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  October 20, 2015

Housing Commissioner Touts Privatization as Residents Remain Without Water for Five Days

TRNN's Eddie Conway follows up with city officials and residents concerning the lack of water and unsanitary conditions at the Baltimore city housing complex
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CAPTION: On Sunday, October 18, 2015 Baltimore City Housing Authority released a statement to the public concerning the water shutoff at Lakeview Towers.

“HABC takes the care and safety of its residents very seriously. The agency is taking the necessary steps to repair a broken water pump at Lakeview Towers and to ensure that resident needs are being met during this time...

“Each resident was notified on Friday and given a 4-day supply of water, plus there is additional water on site. Two hospitality apartments at Lakeview Towers have been made available to residents.

“The Lakeview Towers Tenant Council was also notified and signs were posted in the elevators and lobby areas on Friday. Each resident provided with a status update when the water was delivered...

“Further, HABC staff has been continuously on site since Friday afternoon to assist residents as needed and to check in with elderly residents with special needs.

Staff will remain onsite until water is restored. Lunch was provided for the residents today. Water service is expected to be restored on Monday...”

EARNESTINE CLEMENS, LAKEVIEW TOWERS RESIDENT: Yes, okay. My name is Earnestine Clemens. I live 727 Druid Park Lake Drive, Apartment 4G. I don't like--because we don't have no water, we don't have no heat. We have to come downstairs to get water to flush our toilets and wash our dishes with it.

And it's not good. It's not good for people to have to go with the situation to use water downstairs when we should have had water upstairs in our apartment.

SPEAKER: These are my buckets of water for my toilet. This is what I had to put in my toilet to make sure [inaud.]. This part right here, we had to fill all these [bottles] up for my hands. To wash my dishes and et cetera. There's just toilet alone, because it takes one of these half just to make sure it go down, then I had to do the [other one]. Come down here all night till 2:00 in the morning. Throwing out my shoulders and everything is hurting. This I had to do to put for, food for the, wash the dishes, food, or whatever. This one--this is the way we got to flush our toilets. This is sickening. Four days, now. This is sickening. I'm sore. Some of these elderly people can't even get that.

CAPTION: Last night, pressure from residents who had been living without water for four days prompted Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano to visit Lakeview Towers. He gave a brief statement exclusively to the Real News.

PAUL GRAZIANO, BALTIMORE HOUSING COMMISSIONER: [Inaud.] is that the pump, water pump, broke down, what, late Friday? Late Friday afternoon. We ordered a new pump. It will not be here till Monday morning, they could not get it over the weekend. We've made all the accommodations we can in terms of providing water for folks. And we have two apartments--which side is shut down?

SPEAKER: This side is shut down. There's two apartments on the other side.

GRAZIANO: Two apartments on the other side that are available.

SPEAKER: We have staff here all weekend.

GRAZIANO: Staff all weekend. It's a very unfortunate situation. It's an old building. This is why we're doing the RAD program here. There's all kinds of systems work that needs to be replaced.

CAPTION: On Monday other elected officials followed, including Carl Stokes and Nick Mosby gave statements about what needed to be done. Still, residents were living without water.

CARL STOKES, COUNCILMAN, 12TH DISTRICT: Well, I'm here because I heard over the weekend, as many of us did, what was going on with the residents here at Lakeview Towers. And I was just greatly bothered and--but see it's been happening. It's not my district, but it has been happening across the city for public housing residents for too much. We've got a situation where women have been preyed upon, for example, because they needed to get repairs done. And we had some very unscrupulous people.

But having said that, what I'm most upset about is that these incidents are known. And they are allowed to fester and to go on for days and sometimes weeks without people in higher places fixing them, most immediately. This past weekend people said they were out of town. Well, there certainly ought to be people who are in town who know what to do and how to do it, and can get it done without permission.

MOHAMMED ABDUL, LAKEVIEW TOWERS RESIDENT: In the population here you have people that are sick. You know, beside myself, I have cancer all in my body. You have cancer patients here. You have people on dialysis machines. You know, you have people with HIV and AIDS in here. The majority of the population--and Lakeview Towers is sick. If we even drink that contaminated water, we're going to be sicker. Those who can't walk. Fire break out, they're going to burn up. You know what I'm saying? Because some of the sprinklers don't even work. You know, the [sister] we just interviewed, her kitchen caught on fire. There was no one to help her from the third floor down to this lobby to get her out. You know what I'm saying? The health department need to come in here bad.

EDDIE CONWAY, TRNN: We just drove past here yesterday and seen all these people out here in the cold. You were saying that it should have been taken care of. What's your position here?

NICK MOSBY, COUNCILMAN, 7TH DISTRICT: Well I mean, it's probably going on--everybody known about it since Friday. I didn't--wasn't communicated to until yesterday. But at the end of the day when you deal with living conditions and you're city government, it's up to us to ensure that we can provide the best amenities, the best options for these folks. To have folks--many of which are on medicine, many of which have severe health issues, staying in a place without proper heat and everything is just unacceptable.

CONWAY: Is it your understanding that this will be addressed and fixed today?

MOSBY: I don't know if the problem is going to be completely fixed today. What I do know is everybody who is dealing with this issue will be taken care of, as it relates to--provided with hotel accommodations, as well as they're going to provide all the meals until we get out of the situation. So lunch and dinner tonight, breakfast lunch and dinner in the morning, into the foreseeable future until they're able to correct the water pump issue.

CONWAY: I'm just curious, because I understand that these buildings are up to be privatized.

MOSBY: So the building is going to be completely renovated. All--every single apartment is going to be completely renovated. The actual developer has not settled yet with the city from a contractual perspective, but that's the plan.

CONWAY: What's the status of the residents if this happens? I mean, are they going to be able to maintain their residency?

MOSBY: Oh yeah, totally. So nothing will change as relates to the residents. Even during construction, there's about 60 vacant apartments. So they'll move into an apartment that's vacant while their apartment is being fixed up. I think the plan has been communicated to the residents. They're very comfortable with it. Initially I thought that they would have a lot of problems, but they're really comfortable with, one, the plan to do the fixing up, but then also two, you know, the outcome of the way the building is going to look.

CONWAY: All right, well, thank you. But I'd be remiss if I didn't ask you, there's a rumor floating around town that you might be running for mayor?

MOSBY: I'm seriously considering it, brother Conway.

CONWAY: Okay. All right. Well, thank you.

MOSBY: No, thank you.

CAPTION: Monday morning city officials decided to bus residents who wanted to leave to a hotel.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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