LOWER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (PXI11) — Public housing residents at the Riis Houses are now suing the City of New York for $10 million after last week’s arsenic water scare.
More than 2,500 people were told not to use the taps in their homes for more than a week. The city now says it was all a false alarm due to bad water testing.
“My children fear every time they accidentally turn the water,” said Rebecca Perkins, a resident of Riis. “They say, ‘mom, am I going to die,’ and I really don’t have answers because I don’t know what’s going on with the water.”
At least 35 neighbors like Perkins filed the lawsuit. They said the New York City Housing Authority and the city messed up this response so badly, they still do not trust the water.
“Victims have a right to damages even if they are not sick, and they just fear getting sick in this situation,” argued their attorney, Sanford Rubenstein.
Over the weekend, the city declared the water safe following more than 100 tests, and a revelation that initial testing by a subcontractor that showed arsenic, and possibly legionella, was deeply flawed.
Mayor Eric Adams chugged a glass of tap water himself over the weekend to try and inspire confidence once again.
Rallying with Riis residents Monday, community activist Rev. Kevin McCall called it a stunt.
“The mayor drank the water and left,” McCall said. “This is a problem in New York City, and it all falls under the leadership of mayor Eric Adams.”
When asked about the water crisis, Mayor Adams defended the city and his administration’s response. He promised to hold people in NYCHA accountable for the bad testing and delay to notify residents there might be an issue.
“We know there are years of distrust in NYCHA. We have to rebuild that trust,” Adams said Monday.
However, he also attacked the federal monitor, who will now investigate his administration’s handling of the situation.
“I question the role of these federal monitors,” Adams said. “He has been there for all of these years, all that money we spent, that money could’ve gone to repairs, so I am going to do a deep dive.”
But back at Riis Houses, the distrust of Adams and the city runs deep.
The tenants’ association is still working with nonprofits to hand out free food because neighbors don’t trust the water to drink or to cook. They want continued testing of the water for the foreseeable future, and are still screening for residence feeling sick.
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