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LEGAL/FINANCIAL

Lawsuit Seeks to Keep Water-Usage Data Available

New York City

Water Lawsuit
Sept. 18, 2019

Cost-conscious co-op and condo boards have realized in recent years that leaky faucets, toilets, and showerheads can cost big bucks. Aside from replacing bathroom and kitchen fixtures, one way to monitor excessive water bills – and overcharges – was through the city’s water-usage database. But the city’s Department of Environmental Protection quietly made plans over the summer to switch the online public portal that tracks a property’s water consumption so that it provides only a one-year overview instead of a decade-long breakdown

New York Water Management – an industry group representing thousands of property owners, including co-ops and condos – sued earlier this month and won a temporary reprieve from the change that was supposed to take effect on Sept. 13, the New York Post reports

“The limitation on access to information will reduce challenges to overcharges and applications for credits, thereby allowing NYC to collect more revenue,” the group says in the suit. “It makes one wonder if the abandonment of the Department of Finance portal for the deficient DEP Portal is just a ruse to allow the city to collect millions of dollars to which it is not entitled.” 

DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza said in a Sept. 9 letter to two city council members that the new system is the result of a “major technological platform upgrade.” Sapienza added that he’d modified the system to allow people to search for five years of billing history in response to concerns by the real estate industry. 

But opponents say that accommodation doesn’t go far enough. “Residents should continue to have full access to their water bill records so we can be as open and transparent as possible,” says city council member Justin Brannan, a Brooklyn Democrat. “I intend on introducing legislation if the city does not right this wrong.”  

The parties are due in Brooklyn Supreme Court today.

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