Last weeks rain barely hit the Catskills. The small amount of moisture fell on dry soil, and was quickly absorbed. New York’s reservoir level keeps dropping. It now stands at 56.8%. How low can the reservoirs go before the city becomes concerned and declares a drought?
Mayor de Blasio appointed Vincent Sapienza as acting Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner earlier this month to replace the departing Emily Lloyd. Sapienza has been dragged to the front row as a figurehead representing the DEP after maintaining a non-political post in charge of the DEP’s infrastructure.
The boots Sapienza will be stepping into will no doubt be muddy. Emily Lloyd left behind a number of major challenges that need to be addressed immediately.
The first challenge is the absence of the water rate increase. For the first time since 1995, the water rate increase was revoked by court. How will the Water Board balance its budget if New York City citizens won’t be charged more for water? This is great news for the people but what will happen to the dynamics of political funds?
Another challenge Sapienza will duel with are concerns the Multi-family Conservation Program (MCP) applications. MCP allows flat-rate billing of water bills for buildings with four or more apartments. The MCP program can help save water but thousands of MCP applications are backed up and the MCP guidelines are being ignored. Is the DEP withholding from processing these applications because they know they will lose money?
These problems presented require a permanent commissioner, not from an acting commissioner. I strongly urge Mayor de Blasio to appoint Vincent Sapienza to be the permanent DEP commissioner so these issues can be dealt with. This is a time of crisis for the DEP, the DEP’s reputation and trust from the people are at stake and we need someone with a firm grip on the steering wheel, not an acting commissioner.
Just short of a week ago, Supreme Justice Carol Edmead voided the Water Board and City Hall’s authority to impose a water rate hike for this year as well as terminated the program to reimburse small homeowners on their water bill credit.
Citing unfair and preferential distribution of funds, the city of New York and the Water Board were stopped in their tracks by the people of New York.
Thanks should be given to Joseph Strasburg of the Rent Stabilization Association who fought against City Hall and the Water Board for this win for the people of New York.
Further applause should be given to Justice Edmead who is protecting the taxpayers of New York and our fragile water system from the greedy hands of politicians.
On Monday, Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead declared that NYC Water Board will not have the authority to raise the water rate for fiscal year 2017. This motion froze and voided the Water Board’s authority to raise the cost of water by 2.1% and eliminates de Blasio’s homeowners’ water credit reimbursement program.
Immediately following the decision, the City has decided to appeal this order.
The judge’s final decision came after retaliation from Rent Stabilization Association members and various landlords who ordered that the actions of the Water Board and City Hall were inequitable. The water credit program favored small homeowners and excluded apartment, property, co-op, and condo owners.
According to court papers, Justice Edmead decided that the reimbursement program violated and surpassed the boundaries of the Water Board’s authority.
Members of the Rent Stabilization Association and several landlords sued the New York City Water Board over decisions made to increase the water-rate and to give a 183 dollar bill-credit to homeowners, as reported by the NY Daily News.
According to the Department of Environmental Protection’s website, the projected water rate increase for this fiscal year beginning in July is 2.1 percent. The water rate has increased over 3 times since Mayor de Blasio took over City Hall.
Over backlash from landlords and the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA) cited unfair and discriminating actions, the RSA and landlords sued the NYC Water Board and DEP. According to a report from the NY Daily News, the RSA and landlords claimed that the 2.1 percent increase was “arbitrary, capricious and abuse of the board’s authority”.
The landlords claimed this action to be unfair since that they would be forced to charge their tenants more for water while small homeowners were granted leniency with the projected bill credit. In addition, RSA claimed that the unfair distribution of the water credit was to benefit de Blasio’s political reputation, as reported by the NY Daily News.
As of last Tuesday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead declared a temporary restraining order to prevent the NYC Water Board and the DEP from moving forward to implement their plan.
Dressed in an ash grey suit with a periwinkle tie, Mayor Bill de Blasio exclaimed, “Today we are righting (sic) a wrong”. Back in late April in Bay Ridge, Mayor de Blasio developed a plan for New York City homeowners to save money on their water bills by having the city present a one-time water credit to all homeowners within the five boroughs.
“This is part of an overall effort to address the needs of everyday working people all over the city to make sure that what city does is fair,” proclaimed de Blasio.
The push for this proposal was de Blasio’s belief that homeowners within the five boroughs were paying too much for their water bills. Backed by the Department of Environmental Protection’s Commissioner Emily Lloyd, de Blasio proposed a $183 one-time water bill credit to all homeowners with one to three family units within the five boroughs.
According to de Blasio, the proposed bill would cover about 664,000 homeowners for the summer. The 664,000 homeowners make up about 80 percent of all water bill accounts. With this one-time bill credit, homeowners can save 17 to 40 percent on their annual water bill.
Seniors who make up 120,000 of the total amount of homeowners residing in the city will also benefit greatly from an additional bill credit.
“This action we are announcing today will save homeowners across all five boroughs a total of 82 million dollars in fiscal year 2016, the fiscal year we are in right now. Eighty-two million,” said de Blasio.
According to the DEP, this credit program has already passed water board committee members and will be in effect as of July 1st. This is the first step in a series of changes the mayor is attempting to put into effect for water use policies.
Many have heard of Puerto Rico’s recent financial crisis. The crisis began when the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority generously provided free power to all 78 of Puerto Rico’s municipalities. Since then, Puerto Rico has shrunk deeper and deeper into debt leading themselves into not only a financial crisis, but also an environmental crisis. Puerto Rico’s municipalities are left with zero incentive to conserve energy. One of the most startling examples is the ice skating rink in Aguadilla. One can’t help but wonder why a town in the a tropics, would choose to open an ice skating rink given the associated energy costs. However, given free electricity , their largest expense is eliminated, and nothing is discouraging them from using as much electricity as they please.
Similarly, New York City’s environment is also at risk. Water especially. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has been providing water at a fixed-rate to the city’s agencies for years. Thus, these institutions have zero motivation to become more environmentally-efficient. With no financial incentive, and no governing authority telling them otherwise, they are free to use as much water as they wish without considering any environmental risk. Prospect Park Lake, located in Brooklyn, assumes 55 acres and runs 7 feet deep. Park officials have not installed a well, which would be the environmentally responsible thing to do. Instead, they have filled the lake with tap water. Hundreds of city buildings within all five boroughs of New York City could save a substantial amount of water by installing high efficiency toilets and checking regularly for leaks. However, there is nothing motivating anyone to take any action to conserve New York City’s water.
New York City officials should look at Puerto Rico’s crisis and recognize the danger they are in. New York has a larger environmental footprint than Puerto Rico and is at a much greater risk. If no action is taken soon, NYC will find itself in terrible downward-spiraling crisis.