NYC Water Board talks rate increases at public hearing

Brooklyn residents made clear their opposition to any sort of water rate increase at the second of five public hearings on the matter being held by the New York City Water Board throughout the five boroughs.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has proposed a 3.24 percent water rate increase for fiscal year 2016 – the lowest rate in the past 10 years according to DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd, who spoke at the Tuesday, April 28 hearing at St. Francis College in downtown Brooklyn.

“While we wish and always wish that there was no increase, we are relieved it is the lowest rate in the past 10 years,” said Lloyd. “It will equate to an increase of about $33 a year for an average single family home and somewhere between $21 and $31 a year for a typical unit in a multi-family dwelling.”

Lloyd explained the increase is needed for multitude of reasons, most importantly to supply water from the vast system of reservoirs upstate.

“We deliver about 1.1 billion gallons a day to over nine million customers – the residents of New York City and about a million customers upstate,” she said.

According to the board, by 2030, the city’s population is expected to grow to more than nine million residents. To accommodate the growth, and “uphold the quality” of the city’s drinking water, the revenue generated from the increased rates will go toward protecting the water and wastewater infrastructure and cover the system’s capital and operating expenses.

“You all know that New York City has an incredible water system and waste water system,” said Chair of the Water Board Alfonso Carney. “Each of us who serve as members of the board, serve because we want to ensure that the system is protected, operated, and improved in a manner that is both affective and efficient. We appreciate the fact the job is a big one and we undertake it willingly and want to do it as well as we can. We need your help to do that.”

Fran Vella-Marrone, the president of the Dyker Heights Civic Association, submitted written testimony opposing the rate increase. “I would like to make a counter proposal of a zero percent increase,” she said, stressing, “New York City’s water rates have increased nearly 80 percent since 2005. If the proposed increase of 3.24 percent were to be adopted, the average homeowner in Dyker Heights and throughout the city will be paying a yearly fee of $1,058, up from $499 a decade ago. This burden being placed on the taxpayers cannot continue.”

While Debrah Smith, a resident of Old Mill Basin, called the presentation “excellent” and said that, while the board almost “convinced” her that they need the money, she still had some reservations.

“I’m a single person living in a single family home and most of my water usage is during the summer for the garden where the water is not going into the sewage system,” said Smith. “How fair is it to charge 159 percent for sewage for water that never sees the system?

“[Also] The minimum rate, I’ve been told, is equivalent to about 1,300 cubic feet per month whereas your usage [may be] markedly less than that,” she continued. “How is that fair? There is a disincentive to save water when you don’t need it, don’t need to use it, but you’re going to be paying for it anyway.”

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