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Why Pay for Water When Others Don’t December 13, 2006

Posted by farshadf in NYC.
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While the city is working on plans to keep the Big Apple sustainable through 2030, reading the NY Times article about how the city “fails to collect millions in unpaid water bills” is a funny counterpoint. It’s like a trip down the rabbit hole, with various tales of insanity. For instance, there’s the Niger’s U.N. mission, which hasn’t paid $120,000 in bills since 1998! The city still asks companies that have been bankrupt for 30 years to pay their bills. Then there’s Joseph Mannino in Staten Island who has been charged over $250,000 in under 10 years for a small building (officials suggest Mannino might have a leaking toilet somewhere). What’s interesting, though, is that the city hasn’t turned off the water ever.

Since 1999, the city has had the legal right to suspend water service to residential accounts that were delinquent for more than two years. But it alone among big cities has never turned off the taps to a residence, though its rates are among the lowest of major cities.In Boston, the city will suspend service if an account is more than 60 days delinquent and the bill exceeds $250. But it will do so only from April to November.

In Chicago, tenants in apartment buildings have the right to send their rent to the city if a landlord fails to pay water bills. If fewer than half the tenants do so, the city reserves the right to shut off the water.

In Los Angeles, where water is especially scarce, authorities suspend service after a payment is 72 days late. It orders about 155 shutoffs a day, said Kim Hughes, a spokeswoman for the city’s water system. About 115 of those customers come in to pay within 24 hours, she said.

Naturally, with millions (current and future) at stake, the city wants to improve its water bill collection practices. And to prove they are serious, consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton will be working on improving the system. The Coalition for Water Bill Justice is for New Yorkers who want fair billing practices. We’re not sure how active the group is, since one of their pages mentions Mayor Giuliani as someone you can contact.

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