Barnard dorm 620 W 116th St has been experiencing significant water supply issues over the past five days. This is an ongoing story.
As classes begin and students return to life on campus, residents of the Barnard dorm 620 W 116th Street (“620”) have been doing so without water.
Since Sunday, January 15, residents of 620 have reported inconsistent or nonexistent access to water from sinks, showers, and toilets due to a water valve issue. As the Spring semester began, approximately 180 residents had to significantly alter their daily routines in order to access water.
Although complications began three days earlier, Barnard ResLife did not reach out to residents of 620 until January 18. While Facilities and CARES representatives were present in the building, communicating directly with residents about the magnitude of the issue, the residents were not informed about the root of the issue.
The same day, ResLife contacted 10th floor residents to organize alternative showering options, as they were presumed to be the only residents still impacted by the water issues. However, 9th floor residents later reported a lack of shower water access via the building’s student GroupMe chat. ResLife told residents that the complications would be resolved by the night of January 18, but they have not since been resolved. A statement from a Barnard spokesperson noted that they are working to repair the water valve and will “mitigate disruption and provide assistance where needed.”
In the absence of communication from ResLife and Facilities administration, RAs stepped up to provide support for their residents, recommending them to use the two bathrooms accessible in the lounge of 616 W 116th Street next door. They encouraged residents to reach out to ResLife and to use GroupMe to maintain communication as conditions continued to change.
Throughout the last six days, residents of 620 identified workarounds to the inconsistent water supply. Once sink water returned, some students resorted to gathering water in pots to shower and flush toilets. Residents whose water had returned also opened their doors to those still experiencing issues.
“It’s been a huge hassle, and while friends are happy to open up their bathrooms for me and my suitemates, it’s uncomfortable to have to rely on others,” stated a resident of the 10th floor. “It’s also bad timing since we just returned from the holidays followed directly by MLK Day. Some of us weren’t able to shower after coming back from long flights. Facilities have been checking in every so often, but it’s been four days and there hasn’t been a proactive response to let us know that an actual effort to fix things is underway.”
A follow-up email from ResLife sent on January 19 indicated that the problem had been identified as a water pressure issue now impacting floors seven through ten. The same email also stated that water would be turned off on Friday, January 20 as work was done to restore full pressure. Water bottles were provided to residents while water was shut off.
This infrastructural issue is not the first for the building this academic year. In December 2022, three suites reported collapsed bathroom ceilings. Again, residents relied on friends and neighbors for access to showers until ResLife identified alternative showering locations while repairs occurred later that day. According to the same statement from the Barnard spokesperson, this issue has since been resolved.
A similar issue occurred last January in 620 Unit 1C when a kitchen sink overflowed due to the continuous flow of wastewater coming through the pipes. The issue went unresolved for over a week, leaving residents of the unit to continuously dump the wastewater into the tub and toilet.
Built in 1908, 620 W 116th Street was sold to Barnard in 1966 as a residential hall for students. The building has four suite-style apartments per floor with the higher floors coveted by upperclassmen during the housing lottery each year. However, the significant infrastructural issues of the past year have caused residents to reflect on Barnard housing overall. “These events have shown that there’s a lack of oversight into maintenance in general with [building] infrastructure,” a resident told Bwog. “I can’t say whether I’d recommend [living in] 620 or not because this is not just an issue with this building…[but] it’s worrisome and stressful to live with the possibility of your bathroom ceiling caving in.”
Below is a full statement by a Barnard spokesperson concerning the issue:
Barnard is working to repair a water valve issue in 620 West 116th Street, which has contributed to water supply issues for some students in the building. We will continue to work with students to mitigate disruption and provide assistance where needed. There was a separate issue in December that affected three suites, which has since been resolved.
Email from ResLife to residents of 620 on January 19 at 7:08 pm:
Dear Residents of 620,
As you may be aware, a water pressure issue has been affecting floors 7-10 of the building, and we have been in communication with those residents. We have identified the cause and will be able to make repairs tomorrow to restore full water pressure to the entire building. To complete this work, it is necessary to turn off the water to the building beginning tomorrow at 9am, Friday, January 20. It is our goal to have the water back on by tomorrow evening, and we will provide an update to all residents in the building later in the day.
We recommend that if you need to shower or use other water sources in your suite, you do so by 8:30am tomorrow. Residents who require toilet access during the day should use other buildings on campus (e.g. Milstein Center, Diana Center, Milbank Hall, Barnard Hall). Pallets of drinking water will be placed in the lobby of 620 by 8am for your use. If you have questions or other needs throughout the day, you can visit the Residential Life and Housing office in 110 Sulzberger Hall or call (212) 854-5561 between 9am and 5pm.
We appreciate your cooperation and patience during this unexpected repair work.
Residential Life and Housing
Publisher Charlotte Slovin and Deputy News Editor Emma Burris contributed to the reporting of this article.
620 W 116th Street via Bwog Staff
Water bottles via Charlotte Slovin
8B Ceiling pictures via current resident of 8B
1C sink via former resident of 1C
@Anonymous Columbia, being where the water tunnel from upstate surfaces, should have the CLEANEST water, but in fact the residences have such serious backflow issues so as to make it the most contaminated.
@Anonymous This building needs massive renovations or tear down.