Queens residents, as well as those living throughout New York City, have had to shell out too much money for their water bills for far too long, with water rates jumping astronomically in recent years, according to a borough legislator who said he is determined to stop this.
Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) will once again introduce a bill when legislators return to Albany in January that would change the makeup of the Water Board – which determines water rates for all building owners, homeowners and businesses in the five boroughs. The bill, which was passed by an overwhelming majority, 117-19, in the Assembly last year but did not make it through the state Senate, would give the city Comptroller, City Council, and city public advocate appointments on the Water Board. Under current state law, the mayor has the power to appoint each of the board’s seven members.
Should Weprin’s legislation pass, which he said he expects to happen, the mayor would be able to appoint four of the seven members.
“One main reason it didn’t pass in the Senate this year was because Mayor Bloomberg didn’t support it, and he has influence with the Republicans in the Senate,” Weprin said. “I’m optimistic that Mayor de Blasio will support it. He and I had a hearing on these water rate increases when he was public advocate, and he’s been saying the same things that I have that the administration has been artificially raising the water rates unrelated to need.”
Since 1995, the Water Board has raised rates by an average of about 4.3 percent. However, there have been dramatic rate spikes beginning in 2007, with rates jumping by double digits.
The board leases the water and sewer infrastructure from the city. The board’s rental payments to the city are based on a formula that, until recently, simply reimbursed the city for water-related debt service on bonds issued before the Water Authority was created. Since 2005, however, the formula has led to rental payments in excess of the underlying city expense.
“New Yorkers are facing tough times, and they are paying more for less across the board,” Weprin said in previous testimony to the state. “…We must make changes to our water system, at the same time ensuring the safety of our drinking water, but not on the backs of struggling working families.”
By Anna Gustafson