In reaction to this month’s arsenic crisis at a Manhattan public housing complex, a new bill in the state Legislature would oblige NYCHA to supply tenants with free food if their drinking water is cut off.
The legislation, supported by Manhattan state Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Harvey Epstein, would require public housing authorities in New York to provide three free meals per day to residents if their water supply is disrupted.
According to Epstein and Hoylman, the measure was directly inspired by the situation that NYCHA’s Riis Houses encountered earlier this month when they were warned not to use their taps for more than a week due to a since-retracted discovery of arsenic in the water supply.
“It became clear that it wasn’t just about the water — people couldn’t cook,” Epstein said.
“If you lose water for more than 24 hours, the local government needs to step in. It’s clear they weren’t doing that,” Epstein added.
A spokesperson for NYCHA, Rochel Leah Goldblatt, declined to comment on the bill’s merits but said her organization is evaluating it and will ensure that “tenant needs are addressed in the case of an outage” in the future.
The arsenic concern began on September 2, when The City reported that NYCHA officials discovered levels of the hazardous chemical in the East Village housing complex’s water supply, which houses roughly 4,000 people.
The same day, residents were told not to drink or cook from their taps, and city personnel, including Mayor Adams, began distributing free bottled water.