Water rates will rise in July

May 10, 2013 Helen Klein
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Over the objections of elected officials and city residents, the city’s Water Board has approved a water rate increase of 5.6 percent effective July 1.

While the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had touted the increase as being “the lowest in eight years,” there has been a resounding outcry against the increase, which DEP said was necessary to meet its financial obligations, but which will result in the effective doubling of the water and sewer rates that New Yorkers pay since 2007.

The proposed increase was first announced in April, and approved after five weeks of public comment, including a hearing in each borough.

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DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland said, on announcing the rate hike, “We’ve become more efficient, reducing our expenses without sacrificing the quality of the essential services we provide to New Yorkers, and our work has resulted in the lowest rate increase in nearly a decade.

“Any increase can be hard for our customers, and we will continue to look for ways to further tighten our belts and work with our regulators to reduce the burden of unfunded mandates so that New Yorkers get the best possible water and wastewater services at the most affordable rates,” Strickland concluded.

Elected officials in southwest Brooklyn were among those who expressed opposition to the increase. At the recent Brooklyn hearing, Councilmember Vincent Gentile had asserted, “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.”

Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis also provided testimony to the Water Board in opposition to the increase, noting, “The proposal to increase water rates by 5.6 percent is irresponsible, unconscionable, and simply unacceptable for our cash-strapped families and businesses. Water is not a luxury – 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.”

State Senator Marty Golden blasted the increase, pointing out, “Over  the  last  10  years, water and sewer rates have increased at a rate that  far  exceeds any other staple of daily life.  According to the Bureau of  Labor  Statistics,  the price of milk has increased 1.3 times its price from  2003  to  2013.  A loaf of bread has increased 1.4 times in that same time  period,  and  a  carton of eggs 1.6 times.” In contrast, in 2007, the cost per 100 cubic feet of water was $1.81 ($1.44 in 2003). With the increase, it will go up to $3.57.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio contends that the increased rates aren’t just used to maintain the city’s water mains and sewers. “Our homeowners and small businesses deserve better. This water rate hike isn’t just going to fund the water system. It’s being used to plug gaps in the city’s general budget,” he said.

“These hidden taxes are chipping away at the middle class, especially in the outer boroughs,” de Blasio added. “The Bloomberg administration needs to start leveling with New Yorkers and stop fleecing hard-working families.”

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