By Alex Ginsberg
The New York City Water Board voted Monday to raise water rates 5.5 percent, angering homeowners across the borough and drawing the ire of Queens elected officials.
The increase will raise monthly costs to the average city homeowner from about $499 to $526, according to the Dept. of Environmental Protection.
But the hike was not the 6.5 percent increase the board had initially said it would seek, suggesting that two weeks of vocal protests had had some effect.
“They admitted that they were wrong,” said Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), chairman of the Environmental Protection Committee. He contended “5.5 is an admission that they were wrong.”
Gennaro had asked the water board to reconsider the 6.5 percent hike in a May 1 open letter to the board’s chairman, Mark Hellerer.
In the letter, Gennaro said a city council analysis of the water board’s finances showed it could continue to function with only a 2.3 percent increase, an option that would have spared homeowners about $43 million in fees.
“I call upon you to spare the city and its citizens from this undue financial burden,” he wrote.
But Natalie Millner, a DEP spokeswoman, said Gennaro’s plan was irresponsible.
“At that rate we would have had to increase the rate next year by as much as 19 or 20 percent,” she said. “Our goal is stability and affordability.”