Public Housing Residents Still in Despair After Sandy

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Large parts of the East Village appear to be back to normal with cafes open and young people back on the streets.  But at a public housing development on Avenue C, the desperation was palpable.

About 700 people live at Campos Plaza I, a tattered public housing development at the edge of the East Village. After Sandy, residents said floodwater filled the lobby of some of the buildings, reaching the raised first floor.  Ruhith Ahmad lives on the first floor with his mom. The two have electricity and gas. But no heat or hot water. The 13-year-old said his family has been boiling water to keep warm.

"We have little Poland Spring water bottles and we're filling them up with hot water and then we just put them in our blankets and stuff so we just surround ourselves with it," Ahmed said.  "It doesn't help that much but it's better than nothing."

At another building nearby volunteers with the group Good Old Lower East Side climbed up dark stairwells carrying bags of food. On the 17th floor they encountered Angelina Solano. The 71-year-old had just lugged up 4 gallons of water and was out of breath. She could barely speak.

"I no got water. No steam. I'm a sick person. I got problems," she said through tears. "My daughter she is not healthy. My husband is sick, too. This is terrible."

Solano explained the water was from a fire hydrant that someone had pried open. Her family was rationing it and didn't want to use the water to flush the toilets so now they said the bowl was full of excrement, which was stinking up the apartment.

On the 12th floor, 87-year-old Prudis Ortega hadn't left her apartment since the storm. "I've been very depressed and very scared," she said in Spanish.

The frail, white haired woman said her apartment was freezing. She answered the door wearing a ski cap. After the storm, she said the lights went out and she feared she had been left in the building alone. It’s a thought that still haunts her.

Because of osteoporosis, she said there's no way she can make it down the stairs. Several residents said they were too weak to leave.  

A spokesman for the utility, Con Edison, said the problem is that many buildings along Avenue C still have not been pumped out. That job, they said is the building owner’s responsibility. In this case, that means The New York City Housing Authority. NYCHA said thousands of employees were working to get developments up and running.  

Currently, 108 buildings at 17 developments remain without power. The authority said it's too early to tell where long-term outages may exist.