Last weekend, the first three floors of the Residence Hall at Brooklyn College flooded, displacing a number of students and adding to rising tension among residents.
On the morning of Saturday, Oct. 5, a running toilet caused a water main break that flooded the third floor and leaked down into the second, first, and basement levels of the building at 1 Kenilworth Place. Residents of flooded rooms were quickly moved to empty rooms.
The flooding came only about a week after students on the sixth through eighth floors of the Residence Hall were moved to the lower five due to renovations.
Among the students affected by the flooding was Brooklyn College freshman Jorge Fernandez. On Saturday afternoon, Fernandez returned to his dorm after a night out with friends and found his apartment flooded with sewage water. Leaking had begun from the bathroom ceiling, and the water spread across the dorm. As Fernandez began trying to clean the bathroom, a leaky piece of ceiling plaster fell on his head.
“It was stinky—like full of pee and water, like dirty water,” Fernandez said.
An off-duty RA told Fernandez he and his roommate, who was away for the weekend, could switch rooms temporarily while the flooding was cleaned, so Fernandez moved his and his roommate’s belongings into a smaller room on the same floor. He left only his roommates’ shoes, which had been destroyed by sewage water.
The residence hall’s office was empty because it was the weekend, so it was Tuesday by the time the Fernandez and his roommate spoke with a staffer. They requested to move out of the building entirely, but were told that their year-long contract could not be shortened.
A month earlier, in his second week in Brooklyn, freshman Valentino Coniglio was in a similar predicament. His toilet overflowed after running overnight and water spread across his floor, damaging belongings on his floor, including his backpack. Coniglio stayed in the room, however, and it eventually dried. Several weeks later, he was told to move, along with the other residents of the sixth, seventh, and eighth floors. He moved to a downsized room on the second floor, across the hall from Fernandez’s future alternate room.
Both Fernandez and Coniglio feel the flooding and displacement has affected their school year. Fernandez didn’t attend classes the first few days after his move, tackling homework that had backlogged over his hectic weekend. Thankfully, his professors were understanding. One of them suggested he call 311 and find out what rights he held as a resident in the hall.
“This tag of ‘Residence Hall at Brooklyn College,’ it just sounds like they’re trying to say, ‘Hey, this is a place where students are welcome. This is a place where students will get to meet, spend time, study,’” said Coniglio. “ I’ve barely had time to do that. I’ve been so caught up in fixing everything that’s been literally falling apart around me.”
A list of scandals has stalked the Residence Hall at Brooklyn College over the past few years. In 2017, student filmmaker Chris Omar began documenting the conditions of the dorm rooms on YouTube. He later chronicled a sexual assault at the building in an award-winning short documentary, “You Found a Home.” Omar also petitioned Brooklyn College to break ties with RHBC. The school complied in March of this year, announcing it would retract all advertisements and allow its lease with RHBC to expire in Spring 2020.
Almost six months later, however, the building’s sign reading “Residence Hall @ Brooklyn College” stands unchanged, and on Brooklyn College’s website, the residence hall is still labeled on the campus map. Advertisements for the residence hall are all over the Boylan cafeteria.
In wake of the flooding and renovations, frustration runs high among the residents, most of whom are Brooklyn College students. They’ve become accustomed to the running pattern following each disaster at 1 Kenilworth. Students have complained to Brooklyn College more than once about RHBC, but the building is privately owned and outside the school’s oversight. The hall itself seems to be run by young RAs and student employees.
“It’s just a bunch of teenagers,” said one resident.
Excluding security, the only employee who is not a student is the office book-keeper, who was not available for comment.
The owner of RHBC Management Corporation, Yosef Zvieli, visits his establishment only several times a year, according to an employee. Zvieli was not available for comment.