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Thursday, April 23, 2009

More on the Impending Water Rate Hike

The City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the New York City Water Board plan to raise New Yorkers’ water rates by another 14% this year and charge penalties to water customers for denial of access or “theft of service”. If this year’s increase is approved, as of July 1 water rates will have risen by nearly 60% in just 4 years. Meanwhile, last year’s promised rate setting study has not yet been completed.

The Water Board will be holding hearings next week in each borough, though the members who began to challenge the status quo last year were for the most part replaced by the Mayor.

As we have done for the past fifteen years, University Neighborhood Housing Program will testify at the hearings and is urging community leaders, homeowners and concerned citizens to:

  1. speak against the 14% increase,
  2. call for a revision of the current formula for setting rates which requires rates to be set to fully cover the cost of operating the system, the cost of debt service for capital work and a rental payment to the City of New York, which is set at 15% of the debt service,
  3. urge the City to reduce the proposed rate increase by returning the excess rental payment to the Water Board,
  4. urge the City to closely monitor capital work costs. Overruns experienced at the filtration plant in the Bronx have increased the projected costs by three times. Soaring construction costs contribute substantially to the soaring rate increases, and
  5. ask the City to delay implementation of new penalties for denial of access to a property’s water meters until the procedures for notification and appeal are clearly presented.
To read more about the proposed penalties, check out the Water Watch NYC blog.

Read more about Comptroller Thompson’s efforts to fight off the rate increase in the Staten Island Advance and in this Daily News piece with accompanying video clip.

For more background on the issue and the need for comprehensive reform, read the report from UNHP's Water Rate Reform Summit last spring, or this summary essay.

Keep in mind that these increases come at a time when foreclosure rates continue to spike and many two and three family homeowners are in danger of having their water liens sold in the upcoming lien sale (single family homeowners just get their water service shut-off). We've also been getting calls from a number of homeowners who have defaulted on their payment arrangements and are being told DEP will only accept near full payments. Homeowners can check out this flyer to figure out where to go for help before the lien sale on May 1.

The Water Board’s Information Booklet (the Blue Book) describing the rate proposal and changes to billing policies can be downloaded here.

Those who wish to testify at one of the hearings should contact Kevin Kunkle at (718) 595-3601 ASAP, though walk-ins are usually welcome to testify at the hearings as well.

The schedule of hearings is as follows:

  • QUEENS: Monday, April 27th at 10 AM, Department of Environmental Protection Lecture Room, 6th Floor, 59-17 Junction Boulevard
  • STATEN ISLAND: Monday, April 27th at 7 PM, College of Staten Island Center for the Arts, Recital Hall, 2800 Victory Boulevard
  • BRONX: Tuesday, April 28th at 2 PM; Bronx Library Center, 310 East Kingsbridge Road
  • BROOKLYN: Wednesday, April 29th at 6 PM, Brooklyn College, Student Center – Alumni Lounge (opposite Whitehead Hall), East 27th Street and Campus Road
  • MANHATTAN: Thursday, April 30th at 5:30 PM, St. John’s University – Manhattan Auditorium, 101 Murray Street

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