2005-10-21 / Community

JASA Elderly Residents Suffer Through Wet Weather

By Brian Magoolaghan

Ruth Oringer, 75, inside her rain-soaked apartment last week.Ruth Oringer, 75, inside her rain-soaked apartment last week.

  • Even with a ceiling overhead and 14 floors between her apartment and the ground level the relentless rain last week turned one elderly Far Rockaway woman’s apartment into a stuffy, rain-soaked nightmare.
  • Ruth Oringer, a 75-year-old JASA resident, called The Wave last Friday after, she said, she endured two days without a meal and three days without bathing. Flooding in the basement of her building had cut off fresh water and knocked out elevator service from the lobby.

    Water pumps were still at work on the scene this week.Water pumps were still at work on the scene this week. A Wave reporter arrived last Friday to find the parking lot swamped with 10 inches of rainwater, pumps drawing water from the building’s boiler room and residents clad in rain slickers carrying buckets back from other buildings that still had fresh water. A pushcart with bottled water sat in the rain just outside the building. Residents huffed and puffed in the stairwell.

    Up on the 15th floor, water had seeped into Oringer’s apartment from every direction: under the door, around the windows and down from the ceiling (the two floors above did little to block the downpour).

    “I don’t know how it bypasses the other floors and lands here,” said superintendent Henry Jackson, who checked in on Oringer as another worker used a vacuum to suck up water in the hallway and JASA management prepared to relocate Oringer to a dry apartment.

    With roach baits floating around in her kitchen and water up around the bottom of the refrigerator, Oringer said she feared she could be electrocuted if she stepped in to cook up a frozen dinner. The water soaked into the carpet near the apartment’s entrance first and then made its way down the hall, past her bathroom and into her bedroom. The carpets slurped with every step.

    “They’re killing me in this apartment,” Oringer, a retired Peninsula Hospital worker who was once active on the local political scene, told The Wave. “I was such a strong woman when I moved in,” she added as she held back tears.

    After seven days of rain, Oringer’s living room was as damp and musty as a gym sock. The wind blasted her windows with rain, forcing water into browned walls of her apartment and keeping her from gaining ventilation. Droplets could be seen forming on the ceiling, then sliding along a dampened runway and finally dropping to the ground where plastic bags and pots were spread out.

    Oringer, who uses a walker and suffers from high blood pressure, was restricted to her couch, where she sat as she told The Wave how the apartment belonged to her late parents before she took it over in 1988. Rent, she said, costs her $615 per month. From the couch Oringer also pointed out the evidence of deterioration: a 6-foot long crack in her dining room wall and areas were water damage was causing plaster to crack and peel.

    “You can’t clean, you can’t do anything,” she said woefully.

    “This has been going on for years,” Oringer said as she cut up a cardboard box so she could place it on the floor to soak up water. “It floods and floods every time it rains but this is unusual – everyone is suffering,” she said. “Until the roof collapses, nothing’s going to happen.”

    But what has been going on for years, according to JASA managers, is a back and forth struggle with Oringer over renovations to her apartment. The building, located at 155 Beach 19 Street, is operated by JASA, the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged – Far Rockaway Brookdale Village Housing Corporation. Donna Stewart, JASA’s District Property Manager told The Wave that Oringer is “an extremely special case” because she has refused to relocate to another apartment while renovations are performed. Temporarily forcing Oringer out could be their only option, she said.

    “She can be very stubborn,” saidSusan Leshen, JASA’s Director of Socialwork Services. “Everything that can be offered to this woman has been offered.”

    Stewart and Leshen agreed that last week could bring more cooperation from Oringer.

    Meanwhile, two female residents who would not give their names because they feared the building management’s reaction complained that their rugs and floors were also soaked and blamed their leaks on “defective” windows. They said “lukewarm water” was restored this week.

    Stewart said JASA was taking every step to help residents with what she described as a near-natural disaster. The conditions there, she added, were not indicative of the services JASA offers seniors.

    Miriam Rosenberg contributed to this story.

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