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Judge rules against NYC water rate hike, $183 credit to homeowners

A judge has ruled against a plan by the city to hike water rates and give homeowners a $183 bill credit.

Photo by Shaylor/ Flickr
Photo by Shaylor/ Flickr

Saying the proposed rebate was “designed to accommodate the mayor’s political agenda and provide a windfall to certain homeowners,ˮ Justice Carol Edmead ruling against the New York City Water Board following a hearing on Monday.

The decision was immediately hailed by the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA), which represents landlords of one million rent-stabilized apartments across the city and which led a coalition that sued the Water Board to prevent the hike.

“We are pleased that the judge saw what we believed to be the case — that the Water Board acted beyond its lawful authority in favoring owners of 1-, 2- and 3-family homes to the detriment of apartment building, condo, co-op and other owners,” said RSA president Joe Strasburg.

“This was yet another example of a Mayor who is prepared at every turn to impose additional costs on the backs of owners of rent-stabilized apartments while simultaneously denying them the fair rent increases they need to pay these increased costs.”

Last May, the New York City Water Board approved a 2.1 percent increase in water and sewer rates, marking the third time that prices have gone up since Mayor De Blasio started his term in 2014.

The RSA claimed that the agency illegally sidestepped state authorities in approving the rate hike.

The group also said that the price increase would unfairly burden large building owners since they are ineligible to get the one-time credit. The $183 bill credit was supposed to offset the price hike. However, it is only for customers that own one- to three-family homes.

In her ruling, Judge Edmead agreed that the Water Board had failed to demonstrate it had the authority to implement the rate increase and credit certain tenants and that, therefore had acted in an “arbitrary capricious and unreasonableˮ manner.

The city immediately responded saying it would appeal the court’s decision.

Eric Phillips, press secretary for the Mayor, said, “The Mayor’s intent is quite clear and he remains undeterred: he wants to return money to the pockets of homeowners. We plan to appeal the ruling and aggressively pursue a solution to the court’s opinion.ˮ

Mark Muschenheim, Senior Counsel, NYC Law Department added,  “We will appeal this decision which prevents the lowest rate increase in 16 years and a $183 credit to most customers from being implemented. We continue to maintain that the Water Board acted appropriately and in accordance with the law.ˮ

Despite the court’s decision, the 2016 water rate will remain in effect pending the outcome of the appeal and no credits will be issued.

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