U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) on Saturday called on the city to waive water fees for Superstorm Sandy victims on Staten Island who have been billed despite using little or no water.
“All the city needs to do is take all the people who were deferred and check their status,” Grimm told WCBS 880. “If they are not in their homes and they haven’t been able to rebuild yet – for whatever reason – and they can look at the meter, there’s been no water usage whatsoever – then instead of deferring those payments, they should simply waive them.”
That is not what has been happening, Grimm said. Instead, homeowners have been subjected to a minimum charge of $1.19 per day by the city regardless of whether they actually used water for a billing period.
The city is now sending out “suspended” bills, and residents are being hit up for as much as $535 for water service in homes that in some cases, they can’t even live in, Grimm said.
“I met with a woman – her bill was $535, from the day of Sandy, basically, until now, and she hasn’t had anyone in her home. There hasn’t even been construction done. There’s no one in there,” he said. “She’s renting somewhere else.”
Some people are actually paying twice, Grimm added.
“Most of them are still living here on the surrounding areas in Staten Island, and they’re using the water, and that water at another home is being paid for, so the family of four that’s not at home on Midland Beach may be down the road a bit in New Dorp, and they’re paying for their water at that residence,” he said. “So the city shouldn’t get paid, for the same family of four, be paid twice.”
Many Staten Island residents have spent “eight months of going through hell,” and have remained in limbo — whether they are waiting for buyouts, flood maps, or federal assistance, and making them keep paying water bills for properties where they cannot live is unfair, Grimm said.
Disconnecting water service is not a realistic solution either, Grimm added.
“You can’t disconnect your water, because if you do, it’s $1,000 for a plumber to disconnect it, and $1,000 when you go back in to reconnect it,” he said. “That will be $2,000 for what – no reason. Simply, the DEP, the New York City Water Board, the City of New York in general, can simply waive these fees for anyone that is unable to occupy their home.”
Grimm said New York City could be targeted for a lawsuit over the water bills, particularly since some homeowners are being charged twice for the same service.