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Peekskill Residents Seek Answers to Apt. Building Fire, Water Issues

Dozens of residents voice their frustrations during Tuesday's Peekskill Common Council.

A couple of dozen Hudson View Estates-former and current- piled inside the Peekskill Common Council chamber room Tuesday.

But the answers they received weren't necessarily the ones they wanted to hear.

“There hasn’t been any communication,” said Jesus Encarnacion, a resident of Hudson View Estates. “Whatever we know is because we asked the guys who are working down there on the pipe and half of the time we don’t get the correct information from them or any of them.  They give us the run around.”

Robert Fiorio, the Peekskill fire chief; Edward Khuns, the city water and sewer superintendent; and Brent VanZandt, head of the city’s department of public works; were on hand to give brief reports on last week’s fire at Hudson View Estates and the water service disruptions that followed.

The issues started after a secondary water main broke in the area of Highland Avenue and Garfield Street while after firefighters drew water from a hydrant in that area to fight the fire on March 21.

There were at least three additional water main breaks since the fire. Service was restored to residents Tuesday night.

But the Westchester County Department of Health has issued an advisory for residents of Hudson View not to drink, brush their teeth or bath in the water until tests are completed to check for the presence of the AFFF foam used to extinguish the fire.

“[Today] we will return to and speak with property management over there and the building maintenance over there about what direction they should start taking with their service line to find out if there is an issue,” Khuns said.

Fiorio said, contrary to popular belief, that firefighters did not lose complete access to water when the water main broke. But Fiorio said there was a significant loss of water and firefighters were “not be able to continue to firefight the way we would have liked to.”

The reduction in water pressure caused firefighters change their tactic and move from an interior attack to an exterior attack, Fiorio said.

Fiorio said his department implemented a plan that was developed for that area involving neighboring fire companies.

 An operation involving tankers, pumpers and engines from fire departments in Buchanan, Ossining, Croton, and Continental Village, Garrison, Yorktown Heights and Millwood was incorporated to relay water up the hill on Pemart Avenue to the fire.

“It was just a chain of events that took place in the beginning of the fire…that adversely affected the outcome,” Fiorio said.

Alonzo Thompson, one of the residents who lost their homes in the fire, wanted to know why the preliminary fire report said that firefighters had completely lost water at the scene.

“I want to know why [Fiorio] is telling us that they didn’t run out of water,” Thompson said.

Linda Lapicola, who lost her home during last week’s fire, also said she was told firefighters lost water at the scene.

“I’m a grandmother raising a grandchild, I’m 71 years old and I lost my home after 31 years,” Lapicola said. “I’m now living in the hotel down the street….one of the firemen told me when I was standing, watching my building down that the pipes were no wide enough. They were too narrow for the water to go up and that’s what made the water main break. I don’t understand why people are saying the water was weak because of the break. The water main break didn’t happen until after. Not when it started.”

Fiorio cautioned that the report that has been issued so far is only preliminary and that officials are still in the process of finding out more information.

“We wanted to bring that in so that you would have something to bring to your insurance companies,” Fiorio said.

Thompson also asked how often fire hydrants are tested. Khuns said the city tests hydrants twice a year. Private property owners are responsible for checking hydrants located on their property.

Encarnacion expressed disappointment with the accessibility of city officials to residents at Hudson View Estates after the water service issues started taking place.

“This is the first time that we hear from you or even see you,” Encarnacion said Tuesday. “You’ve been up to the Peekskill Towers at least three times and you never came down to see us.”Peekskill Towers is the location the American Red Cross used to serve the people who lost their homes in the fire.

Encarnacion also wanted to know why the Peekskill Towers apartment building received a water tanker hour before the residents at the Hudson View Estates.

Foster said city officials told company that manages the Hudson View that they needed to make adjustments to the water system on the property in order to get water to residents.

“The management company said that they were going to have a water tank brought in on Friday in order to provide fresh drinking water to the residents,” Foster said. “When that didn’t happen by Saturday, the city ordered a tanker and had it delivered there. It was the management company’s responsibility and they never did.”

Foster said she didn’t go door to door to speak to the residents of Hudson View, but she was on site to speak to the property manager and answer questions.

A man representing the property management company for Hudson View Estates declined to comment when reached on the phone.

Foster asked everybody affected by the fire to give their contact information to the city Clerk Pamela Beach so official can plan a meeting to discuss the findings of the final fire report that’s submitted.

 “That’s the only way to really get clarity,” Foster said. “I’ve heard a variety of different things, everyone has heard a variety of different things and it doesn’t mean that any of those things are untrue, it just means that it may not be in its proper context.” 

Peekskill Be First Boxing March 28, 2013 at 12:46 PM
The water problem in that building has been going on for a long time now. Morgan Properties do not value the quality of human life. They fraudulently represent themselves, lie and steal from their tenants. Morgan Properties has no integrity or values, their properties are all a deception. Hope they are held accountable for this too. As we read they didn't get the water truck in until a day late, and they won't talk to anyone, and that is the story when people write them their concerns and problems with the housing complex, their response is they can't answer in writing or don't care to address.
Wendy Kelly March 28, 2013 at 12:54 PM
Agree Jesus Encarnarian there was absolutely no communication to any residents. I had to ask workers on Garfield and Highland if I needed to boil water which they said yes. I called DPW twice they didn't know. Brent of DPW did respond to my email request and called DPW yesterday to see if I needed to continue to boil they has to contact the Filtration Dept.
Allyson Curtis March 28, 2013 at 03:31 PM
The city has multiple ways to keep in contact with residents, but have done such a poor job keeping an open line of communication. Going door-to-door with written advisories may be helpful for those who are home during the day, but when you're at work & looking to find info as to whether or not you have water at home, should/shouldn't you boil, etc. there's nothing there. A website, Facebook page, Twitter & the the Nixle services are all available to the City. If they aren't going to use tools to communicate then they shouldn't even have them or promote them. Yesterday, after a neighbor of mine reached out to the Mayor & a council member via email they FINALLY posted an advisory from the Health Dept on the website to help clarify the situation. They could've & should've been doing this all along. I personally only received one of the paper advisories on my front porch on March 22nd. I'm not saying it wasn't delivered; it could have blown away, but this is why you need to have several lines of communication in place. On Wednesday morning those who live close to Pemart & Marion were awakened around 3am by jack hammering that continued into the day. There was no warning, no communication before or after the fact. I get that the situation is complex & folks are working around the clock. If they had sent out a Nixle message giving a heads up about the jack hammering it would've been nice. Perhaps a brief apology for the inconvenience.
Rubio4u March 28, 2013 at 06:23 PM
When they need you to vote for them. This is when you will see them banging on your door. Until then?
shakemdown April 02, 2013 at 04:44 AM
RUBIO4U; you are right, because just before last elections MAYOR FOSTER AND COUNCILMAN RIGGER CAME UP HERE KNOCKING ON EVERYONES DOORS TRYING TO SALE THEMSELVES OFF AS THE BEST TO RUN CITY HALL, BUT I SAW RIGHT THROUGH THEM. IN FACT, MR. RIGGER EVEN MADE IT KNOWN TO ME THAT HE WAS OR THAT HE SPOKE SPANISH. I SUPPOSE THAT, THAT WAS SUPPOSE TO MAKE HIM MY COMPADRE, BUT AGAIN, I CAN SPOT A WOLF IN SHEEPS CLOTHING FROM A MILE AWAY. AND TO ANSWER THE QUESTION, HECK NO , I DID NOT VOTE FOR ANY OF THEM

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