By Gina Martinez
Councilmen Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) and Peter Koo (D- Flushing) were joined by Queens civic leaders and homeowners at a news conference Tuesday afternoon urging Mayor Bill de Blasio to direct the city Water Board not to raise New Yorkers’ water rates in 2018.
The mayor’s Water Board held a public meeting last week in which it took “no action” on 2018 water rates. After the meeting, the Water Board issued a notification that does not explicitly rule out raising New Yorkers’ water rates in the upcoming fiscal year, Lancman said.
The city Department of Environmental Protection has testified twice at City Council hearings that no additional revenues are needed to operate and maintain the city’s water system because the cost of running the system has actually gone down.
Lancman has been a strong advocate against unnecessary water rate hikes. He said the city needs to stop “playing games” with homeowners’ water rates.
“It would be egregious for Mayor de Blasio to direct the Water Board to raise New Yorkers’ water rates this year,” he said, “when we already know that the cost to operate and maintain the water and sewer system has gone down. Ratepayers have been socked with sky-high water rates for far too long. It is up to the mayor to put the interests of ratepayers ahead of his own political interests: No more back door taxes or political schemes.”
Koo said homeowners face enough financial stress and water rates are an additional unnecessary burden.
“If the city is capable of budgeting sufficient funds to maintain our water rates,” he said, “then a rate hike at this point seems arbitrary at best or a force of habit at worst. Taxpayers are tired of seeing their bills increase, year after year. Be it water bills, property taxes, MetroCards or rent hikes, New Yorkers deserve a break, and we believe this is one area where the city can offer a realistic reprieve.”
Homeowners at the news conference agreed with Lancman and Koo, saying higher water rates make it more difficult for families to make ends meet.
“Times are tough for an awful lot of New Yorkers,” Kevin Forrestal, president of the Queens Civic Congress, said. “You do not need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that this is not the time to raise people’s water rates if you do not have to. I would call on the mayor to make it clear that this is not the time to raise water rates and create further hardship for people.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart