Tenants displaced after Watertown condemns duplex

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 3:43 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - We’re still seeing effects from Sunday’s record-setting rain. A Watertown duplex has been condemned and its 6 tenants are displaced. On top of that, it has pitted residents against the landlord.

Tenants at 639 Emerson Street have their lives laid out on the lawn. Earlier this week they were told by Watertown Code Enforcement the property was being condemned.

“Where do you go from here? Where do you go and where do you feel safe,” said Joanne Petrie, tenant.

Heavy rains flooded the basement last weekend, pouring in foot after foot of water.

“The wall was just gushing, it wasn’t a trickle. It was like a river coming out of the wall. It was probably about three - four feet of water and then the driveway was, like, about another foot of water,” said Carolyn Bellfield, tenant.

The city’s fire department was called to pump that water out. Code officials were on hand, too and say the flooding uprooted the water heater.

That, along with a lack of electricity, are a couple reasons the department condemned the property Tuesday.

Fire officials say they had to pump the basement after heavy rains last month, too.

“A couple of weeks ago it was four feet of water,” said Petrie.

The tenants say they told their landlord, Meira Shapiro, about the first flooding, and expected someone to fix any issues.

“It was not addressed the first time and that’s why it happened again the second time,” said Petrie.

We asked Shapiro what she thinks happened. She declined a recorded interview, but sent a statement saying the tenants caused the flooding by blocking the basement’s floor drain. Shapiro adds she’s been in contact with code officials to fix the violations.

One of the displaced tenants says she hopes Shapiro treats the next renters better.

“Don’t make somebody go through this again. Don’t make it happen to somebody else. Do something about it. Fix it or close it down,” said Petrie.

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