When Carmen Oquendo opened her $28,000 water bill, the Throggs Neck 67-year old panicked.
Then she placed a phone call to Senator Jeffrey Klein.
“I needed someone to help,” Oquendo said.
Klein did just that. His office persuaded the city’s Department of Environmental Protection to inspect Oquendo’s home. DEP discovered a leaky toilet and lopped nearly $25,000 off the bill – a debt spanning some years.
“When I got the good news, I just broke down and cried,” Oquendo said. “It was a miracle, a Christmas miracle – like that movie, Miracle on 34th Street.”
The bill came as a nasty surprise to Oquendo, who suffers from a number of serious health problems and is of paltry means. She visited Klein in October. DEP showed up in November.
“I’m careful,” she said. “I wash my clothes off peak hours. I don’t water the lawn. I stay in bed most of the time.”
Years ago, Oquendo called Klein about an untidy tree and the senator took care of it. He had the Parks Department stop by and trim. Now Oquendo receives Klein’s circulars.
According to the retired Swinton Avenue resident, Klein enjoys a glowing reputation in the neighborhood.
“Carmen’s situation was so unusual that it could only have been an error,” Klein said. “I’m glad that my office was able to resolve the matter together with DEP. My office is here to help.”
Medical issues complicated Oquendo’s case; she is often sick and has trouble concentrating. Klein and DEP were considerate and accommodating.
“I know [Klein] is a very kind person,” Oquendo said. “His staff was wonderful. They were very patient and careful with my feelings. I spoke to nice people at the Water Board too.”
Oquendo recommended Klein to senior citizens in Throggs Neck, healthy or ill.
“He has connections,” she said. “Go to Senator Klein’s office. I’m extremely grateful.”