Eastern Queens Lawmakers Say Verizon Should Pay For Street Water Leaks


Eastern Queens lawmakers including Assemblymembers David Weprin (D) and Nily Rozic (D) and City Councilmembers Barry Grodenchik (D), Costa Constantinides (D) and Rory Lancman (D) met at the intersection of 188 Street and 81st Avenue in Fresh Meadows yesterday to demand that Verizon remediate and pay for water leaks plaguing the street.

At least 32 private water lines along the east side of 188 Street between 73rd Avenue and the Grand Central Parkway have busted since 2017. According to a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) study the pipe failures are due to stray voltage beneath the street. The DEP has named Verizon as the responsible party. Verizon has not made many moves towards fixing the problem, the lawmakers and local residents say.

Meanwhile, homeowners are footing the bill each time a pipe pops and remain at risk for losing their water. 

This intersection is ground zero for water leaks. Residents and elected officials say Verizon is responsible for the leaks. Photo by Sonia Colon.

“The homeowners should not be responsible. I will be introducing a bill tomorrow in Albany, hopefully with the support of my assembly member colleagues, to not require the homeowners to lay out the money,” said Weprin. “DEP is in a better position to layout the money, thousands of dollars, and then go after the third party, in this case Verizon, rather than the homeowners.”

The DEP and their consultant CorrTech have determined that “the most likely cause of deterioration is stray DC currents from buried Verizon owned lead-sheathed communications cable in terracotta ducts located in the immediate vicinity of the deteriorated piping.

The DEP pointed the finger at Verizon saying that they hope the company can find a solution. Additionally they’re placing Verizon responsible if any residents lose water. “In addition to the liability to which Verizon is exposing itself, if the situation is not addressed expeditiously, DEP may be forced to take the unwelcome step of turning off water service to these homeowners, a situation we are sure Verizon would like to avoid,” said the DEP in an email.

Verizon did their own investigation. They concluded “that when homeowners disconnect traditional copper telephone wires, by either going to FIOS or removing phone service altogether, Verizon continues to emit a current through those lines.”

The results of their probe has pushed them to disconnect the non-operating electric lines. However, this has only managed to decrease the voltages emitted. Verizon has yet to find the source of the remaining currents. Though this has been an ongoing issue no legal action has been taken against Verizon by residents.

City Councilmembers Barry Grodenchik, foreground, also says local residents should not be held responsible for the leaks. Photo by Sonia Colon.

Lawmakers say that while Verizon and DEP play the blame game, homeowners are left to bare all damages.

Residents of the afflicted street came forward about their experiences being charged thousands of dollars, repeatedly, when pipes routinely busted. One man came to the press conference with a piece of broken off copper piping from his home. The green copper was hardly recognizable under the rust which accrued all over it.

“Homeowners have been affected, and yet again we’ve seen a huge corporation just shirk their responsibility for doing the right thing by each and every homeowner,” said Rozic. “It is incumbent upon the city it’s incumbent on the state the Public Service Commission, to make Verizon step up and really deliver for homeowners.”

“We’re not talking about one or two or five or ten, were talking about dozens,” said Grodenchik. “Let me do the math for you, one person having a broken water main into their house is bad luck on one block, two of them is a coincidence, 32 in such a short stretch of 188 st is a statistical impossibility unless there is an intervening force.”

The legislation Weprin plans on introducing in Albany sets out to place either the DEP or Verizon to pay for all damages and reimburse anyone who has had to pay because of blasted piping in their home causing flooding, under the ground soaking the grass and under the street breaking the pavement.