had some of the worst-kept tanks, according to another City & State story published last week. Residents complained to the publication about murky water being fed from tanks that were falling apart. As a result, Speaker Johnson called for an emergency meeting on the issue.