By Mark Hallum
Mayor Bill de Blasio came to Bayside earlier this month to talk to residents at Clearview Senior Center about a $183 water bill credit to relieve the financial burden on homeowners. The Water Board approved de Blasio’s proposal for the credit back in April, which is an issue the mayor said has wanted to address since his time as public advocate.
Rates have increased across the city every year, but 2016 only saw a 2 percent increase, according to de Blasio. At the same time a hidden tax is also taking a bite out of the public’s checkbooks. So far, 120,000 homeowners have seen relief on their water bill due to the credit the city has made available to them, de Blasio said at the Dec. 8 meeting.
“For years and years, you paid the water bill, but you didn’t just pay for water,” de Blasio told residents. “There was a hidden tax baked into it. It had a strange title. They called it a ‘rental payment.’ It didn’t make any sense.”
The tax credit was first passed by the city Water Board in April and will be issued once a year starting this summer.
The one-time credit of $183 is available annually for water and sewer bills and has the potential to reach an estimated 664,000 homeowners citywide, which makes up approximately 80 percent of payers in New York City, the majority of which are homeowners.
About 100 residents gathered in the Clearview Center’s conference hall at 208-11 26th Ave. with many expressing gratitude to the mayor for lightening the financial burden associated with the essential utility.
“My water bill is astronomical,” Olga Torres said. “I live just down the block and I know my neighbors have been complaining. It’s been out of control. I’m glad something is being done.”
Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) and City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) joined residents in praising the water bill credit.
“We’re all homeowners out here in northeast Queens, and when we hear about getting money back, that’s what we want to hear because we’re paying so much in taxes. It’s nice to see a mayor who’s going to fight to get us some money back,” Vallone said.
The mayor also explained to residents at Clearview how many seniors who make less than $50,000 are eligible for rent freezes through programs such as SCRIE and many of them are not aware of it. De Blasio estimated that 80,000 people are not taking advantage of rent freeze programs.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall