By Jonathan Sperling
Eastern Queens politicians and residents are demanding answers from Verizon after they say the telecommunications giant caused dozens of private water service lines along 188th Street to fail.
At a press conference held on the corner of 188th Street and 81st Avenue on Sunday, officials — among them Assemblymembers David I. Weprin and Nily Rozic — noted that at least 32 private water service lines along the east side of 188th Street between 73rd Avenue and the Grand Central Parkway have failed since 2017, likely because of stray voltage beneath the street.
Water continue to leaks from the broken lines, some of which have failed multiple times, according to the politicians.
Following the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) study, the agency believes that the stray voltage is being caused by failing Verizon infrastructure.
“It is unfair to our neighbors to be burdened by damages and costs that are no fault of their own but the fault of a multibillion dollar corporation.” Weprin said. “I call upon Verizon not only to take action and fix the stray voltage issue but also to provide restitution to the homeowners who were forced to pay out of pocket for damages they caused.
The affected homeowners, who range from Fresh Meadows to Jamaica Estates, have also been informed by the DEP that repairing or replacing the affected pipes is their responsibility, as the pipes — known as service lines — are considered private property, thus making the property owners responsible for any needed maintenance and repair. The service lines do, however, connect each property to NYC’s water main.
Richard P. Lerner, who has lived at a house on 188th Street between 181st Street and Aberdeen Road for 42 years, told the Eagle he was, “a little unhappy to say the least, in other words pissed,” when he found out that he would have to pay $10,700 to fix the second of two leaks that sprung up near his home in December 2017.
“For many, many years we were not responsible for the pipe except if the leak occurred curbside into the house. And the city decided to shift the responsibility onto the homeowner,” Lerner told the Eagle. “I feel it’s unfair that the residents of any street should be responsible for the piping in the street. I understand it’s always been from the curb.”
Lerner added that he believes every resident on his block has had their pipes repaired at least twice, with repairs costing approximately $9,000 each time. At least one neighbor has had to repair their piping three times.
In a letter sent to Verizon, the DEP stated that its consultant, CorrTech had investigated the deteriorating copper service lines and determined that the cause is likely stray DC currents caused by lead-covered communications cable “located in the vicinity of the deteriorated piping.”
“DEP's investigation indicates that the homeowner's pipes on 188th Street are failing due to stray current from Verizon infrastructure and we are working with the community and elected officials to encourage Verizon to promptly address the issue,” a DEP spokesman told the Eagle in a statement.
Weprin is also introducing legislation that would mandate that homeowners be reimbursed the full cost of any repairs that are the result damages from a third party.
In a statement, a Verizon spokesperson told the Eagle that the company is “aware of this issue and sensitive to its possible impacts. That's why we've [Verizon] been working closely with experts, local and state officials, and utility companies to determine what is going on. That work is ongoing. This situation requires complex research and analysis, but it is our hope that the cause of the problem can quickly be determined, so that it can be fully addressed.”