By Bill Parry
Nearly 277,500 private homeowners in Queens will receive a $183 tax credit this summer as Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to no longer request a rental payment from the city Water Board, saving $244 million next year and $268 million in fiscal year 2018. He announced Monday that the fees New Yorkers pay will be dedicated solely to the operation, maintenance and expansion of the water and sewer system.
“For decades the city has been using the water bill as a cash cow for the general treasury,” de Blasio said. “That’s not right. The water bill should be for one thing and one thing only — the cost of water. Our water is safe and pure but it costs to keep it that way. This credit will provide some relief as we work to keep water and sewer bills as low as possible.”
City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) has aggressively advocated for the city to stop the water rate rental payment, said. “For years the city has stolen homeowners’ water taxes to pad the general fund through the guise of excessive ‘rental payments’ demanded of the Water Board for using the water and sewer infrastructure that keeps New York running, and today’s decision to abandon this swindle is good news.”
The mayor proposed the one-time credit be applied to all of the more than 664,000 one- to three-family homes across the city. It was written into his $82.2 billion Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2017 presented Tuesday that has many items that will please Queens residents.
The budget includes $21 million in capital funding for smaller, specialized snow removal equipment for the Department of Sanitation in response to Winter Storm Jonas that paralyzed the borough with over 30 inches of snow in late January. More than 70 snow plows became stuck on narrow streets.
“This new funding will make our streets safer for pedestrians and vehicles by purchasing smaller equipment that will help DSNY deftly navigate snowy streets and clear crosswalks and bus stops,” de Blasio said.
The Executive Budget includes an investment of almost $2 billion in New York Health + Hospitals to address a growing financial shortfall in the largest municipal health system in the nation The city will also make a $100 million investment in critical, new infrastructure shifting from inpatient care to ambulatory care and outpatient services.
“This multibillion-dollar investment will stabilize and improve our city’s public healthcare system,” City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said. Elmhurst Hospital, a public hospital in my district, serves thousands of uninsured and undocumented New Yorkers each month. These dollars will help ensure that facilities like Elmhurst Hospital are adequately staffed and have the resources they need to care for all New Yorkers regardless of immigration status or income level.”
The mayor plans to triple the number of intensive-care mental health units on Rikers Island with $8.7 million in FY 2017, a $5 million investment will add an additional 50 more ambulance tours in Queens and the Bronx where response times are slowest. Queens and the Bronx will also divide $10 million in capital funding for two new full-service animal shelters.
The budget includes $244 to replace the upper roadway of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, which is reaching the end of its useful life. Work is expected to take four years.
“The Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, one of the city’s iconic bridges spanning the East River, will benefit from this necessary funding and continue its role effectively moving hundreds of thousands of people daily,” de Blasio said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr