Last month, Comptroller John Liu released a report stating that several hotels throughout the city owed nearly $2.7 million in unpaid bills.
According to Liu, the Department of Environmental Protection either failed to bill the establishments, or failed to collect on negligent property owners.
The hotels with outstanding balances were scattered across the city and included five-star luxury landmarks, downtown boutiques, airport chains, and single room occupancies.
In the case of the DEP failing to bill hotels, the report noted that the department relies on licensed plumbers to request and return DEP permits. “Not all plumbers follow this rule,” Liu said.
Apparently, hotels can go years without receiving water and sewer usage bills if the plumber installing the meter never informs the DEP.
In the case of other hotels—the ones that did not pay their bills—the DEP failed in enforcement, and was unaware of the unpaid bills prior to the comptroller’s report, said Liu.
The DEP has agreed with a majority of Liu’s recommendations, including retroactively billing all hotels and investigating how nearly 20 of the indebted hotels obtained certificates of occupancy without proper water metering.
“We’re pleased that DEP is finally collecting on this money we’ve identified,” said Liu. “As water rates continue to soar and some residents are now threatened with lien sales because they can’t pay their bills, it’s only fair that DEP also collects from these major players.”
Several of the hotels are in Rockaway Beach, but the total owed by those owners was barely $40,000 altogether. Near Kennedy International Airport, the debt was significantly higher.
The Hampton Inn JFK at 144-10 135th Avenue, which has since set up a payment plan, owes the city $58,628. The Holiday Inn JFK at 144-02 135th Avenue owes $63,073 and the Sheraton JFK at 151-20 Baisley Boulevard owes $24,059. Both the Holiday Inn and the Sheraton however, have filed for bankruptcy.
The DEP maintains 834,000 accounts for water and sewer service. More than 1,500 of those accounts are held by hotels, which have some of the heaviest water and sewer service use.