CDC called in as 10 die in Bronx Legionnaires’ disease outbreak

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, speaks about the outbreak of Legionnaire's Disease in the South Bronx, which has claimed 10 lives so far.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to request help from the CDC, as Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak  spreads in the South Bronx, killing 10 and infecting 100 residents.

By Carmen Glover

As the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease widened in the South Bronx, New York, claiming ten lives and sickening 100 residents, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr appealed to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo to call in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday, August 6, to investigate and provide specialized assistance.

Stating that the level of anxiety “is very high,” Diaz solicited intervention from the governor, as Mayor Bill de Blasio downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak, while City Health Commissioner Mary Bassett insisted that the city was taking the issue “very seriously.”

“During the course of our actions fighting the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in the Bronx, it has been revealed that there is no inspection mechanism for coolant systems, rooftop water tanks and other standing water infrastructure that could be a breeding ground for this disease and others,” Diaz said in a statement, “The city must create a new inspection system for these systems just as we inspect other critical systems such as elevators.”

legionnaires outbreak

Legionnaires’ disease has infected and killed more people in the Bronx than the three people who died from Ebola disease in the entire United States in 2014 when a national effort was coordinated to keep the nation safe.

The disease was traced to cooling towers in five area buildings, including Lincoln Hospital, which treats hundreds of patients daily for ailments ranging from mental health disease, drug addiction to respiratory disease. The South Bronx is considered an epicenter for asthma in the city. Governor Cuomo has indicated that business owners in the city and state can request for their cooling towers to be tested for contamination, at no cost to them.

Lincoln Hospital was the site of confirmed cases of Legionnaire's Disease and the hospital's cooling towers were subsequently disinfected and cleaned.

Lincoln Hospital was the site of confirmed cases of Legionnaire’s Disease and the hospital’s cooling towers were subsequently disinfected and cleaned.

On Monday, August 3, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, hosted members from the New York City Health Department in an informational session at the Bronx Museum of the Arts on the Grand Concourse, where worried residents sought answers and reassurance that they would be safe.

In the meantime, de Blasio has instructed a response team to make emergency calls to building owners and property managers in the Bronx to make sure that wherever cooling towers are located, they are cleaned within 14 days.

Residents of the South Bronx, New York City, line up to ask questions about Legionnaire's Disease at a public forum this week.

Residents of the South Bronx, New York City, line up to ask questions about Legionnaire’s Disease at a public forum this week.

This new outbreak comes on the heels of a similar Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak in Co-op City in the North East Bronx, last year, which left residents violently ill. So far, the residents who have died from the disease in the South Bronx have been elderly and had pre-existing health conditions which weakened their immune systems.

However, because the disease is spread from mists in the air, every person who walks in the South Bronx can potentially inhale the deadly mist and contract the disease, which made the mayor’s refusal to seek assistance from the CDC a head-scratcher for nervous residents.


29-year-old Co-op city resident Ron Hines, is embraced by his father. Hines was sickened with Legionnaires’ disease in November 2014 and has still not fully recovered. He filed a lawsuit early this year. Residents sickened in the latest outbreak in the South Bronx have also begun the process of filing lawsuits.

Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s Disease travels in the air and is often concentrated in cooling towers from which the infected mist sprays into the atmosphere. The disease triggers a severe form of pneumonia that is especially brutal for residents who have pre-existing health conditions such as respiratory disease, those who are very young or elderly.

As the new round of the outbreak spreads in the South Bronx, the first lawsuit was filed against the city. Residents who were sickened in Co-op City filed lawsuits early this year.–


Increased carrying charges/garage fees loom in Co-op City for new fiscal year

Co-op City is home to more than 50,000 residents.

Co-op City is home to more than 50,000 residents, who invested a significant amount of money in exchange for an affordable, safe, and comfortable housing environment.

By Carmen Glover

While taking a victory lap for ridding Co-op City of the destructive and corrupt Marion Scott Real Estate Inc. (MSI), the Riverbay Board of Directors, which manages Co-op City, announced in different financial presentations recently that carrying charges and parking garage fees will be increased by 4.5 percent during the upcoming fiscal year.

Aerial shot of Co-op City

Aerial view of Co-op City.

Sandwiched between providing a breakdown of the board’s reasons for settling an employee lawsuit brought against Riverbay Corporation and Marion Scott Real Estate Inc. for unlawful employment practices, board president Cleve Taylor suggested that imposing the increases was the best solution to settle the $8 million agreement and satisfy the cost of cleaning Co-op City’s cooling tower where legionella bacteria, which sickened several residents, was discovered by New York Department of Health.

For many shareholders, the increases add more burden to financially stretched households. However, the 4.5 percent increase will take effect in the fall of 2015, regardless of the disastrous impact shareholders anticipate.  For information about how to voice your concerns about the looming increases, contact Riverbay’s offices at 718-320-3300–

Legionnaires’ Disease, corruption and distrust engulf Co-op City (Part1)


Co-op City Father attends to his 29-year-old son, Ronald Hines, who was diagnosed with Legionnaires’ Disease in December 2014, spending 9 days in the Intensive Care Unit. He faces a long rehabilitation period to regain normal functioning.

By Carmen Glover

Feelings of rage emanated from frustrated Co-op City shareholders on Tuesday, January 13, during a town hall meeting which was convened in the community by New York City Health Department officials and Riverbay Corporation representatives. The meeting was held to address the outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease, since December 2014, in the cooling towers of the sprawling complex which contains 35 residential buildings that house over 50,000 residents.

‘We did find preliminary positives in the cooling towers. We are continuing to investigate and continue to test other sites,” Health Department expert Dr. Sharon Balter said at the town hall meeting. While stating that the disease is “easy to treat,” she explained that the bacteria “lives in water and people generally get it from breathing in mists of water that have it.” Balter was quick to point out that the legionella bacteria has been concentrated in the cooling towers, which are not connected to the water supply for drinking, cooking and bathing .

Co-op City has experienced an outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease.

Co-op City has experienced an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease.

Legionnaires’ is an infection caused by a type of bacteria called Legionella and the most severe form of the infection leads to pneumonia. The bacteria are found in water, whirlpool spas, hot tubs, large plumbing systems, cooling towers and evaporative condensers of large air-conditioning systems. The disease was named after an outbreak in Philadelphia in 1976 among people attending a state convention of the American Legion. Symptoms of the disease include fever, chills, cough, muscle aches, headaches, tiredness, loss of appetite, confusion and diarrhea. The elderly and people who smoke as well as those who have compromised immune and lung disease are most at risk of contracting the disease.

“The cooling towers are being cleaned and disinfected,” said Jeffrey Buss, Co-Op City’s General Counsel. “Public health and safety are our primary concern. We are doing everything possible to eliminate any risk that may exist.”

During the meeting, health officials delivered a Power Point presentation and promised to provide an updated report to the community within a week. According to the health officials, 12 cases of the disease have been identified in the Bronx, eight of which have been identified in Co-op City. The eight cases in Co-op City have been diagnosed in shareholders residing at 600 Baychester Avenue, 120 Benchley Place, 120 Casals Place, 100 Darrow Place, 140 Dekruif Place, 100 Elgar Place and 100 Erskine Place. In March 2014, two persons in Building 27 contracted the disease but it was kept quiet by Riverbay Corporation, which manages Co-op City.

Aerial shot of Co-op City

Aerial view of Co-op City, where an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease has been identified in the complex’s cooling towers.

But residents of the complex were skeptical as they listened to the officials downplay the dangers of the bacteria leading to a widespread outbreak, especially because the people who have contracted the disease do not reside near to the cooling towers.

“I do not believe a word of what you all are saying. You are all liars,” said outspoken community activist Frank Belcher, striding to the front of the room to offer his succinct and spicy assessment after the presentation by the city officials. “Who are you to tell me that my drinking water is safe?”

Belcher was not alone in expressing disdain. Indeed, many shareholders expressed a profound sense of betrayal, anger, fear and concern born out of disappointment that when the two original cases of the disease were discovered in the complex in 2012, they were kept secret by Marion Scott Real Estate Inc. (MSI). Eventually, Riverbay Vice President Daryl Johnson disclosed to the public that the two cases of Legionnaires’ existed, and a local newspaper carried the story.

MSI was unceremoniously booted from its lucrative role of managing Co-op City after a series of financial management, corruption and cronyism that has plunged the corporation into debt, attracted lawsuits and pending investigations, while the buildings stumbled into general disrepair. Meanwhile, shareholders find it difficult o accept any reassurances from the complex’s representatives as being entirely truthful.

Co-op City is home to more than 50,000 residents.

Co-op City is home to more than 50,000 residents.

Anguish tinged the voice of a concerned father, Mr. Hines, who described his once-healthy 29-year-old son, Ronald Hines, who was hospitalized for nine days in the Intensive Care Unit in  December 2014 after contracting the disease.

“My son has been through a lot, He lost mobility. He lost his speech. It’s horrible,” Mr. Hines said, while revealing that his once healthy son, who smokes, is still not able to function and perform routine activities of daily living. Discussing the outbreak on a recent newscast, ABC Medical Director Dr. Richard Besser was detailed.

“The bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ can live in the slime that can build up inside the cooling tower so if it’s not cleaned properly it can spray and spread.” That could explain why residents in different buildings are affected.

The distrust between the shareholders and the representatives from the Health Department and Riverbay Corporation is rooted in the corporation’s extensive history of corruption, which has systematically traveled with each new reincarnation of the Board of Directors. The complex is awash in lawsuits and investigations brought by various entities including the booted MSI and former employees.

In the meantime, Cleve Taylor, president of the Riverbay Board of Directors, has suggested that shareholders should brace for “carrying charge increases” to offset the cost of cleaning the cooling towers and satisfying the cost of settling an $8 million lawsuit filed by Riverbay employees who alleged that they were routinely robbed of overtime pay and given time off instead.

One constant in Co-op city is that without a doubt, there is always mismanagement, followed by elaborate explanations to justify hefty carrying charge increases that shareholders insist they can ill afford.–