Southern Brooklyn

Cymbrowitz Criticizes Verizon For Discontinuing Russian-Language Phone Support

Photo by Erica Sherman
Photo by Erica Sherman

The following is a press release from the offices of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

Russian-speaking Verizon customers would do well to have a translator handy if they want to complain about FIOS or question a bill. Following a number of complaints from constituents, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn) has learned that Verizon has discontinued its customer support phone line for Russian-speaking customers, leaving people unable to resolve issues such as service outages, billing, and general account inquiries.

“The explanation offered by Verizon was that the volume of customers did not warrant a dedicated department,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. “Give me a break. There are over 200,000 Russian-speaking people in New York City. That’s absurd.”

He said that a phone line with an answering machine was offered to provide callbacks for Russian-speaking customers instead, but was also shut down. Attempts at restoring service for non-English speakers have been unsatisfactory, he said. Spanish is the only language option currently offered.

Assemblyman Cymbrowitz recently wrote to the NYS Public Service Commission about the issue and noted that Russian-speaking customers currently have two options to reach a customer representative at Verizon. The first is through his district office during regular business hours. “The second option requires non-English speakers to navigate an English-only phone menu to reach an English-speaking representative, and then have the English language skills to provide enough information to arrange a call back,” he said. “This is an insurmountable task for most non-English speakers and neither of these options provides immediate assistance.”

Making the problem worse is Verizon’s management of the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline Program, which provides low-cost phone service for recipients of public assistance. Lifeline requires annual recertification over the phone and Verizon offers no language preference. As a result, many Russian-speaking people fail to recertify in time. “They’re dropped from the program and are responsible for increased bills until they re-enroll,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said.

“Verizon has to stop treating our Russian speaking residents like second-class citizens. It’s outrageous and must be corrected,” he said.

Comment policy


  1. what’s absurd is that people do not want to learn how to speak English anymore. The complete and utter lack of trying to assimilate is ridiculous, especially here in Southern Brooklyn. It should be seen as a privilege to learn the language of the country you’re residing in, not to just set up shop, make America your home and then still act like you’re in the country you’re originally from.

  2. He states there are 200,000 who speak Russian. The question is how many of them speak little or no English, not how many speak Russian. I would bet that most are fluent in English.

  3. With all due respect to NYC’s Russian residents and Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, how many of then actually subscribe to Verizon. I’m not xenophobic, but perhaps it was not cost-efficient to maintain translators if there isn’t a sufficient number of Russian customers to warrant such a service.

  4. “Over 200,000 in NewYork City”?! For crying out loud, when I walk from my Condo on Avenue “Z”, to Emmons Avenue on a nice day, I feel like I am passing 200,000 of our new comrades, just on that stroll! We must have at least 350,000 in southern Brooklyn alone, and with the turmoil in the Ukraine, we should expect a lot more coming! And quite frankly, i find most of them to be very nice, warm, and educated people! They are certainly welcome, to the real workingman and woman’s paradise! Come on Verizon, tear down that language wall, and put back up the acceptance, of the Tower!!!

  5. How about Cymbrowitz talking about how the RUSSIANS ARE RIPPING OFF THE SYSTEM. We all know he knows exactly what is going on and what does he do. NADA—NOTHING. I guess it’s ok for the same RUSSIANS to get free ambulette rides to the free doctor several times every week. They even come home with their plastic shopping bags filled with groceries. They love wearing their leather boots and leather jackets and leather handbags, while whipping out their BENEFIT CARDS!!!!!!!!!! It’s about time that something is done about it. PS Almost forgot about free home attendants and some even get a visiting nurse 2 times a day, 7 days a week. Maybe it’s about time this LEACHES learned how to speak English. They would learn real fast, if they were told, that had to speak ENGLISH in order to get their FREEBIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    That is the real truth too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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