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Queens Chronicle

Albany bills to target resident pipe repairs

Legislation would require utilities to fix problems caused by infrastructure

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Posted: Thursday, May 30, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 3:08 pm, Thu Jun 6, 2019.

Queens homeowners facing tens of thousands of dollars in recurring plumbing repairs while battling the utility believed to be responsible for the damage could have the force of law on their side — if the state Legislature decides to act before the end of its session on June 19.

The Utility Responsibility Bills would require utilities to repair or replace underground water pipes leading into people’s homes if the city’s Department of Environmental Protection determines the utility is responsible.

In the case of residents in sections of Fresh Meadows and a stretch of Winchester Boulevard in Queens Village, residents began having leaks reported to them by the city. Though the pipes are not on the homeowners’ properties, they are on the hook for repairs.

At a press conference in Fresh Meadows on May 23, residents and elected officials said leaking underground current from old Verizon land lines have been traced as the source.

“These bills would force the utilities to fix it,” said state Sen. John Liu (D-Bayside), who is sponsoring bill S4118B.

Also in attendance were Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), who is sponsoring the companion bill A5254 with Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows); and Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens), who represents the Winchester Boulevard homeowners.

The press conference took place on 188th Street just a few houses from where Weprin grew up, a street that has been co-named for his father, the late former state Assembly Speaker Saul Weprin.

Linda Gordon of the West Cunningham Park Civic Association said many of her members — some of whom have had to fix their pipes at least twice — have received letters from representatives of Verizon offering to pay for their repairs — provided they sign an agreement absolving the company of any future claims.

“They’re admitting responsibility without admitting responsibility,” Gordon said. She and the elected officials want Verizon and any future utility to have to rectify the cause when their infrastructure is to blame.

Verizon has said homeowners have a misunderstanding about the waiver. The company told the Chronicle last month that the release does not apply to future leaks, just the leaks prompting their existing claims. The company said any future leaks would be evaluated and paid if it is deemed appropriate.

Suzanne Peritz of the Rocky Hill Civic Association and Kevin Forrestal, president of the Queens Civic Congress, also spoke. Forrestal said one resident to his knowledge has had to fix leaks five times.

“And this is a five-figure repair job,” Grodenchik said. “People should not have to pay $10,000, $12,000 or $15,000 to have to fix this.”

Forrestal said Fresh Meadows and Queens Village are not the only places in the city — or the country — where similar leaks are occurring.

“In Baltimore it is causing leaks in people’s homes behind walls,” he said.

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