2007-10-12 / Editorial/Opinion

Water,Water, Everywhere,But Everybody's Got To Pay


Living on a peninsula with Jamaica Bay on the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south, residents get a feeling for how important that element is to life. Locals, however, like most New Yorkers, are now enduring what can only be termed "water torture," not from the two bodies of water that surround us, but from city agencies that seek to charge us exorbitant prices for this necessity of life and then dun us when we don't pay. The city's Water Board is gearing up to sock local homeowners with a huge water rate increase. This 18 percent jump in the cost of water, which would take effect early next year, comes on top of an 11.5 percent increase that began in July. Is there anybody who believes that a nearly 30 percent increase for any valuable commodity controlled by a single entity is fair? The Water Board does, although there is some indication that homeowners are caught in the middle of a battle between the Water Board and our City Council. It seems that the Water Board wants the council's approval to sell stand-alone liens against homeowners who don't pay their bills to outside bill collectors. Now, they only have the right to sell liens against homeowners who owe both water and city tax bills. The City Council has been resistant to providing that permission, and many believe that the Water Board is using the threat of an increase to blackmail the Council into approving the stand-alone liens. The fact is, the water board is owed upwards of $174.2 million by people and organizations that are more than five years in arrears. The board says that it is loath to shut off the water to a home even if the owner has not paid his or her bills for more than five years, but may start doing that. According to a report released by the state's Department of Environmental Protection, the majority of that money is owed to the city by hospitals, government agencies and other businesses. Water is necessary, but it doesn't come cheaply in this city. And, if the City Council and the Water Board do not come to some accommodation, the cost of water promises to jump upwards once again, and very soon.

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