By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle threw cold water on the city’s plans to raise H2O usage rates, as Democrats and Republicans alike blasted the idea at public hearings.
Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) both submitted testimony at public hearings last week. The New York City Water Board held hearings in all five boroughs.
Gentile, who testified at a hearing in Bensonhurst on April 30, told the water board that hiking the rates homeowners and property owners have to pay is a terrible idea.
The rate increase was proposed by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which presented the idea to the water board last month.
“The proposed hike would translate to an average $52 per household annually,” Gentile told the board.
“You may hear the DEP boast that this is the ‘lowest increase’ we’ve seen in years but ask just about any homeowner and they will tell you their water bills are much too high! In fact, overall water rates have skyrocketed since 2005! So the term ‘lowest increase’ is somewhat of an oxymoron,” Gentile charged.
In her written testimony submitted into the record at the board’s Staten Island hearing on April 29, Malliotakis said the city’s residents simply can’t afford another increase. “Here in New York, the cost of living is exorbitant. High taxes, skyrocketing fees and a lagging economy have made every penny precious for our families. The cost of groceries, electricity, gas and other life essentials, when coupled with the ludicrous tolls local motorists pay to cross nearby bridges, has stretched budgets as thin as they can be. One would think that, in light of these indisputable facts, city government would look for ways to help New Yorkers save money, rather than continue to pilfer from their pockets,” she said.
Malliotakis called the proposed rate hike, “irresponsible, unconscionable, and simply unacceptable for our cash-strapped families and businesses.”
Water is not a luxury, Malliotakis pointed out to the board. “It is a basic necessity that we cannot exist without. We should not be taking advantage of the fact that residents require this service and using it as an excuse to tax them to death,” she said.
If the water board approves the 5.6 percent increase, the new rate would go into effect July 1.
DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland contended that the rate hike is the lowest increase in eight years. “Today we are able to propose a rate lower than we anticipated thanks in large part to our continued commitment to be more efficient and cut costs without sacrificing the quality of the services we provide to New Yorkers,” he said in a statement.