Seniors lose water, elevator service in NB Housing building in Saint John

Some seniors living at an NB Housing building on Saint John’s waterfront are upset about a lack of information, after they awoke to no water and soon found they wouldn’t be able to use the building’s elevators.

Residents of 33 Smythe St. woke up to no water, no elevator service and no answers

Bessie Gallant lives in a 12-storey seniors' building at 33 Smythe St. wants answers from NB Housing about the loss of water and elevator service Sunday. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

People living in a 12-storey seniors building on Saint John's waterfront are upset about a lack of response from NB Housing after they awoke Sunday morning to find no water or elevator service.

The apartment building at 33 Smythe St. houses dozens of seniors, many with mobility issues.

The location is attractive to many because of its access to local amenities through the uptown pedway system.

But after an apparent break in a water line, some residents are decrying a lack of adequate response from the building's management.

Bessie Gallant, 82, said she was awakened by a neighbour with news of a flood downstairs.

"It's like Niagara Falls" was how her neighbour described the scene, Gallant said.

She flipped on her television, which has a feed to the building's security cameras, and saw workers coming and going.

"Nobody reported anything to us from [NB] Housing, no one" she said.

Gallant said the building has an intercom system, which she thinks could have been used to inform residents. She was even more upset when elevator alarms began buzzing in the hallways.

"I still don't understand why no one could let us know what's going on," she said.

A provincial government van is shown outside of a 12-storey seniors' building in Saint John where tenants were looking for answers about a lack of water and elevator service. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Platoon Chief Steve Vautour said the Saint John Fire Department received a call from the building in the morning.

A break in a water line caused flooding in the basement and water leaked into the elevator, requiring the service to be shut down, he said.

Vautour said firefighters were unable to assist in stopping the water, so a plumber was called in.

A staff member at the nearby Hilton Hotel said the water problems had also temporarily closed underground access to Market Square.

Gallant lives on the 11th floor of the Smythe Street building and has bad knees, so she relies on the elevator.

"We've got our water back, but if we can't use the elevator, that's pretty restrictive," she said.

Wanda Pugh, who lives on the 11th floor of the Smythe Street high-rise, says a building superintendent is needed at the site. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Her neighbour Wanda Pugh said she too wished someone would tell her what the issue is.

"We haven't heard a peep, not a word."  

Pugh said she has bad lungs and relies on the elevators and would be stuck without them. "I know if I go down those stairs, I ain't gonna get back up. You can't go out the windows."

A little over a year ago, the building lost its dedicated superintendent, both woman said.

That has hampered the tenants' ability to get building problems sorted out, Gallant said.

"We should get the service for the rent that we're paying," she said.

Pugh agrees.

"There's nobody we can go to ... to ask questions" she said. She thinks the province should be doing more for the residents.

NB Housing is run through the Department of Social Development. Communications employees with the provincial government did not respond to a request for comment.