NYCHA Found Arsenic in the Water Two Weeks Ago — Tenants Only Found Out Friday Night

(THE CITY) GREG B. SMITH, September 4, 2022

Top managers were informed of tests showing traces of the heavy metal two weeks ago — but it wasn’t until THE CITY asked that the mayor abruptly showed up to distribute bottled water. 

The city’s public housing authority discovered traces of arsenic in the tap water at one of its biggest developments in Manhattan, the Jacob Riis Houses in the East Village, THE CITY has learned.

Late Friday, NYCHA began distributing bottled water at the sprawling complex that houses 2,600 tenants and opened in 1949. It’s named after the iconic 19th-century muckraker who authored “How the Other Half Lives,” an expose of squalid housing conditions endured by thousands of New York’s immigrants. 

Top NYCHA managers first learned of test results that indicated traces of arsenic were present in the water at the development about two weeks ago, according to two sources familiar with the situation.

Riis tenant Malina Barbosa told THE CITY on Friday that she had not been informed of the problem, although she noted that recently, “We don’t drink their water. It kind of smells. When they turn it off and it comes back on, it’s brown.” 

Hours after THE CITY reached out, City Hall announced at 9:56 PM that Mayor Adams was going to distribute water bottles at Jacob Riis Houses at 10:15 PM — and that he would not be taking press questions. 

At about 10:30 on Friday evening, a NYCHA spokesperson Barbara Brancaccio told THE CITY that the water at Riis had indeed previously tested positive for arsenic, but claimed that NYCHA had not confirmed that result until Friday.

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