Residents go nearly five days without water at NYCHA Millbrook Houses

Sign in front of the NYCHA Millbrook Houses in the South Bronx
At NYCHA’s Millbrook Houses, pictured here on Feb. 12, 2024, water disruptions are common — but a recent outage due to a water main leak left some residents without water for almost five days.
Photo Emily Swanson

Last week and over the weekend, residents of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Millbrook Houses experienced an unplanned water outage that lasted a few days for some — and nearly a week for others.  

“It was a pain in the ass, but we managed to get through,” said a 62-year-old resident of building 6 at 584 East 137th Street who declined to give his name — and he said it helped to see workers around the clock installing brand-new pipes. Service was finally restored Sunday, he said.  

The resident told the Bronx Times that during the outage, the water was completely off in his building from early in the morning until 11 p.m. or midnight. Water stations and bottled water were provided, he said, but it wasn’t enough for cooking and all other needs, so he ended up eating from restaurants during the whole period.

He also said with a shrug that water outages are nothing new to residents of Millbrook Houses — the city is “always turning the water off and on.” 

A search of service interruption history at the Millbrook Houses showed that since February of 2022, 27 unplanned outages of water and hot water have occurred, along with 39 planned outages. 

A NYCHA spokesperson told the Bronx Times via email that the outage was the result of “a significant subsurface water main leak caused by aging underground infrastructure” and that approximately 100 linear feet of pipe needed repair. He also said that the outage only affected residents of the top five floors of each building. The specific number of affected residents could not be obtained in time for publication.

But the outage — which was originally only supposed to affect “a few buildings,” according to the spokesperson — ended up spreading to all 10 buildings along Brook, St. Ann’s and Cypress Avenues between East 135th and 137th Streets in the South Bronx. 

According to the NYCHA Service Interruptions website as of the morning of Feb. 12, the outage took 113 hours to restore. 

Signs still up on Feb. 12, 2024 indicated the scope of the outage, which was greater than NYCHA officials originally anticipated. Photo Emily Swanson

“One of the messes”

J.P. Matthews, 55, told the Bronx Times he has lived in the Millbrook Houses his entire life. He said he never drinks tap water because it “comes out kinda white.”

“I’d say it’s unsafe,” he said. “It’s one of the messes that we have.” 

According to Matthews, who works in gardening, repair and maintenance around the complex, the same issue happened seven years ago but “all they did was put a Band-Aid on it” — resulting in the need for all new pipes now. 

Matthews said despite the problems at Millbrook, he can’t blame NYCHA officials for everything. He said residents themselves often sabotage efforts to keep the buildings clean and well-functioning. 

“The workers themselves, they do an amazing job,” he said. But “they fix one thing, then something else comes up.” 

Some are more frustrated by what they view as basic safety problems that the city is not addressing.

A Millbrook resident, who identified as Debra P., told the Bronx Times that her water problems started long before the shutoff, which for her lasted about three days. She said she had brown, smelly water coming from her bathroom faucet in building 1 at 180 Brook Ave.  

Even with new pipes and water back on, “I don’t trust it,” she said, adding that she became sick with a stomach infection that she believes was caused by the water. 

During the outage, Debra P. didn’t use the water from the NYCHA-provided water station and bought her own instead. “They’re treating us like…” she trailed off, shaking her head. 

“The pipes are corroded,” she said. “I don’t even wash up with that water.”

Reach Emily Swanson at [email protected] or (646) 717-0015. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes