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 For the first time since 1995, the water rate increase was revoked by court.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.
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.
Water Conservation – The big loser in the 2012 Water & Sewer Rates Proposal.
There are two primary methods to bill for water and sewer in NYC. The first method is “Metered Billing” under which the size of one’s bill is solely based upon consumption. The more water consumed the more you pay. If you conserve water you realize an immediate saving. The second method is Flat Rate billing in which you pay a fixed fee based upon certain characteristics of your building. Once you fee is fixed you can use as much water as you wish without incurring any additional cost. The two most prevalent Flat Rate billing methods in NYC are Frontage and the Multifamily Conservation Program (MCP). Under frontage you pay for the width of the front of your property (hence the name Frontage), height of the building, number of apartments, number of plumbing fixtures and other physical attributes, and under the MCP program you pay per apartment.
For as long as I can remember conservationist have been urging the NYC Water Board to eliminate frontage billing. Experience has shown that homeowners will reduce their consumption if they are forced to pay for what they use. The Water Board agreed with this in principle, and back in the 1990s they mailed out letters to all customers stating that frontage would end in two years. Customers were urged to install meters and repair their leaks or face large bills. At the last moment the Water Board had cold feet and pushed off the deadline for another two years. The pattern kept repeating itself for over a decade. Finally in 2010 the Water Board said they were serious and Frontage would end in 2012. When members of the Water Board were asked why anyone should believe that 2012 would be different, they pointed out that Mayor Bloomberg was a lame duck and serious about conservation.
Well they are finally doing it. On March 30 the Water Board announced the end of frontage. Bloomberg is good as his word. There is, however, one caveat: Everyone on frontage will be moved to the Multifamily Conservation Program. The rate for the MCP program will be the average of all frontage rates. In short all that has been accomplished with fourteen years of conservation lobbying is a change in the name of the flat rate billing program!
To be honest the program will require all building on the MCP program to install Water Sense Plumbing Fixtures and repair any leaks. This should result in some savings. The problem is that there is no motivation for anyone to continue repairing their leaks unless you believe the DEP when they say that they will be monitoring your consumption and throw you off the program if they detect leaks.
I never believed that the DEP would eliminate frontage. There are just too many reasons to keep billing on fixed rates. Fixed rate bills are generally paid on time by the mortgagee while metered bills are paid by the homeowners and chronically late. Furthermore: fixed rate bills are paid a year in advance. But most important is it really fair to ask property owners to pay fluctuating bills caused by their tenant’s consumption while maintaining fixed rate Rent Stabilization?