Co-op City: health scare ‘non-story’

Management and residents at Co-op City are split over no notice being given over two cases of Legionaires disease there in 2012.
Photo by Patrick Rocchio

After the news of two cases of Legionnaires disease spread throughout Co-op City earlier this month, some residents are upset their managing company didn’t keep them in the loop.

There were two separate cases of the water borne, potentially fatal pneumonia in June 2012 and July 2013 in Building 27 of the cooperative housing development, managed by Riverbay Corp.

A city Department of Health spokesperson said the department investigated the cases and tested the water system, and found no evidence of any problems. There is no reason to believe the water at Co-op City made anyone sick, they said.

“We found their water systems to be well maintained, but offered some recommendations for general preventative measures to reduce any potential growth of Legionella,” they said.

Residents not informed

The recommendations to decrease the risk of legionella included maintaining the water temperature in the building and disinfecting shower heads and faucets. Neither the suggestions, nor any notice about the disease or investigation were passed on to residents of Co-op City.

Riverbay manager Herbert Freedman said the suggestions were just boilerplate recommendations to prevent legionella in general, not specific to Co-op City.

He argued that because the health department found no evidence the legionella originated in the development, he said, residents did not need to be alerted.

“Two cases over a year apart does not an epidemic make,” Freedman said.

“A non-story”

He said his office has not been fielding many complaints, and that he thinks the issue is a non-story.

But some residents said they wished they had been alerted to the cases of legionnaires disease anyway.

“They should’ve notified their tenants that there was a possibility of it and what the ongoing investigation was,” said resident Darlene Thomas.

Resident Janet Gibson was less concerned, and said she wasn’t sure why people were so excited about the cases that had happened last year, when nothing could be done now about the situation.

“But something should’ve been said, I totally agree with that,” she said.

It was wrong not to inform tenants, said resident Pat Brown, even if the health department determined there was no risk.

“Let us be the judge of things,” she said.

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at (718) 742–3383. E-mail her at

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