A city proposal to increase the water rate by 3.35 percent is drawing a litany of complaints from Queens residents, who argue the jump, while smaller than in previous years, still amounts to a financial burden for the borough’s middle-class families struggling with increasing costs of living and often stagnant incomes.
The city Department of Environmental Protection proposed the increase last Wednesday, which would translate to a single-family homeowner seeing the bill for water and sewer services jump from $992 to $1,025 a year. The Water Board is slated to approve the plan on May 23, before which hearings on the increase will take place in Queens and the other four boroughs.
“It’s the lowest water rate increase in 11 years – which I know doesn’t make a difference if you’re paying the bill,” Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said at Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association meeting last week.
Numerous other legislators and civic leaders have slammed the proposal, including Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows).
“Middle class homeowners, co-op and condo owners, and small business proprietors expect that New York’s new ‘progressive’ government will make the city fairer and more affordable for us, too,” Lancman said. “But the proposed rate increase only means that we will continue to be gouged through a dishonest and deliberately opaque water rate system.”
Lancman also stressed that Mayor Bill de Blasio, during his mayoral campaign, had condemned the city’s practice of increasing water rates to divert money into the city’s general fund .
“For decades, the water system only charged customers what it needed to cover its costs,” de Blasio said in press release issued last April. “But now, anyone who pays a water bill is sending more and more of their money into the city’s general budget. It’s wrong and it has to stop.”
By Anna Gustafson