Water, Water Everywhere, Letís Steal Some
by Albert Baldeo

This week, I received some important information I want to share with my fellow taxpayers and DEP officials. My hope is that it will mitigate water theft, reduce the proposed 14 percent water rate hike, and assist everyone who is finding it difficult to make ends meet in these troubling economic times.

The many steep increases in the cost of living in every conceivable area continue to unfairly burden working families. We must expose and curb waste, theft, and mismanagement wherever it occurs if we are to recover from the present economic malaise.

There are many water freeloaders in New York City. Some rogue plumbers roll water meters backward, thus moonlighting as water thieves. I was also told that the DEP is to blame in some circumstances, because it doesn't audit the previous months' bills and demand that the water thief account for negative usage. Negative rollbacks should trigger an audit and an investigation of the relevant meters.

Another complaint I received is that there are many development sites in the city that steal water illegally by opening fire hydrants with hoses hooked up to them, surreptitiously leading behind the construction fences to the buildings. The result is theft for prolonged periods from multiple sites at the same time. Similarly, these sites ought to be policed and monitored, using new construction permits as alarm bells.

Apart from the fact that it is easy to identify property owners who use water without paying, the DEP owes a duty to its 832,000 customers to go after these culprits and ease the projected 14 percent rate increases by inflicting additional fees and penalties on them.

Another area where reform can bring changes and ease the pain on consumers is by increasing the current fine of $50 if they refuse to allow water inspectors onto their premises. These fines do not give property owners an incentive to comply.

The city's DEP should act when it reveals new proposed penalties on April 3.

Baldeo is a Community Advocate and former State Senate candidate for the 15th State Senate district, which encompasses Glendale, Howard Beach, Maspeth, Middle Village, Old Howard Beach, Ridgewood, Woodhaven, Ozone Park and Richmond Hill.

  AlbertBaldeo.Com © 2005