Life without water in New York City’s towers

By on November 4, 2012

On 14th Street in Manhattan, Oct. 29.

New York — The 650,000 Con Edison customers in lower Manhattan without power don’t have water either unless they have hooked up a generator to their pumps.  Some of these “customers” are not individuals, but entire apartment buildings or complexes with hundreds or even thousands of residents.

In New York City, most buildings supply water to their tenants from a water tower on the top of the building. A few pump the water directly to each apartment.

While the image of Manhattan is that of sleek, modern, extremely high-priced apartments, many poor and working people live in the city’s public housing on either the western or eastern edges of the island.   Now they have to try to get by without water.

The rule of thumb is a gallon of water a day, 8 pounds per person — to drink, wash or flush.  For an elderly, frail person, carrying 8 pounds up 10 or 20 flights or even two flights of stairs is impossible.  Even if one is fit and hardy, carrying the 40 pounds needed by a family of five is a difficult task.

Some tenants who remember past electric outages filled up bathtubs and pots in anticipation of the storm.  However, after five days, the water they saved is running out.

The NYC and state administrations have recognized the need for water — and food — by setting up some distribution centers in a few poor neighborhoods five days after Hurricane Sandy struck New York.  Neighbors and family members help the elderly carry their water and food home.

Church and progressive organizations had begun similar distributions earlier and some stores are giving passersby the food that they would otherwise have had to throw away because it is spoiling without refrigeration.

What is really needed is a program that would supply generators to run the pumps for all the Con Edison customers without power.  Then with the water flowing, the next step would be to get food to the people.

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