Disgruntled property and business owners packed Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's first public hearing since taking office Thursday to voice their concerns over soaring water bills that are leaving some New Yorkers soaked. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Homeowner Nancy Tancredi says her water bills are out of control.
"If I had a swimming pool, if I had a sprinkler system, if I had washer/dryers they'd be explainable. They are not explainable," Tancredi said.
Tancredi says that after the city installed an automated meter reader her quarterly water bill was suddenly more than four times its normal level. She says the city threatened to put a lien on her property after she refused to pay the bills in full.
In the end, she paid up.
"But I'm able to. How many people can't and that's not fair," Tancredi said.
Her story was one of many told at a hearing on the city's water billing system. It was the first public hearing Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has convened since taking office in 2010.
"So many examples of people literally not understanding how their water bills could be so large," De Blasio said.
The PA says his office has received more than 500 complaints from New Yorkers, and it doesn't help that the actual water bills are difficult to understand.
"I'm not saying you need to be a nuclear physicist to figure this out, but it would help. This is an extremely confusing bill," De Blasio said.
Officials from the city's Department of Environmental Protection say some New Yorkers may see a water bill spike if they have a leak, use more water than normal, or have their old water meter replaced with a new one. They say some of the old meters were underestimating the amount of water used at a given location.
A city official who testified at the hearing defended his agency's performance and said complaints are at a five-year low. He suggested politics was at play.
"You have customers who are experiencing problems. And regardless of whether it is an election year, regardless if it is an elected official bringing it to our attention or not, every one of those is important. We will work through each one of those," said Matthew Mahoney of the Department of Environmental Protection.
De Blasio says he will be working to help New Yorkers fight their water bills as well.