Avella water bills pass senate once again

State Sen. Tony Avella passed three bills in Albany, one of which aims to kill a minimum fee on city water bills.
Photo Illustration by Christina Santucci
By Mark Hallum

Three pieces of legislation sponsored by state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) passed in Albany last week and the Queens pol is touting the victory as a “hat trick” in a recent press release.

One of the bills takes aim at eliminating a minimum charge for residents to pay on their water bill to the city of New York and the other two will update fire safety requirements at CUNY and SUNY institutions and transfer control of a pumping station from Waterside Estates on the northern waterfront of Whitestone to the city for upkeep.

Residents within the city pay more than any other homeowners in the state, according to Avella. If the bill makes it through the Assembly and is signed, the measure could address the needs of many of his constituents who have voiced complaints.

“If we are going to charge for consumption, then charge for consumption and do not penalize those people who are trying to conserve their water usage,” Avella said. “This minimum charge does nothing to help New Yorkers and is only an easy and legal way for the city to pick the pockets of its residents. This legislation will result in a huge savings for seniors, working families, and those living alone who are penalized for nothing more than simple conservation,.”

The rising cost of living in the city is a relentless climb, according to Avella, who said many who struggle financially on fixed-incomes often cut down on water use to save money. The minimum charge makes frugality unfairly difficult and places a burden on the environment, Avella said.

The water bill has passed in the Senate each year since 2014. It is sponsored by state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) in the Legislature.

Avella’s bill to transfer sewage-related water pumps in Waterside Estates in Whitestone to the city’s care has been in the works for over a year, with the bill passing the state Senate in June 2016, but failing to make it through the Assembly. Cresthaven LLC built the development in 1998 and planned to manage the pump itself. But after the developers left, homeowners were tasked with managing the pump themselves, according to Avella.

“The city is far better equipped to handle the maintenance of sewage water pumps than the average person. It is why we delegate maintenance of infrastructure to government bodies in the first place,” Avella said in 2016. “The city should have required the developer to build the system to city standards and then turn over the operation and maintenance to the Department of Environmental Protection. I hope the Assembly can act quickly and approve this legislation so that the homeowners no longer have to worry.”

The other bills will authorize SUNY and CUNY board of trusties to review a 2000 report on campus fire safety and make updates to sections pertaining to fire detection and suppression as needed.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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