Tandon Students Feel Neglected in Wake of Othmer Hall Flooding

Sakshi Venkatraman, News Editor

In the early hours of Monday, Feb. 19, six pipes burst on the fourth floor of Othmer Residence Hall in Brooklyn, leaving 24 students in six rooms on three floors submerged under inches of water.

The rupture occurred at approximately 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 19 and affected first-years and upperclassmen. According to Philip Schmiedl, assistant director of facilities, the pipes that burst were hot water lines in Othmer’s fourth floor heating unit.

Water dripping from Othmer’s ceiling woke students in affected rooms in the middle of the night.

“I suddenly heard a noise like water was pouring,” Tandon student and Othmer resident Jenny said. “I wasn’t sure what was happening because I was sleeping and the lights were off. It wasn’t until I walked toward the sound and the water hit me in the face that I realized what was going on. The first thing I did was talk to my [resident assistant], and they said they would call facilities. I just went back and tried to grab as much as I could save in time.”

During the next few hours, residents and RAs were in a state of confusion. With no official word from NYU about relocation, students moved to wherever they could find space — many simply taking their important belongings to a higher floor in Othmer, sleeping on the floor of their friends’ rooms.

Another Tandon student and Othmer resident Myra said she received a text from her RA at around 5 a.m., giving her friends and her the option of relocating to Greenwich Residence Hall in Manhattan until the problem had been taken care of. Myra opted to stay, as the commute from the Manhattan campus to Tandon in Brooklyn would be too long.

“There was water everywhere; we didn’t really feel safe anywhere,” she said. “My friend’s on the seventh floor, so we all went up to his room. Two people were sharing beds; I was sleeping on the floor.”

It wasn’t until 11:21 a.m. on Feb. 19 that the residents received an official update from university personnel. In an email from Senior Director of Residential Life Kate Baier, students in the affected areas were informed their transportation costs from the temporary relocation would be covered and their Othmer rooms were ready for reoccupation.

However, a few students returned to find their living spaces in poor condition.

“They just vacuumed up some of the water,” Myra said. “They used some of my suitemates’ towels to clean up. On another floor, they were using their jackets and their towels and their clothing to clean up.”

Even after the initial cleanup by NYU Facilities and Operations, Myra’s room was still affected by water damage and mold.

The laundry swipe machines in the building were also out temporarily of service, forcing some students to take their laundry to nearby laundromats and other NYU residence halls.

When Myra and her roommate reported their conditions to Baier, Greenwich’s Residence Hall Assistant Director Devin Budhram was sent to Othmer to coordinate additional cleaning and offer the residents more options for housing.

“He offered us housing at Greenwich and then took away [the offer] immediately,” Myra said. “He also said that we could move to Lafayette [Residence Hall] for 24 to 48 hours, but we would have to bring our own mattress.”

In an interview with WSN, Schmiedl claimed that most of these problems have since been addressed by Facilities, but some cosmetic work still needs to be done.

“We’re still in the process of correcting the water damage, like letting the rooms dry out and getting the students back there,” he said. “I have vendors coming to replace items in the drywall with an outside contractor. We’re working on that diligently to get it done.”

Since then, however, Myra claims she has experienced strange sounds coming from her heating unit and a pungent smell on the affected floors.

“There’s a terrible smell coming from all of the flood floors today,” Myra wrote in a Facebook message on Thursday. “My suite mates [sic] and I were vomiting.”

Students like Myra and Jenny think NYU’s response to the flooding is just one example of the negligence Tandon students experience in comparison to their counterparts in Manhattan.

“It’s astonishing that we pay the same amount as you guys [Manhattan campus students] and our facilities are not acceptable here,” Myra said. “If you came to the Tandon campus, you would be shocked at the lack of cleanliness and the lack of treatment. It does not feel like NYU here.”

According to Othmer residents, the problems with their building and the Tandon campus in general goes beyond this single incident. Problems with cleanliness in Jasper Kane Dining Center have been recurring, as well as issues with the functionality of the building’s washing machines.

“It’s understandable that there would be problems in a campus so recently added to NYU,” Othmer resident and Tandon student Anthony said. “That’s expected. What’s unexpected is the slowness in which they address all of these issues. We just need NYU to care about what is going on over here.”

Disclaimer: The names of the Tandon students mentioned in the article have been changed to protect their privacy.


A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 26 print edition. Contact Sakshi Venkatraman at [email protected].