SOUTH OZONE PARK, Queens — One year ago today, families in South Ozone Park say it was the beginning of nightmare in their own neighborhood.
A massive sewage backup destroyed their homes and forced them to live in filth. They say the city promised to give them some financial relief but they haven’t gotten anything and the few who have, have received very little.
“I had to use my entire savings dip into my 401k,” said Janice Harmon.
It’s a familiar story.
“I filed a claim I didn’t get anything from the city, I have to spend out of my pocket, maximize my credit card, defaulting the mortgage,” added Rishad Mubarak.
One by one, families in South Ozone Park poured their hearts out this Saturday.
“I want the basement done that’s all I need,” said Jacqueline Cleveland.
Families were holding buckets and signs, pleading with the city to help them get back to some sort of normalcy and financial stability. They have mold and even breathing problems.
They say they were wearing masks before COVID-19 in their own homes due to the odor and raw sewage that spilled feces and waste into 100 Queens homes last November, just after Thanksgiving.
The city first saying the massive sewage backup was due to kitchen grease, then confirmed it was a decades old collapsed pipe. It caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. Claims were then filed by residents.
City and local leaders joined the families, including Jacqueline Cleveland, who has lived in her home on 145th Street near Inwood for 40 years. They’re calling on the city to treat these Queens residents fairly, just as Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer promised when they toured the sewage-filled streets last year.
A spokesperson for Stringer, who is running for mayor in 2021, provided a statement.
“Our team has been working since day one with impacted residents to help them return to their homes and receive what they are owed. Comptroller Stringer toured the area and met with homeowners, our office approved emergency contracts to clean up all affected homes and replace damaged heating and hot water equipment, and our staff went door-to-door and were stationed on the ground to provide support, disseminate claims forms, and help navigate the claims process. To date, our office has offered settlements on 85% of claims that are before us. We’re committed to this important work and doing everything possible to help New Yorkers get back on their feet.”