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Dinkins gives tenants 'costly' tip on lead.

Since high levels of lead were uncovered in New York City water tests, building owners have been fuming over Mayor David N. Dinkins advice to let water taps run before use.

"The water is still dripping and Dinkins is still running the faucet," cracked Gerald Pindus, president of TedPin Realty and U.S. Energy Controls.

"When you tell me that a tenant will run his water for 30 seconds, you don't know what you are talking about," said Jerome Belson, president of the Associated Owners and Builders at their meeting last week. "Don't talk about 30 seconds," he said. They will leave for work and let the tap run all day.

"The tenants will keep that bloody tap going -- and not just cold water," Belson foresees, "they will keep hot water going so you use the water and the fuel oil."

Belson said he manages 15,000 apartments at 44 properties and has tried to keep meters away. In one building, because of a complete plumbing change, however, they had to put in a meter.

"Our bill went from $115 per apartment to $1,020 an apartment," he said. "This is greater than our debt service."

That's nothing compared to what Robert C. Rosenberg has been billed for one property in the Bronx. Rosenberg chairman of Rosenberg Diamond, and one of the city's largest affordable housing suppliers, said one building is being billed $20,000 more than his fuel bill for water.

Since the city began changing over from a "frontage" system payable on the number of feet a building takes up on its front to straight water metering, owners of densely populated housing have been complaining bitterly about the increase in payments.

The voluntary metering program ends on June 30, 1993. Before then a decision will be made whether to extend the deadline or not. If not, then owners will not have a choice of plumbers but may have to allow in city contractors. Currently, the city sends three notification letters saying when they will be in the neighborhood. If by the third letter, and owner has not installed a water meter, city contractors will knock on the door and put one in.

Water officials are studying ways to separate fixed water and sewer costs.

Rosenberg's problem is shared by 5,000 other owners whose meters were installed early on because major renovations were made to the buildings or they were newly built. The Water Department says it no longer has the flat rate records and so cannot go back to frontage rates for those properties, as it has for buildings metered more recently.

Rosenberg said he has been buying properties through the 60's, the 70's, and the 80's and survived them all but is now concerned about surviving the 90's. "I've been buying properties through all of those years, and I never lost one and I've never sold one," Rosenberg recalled.

He has a building that was one of the first to receive a water meter and now it is being foreclosed because of nonpayment of water bills. This 90-unit apartment building near Yankee Stadium has 500 occupants and the water bill went from $9,000 to $60,000 for the first year to $80,000 this year.

Since the Department of Environmental Protection says average per capita consumption in the city is 200 gallons per day while per year an apartment probably uses 70,000 gallons. Rosenberg said, the amount of water usage in this building is average.

"You can't control the consumption," Rosenberg said. "And now they are going to run their water a minute or two? It's going to put the affordable housing sector out of business."

He does not believe that the whole solution is raising rentals either, since, he says, his tenants cannot afford to pay more and believes the entire city should be subsidizing the costs for the affordable housing market.

Rosenberg said, "What's going to happen? Now we're facing a crisis in that the water rates are putting the housing stocks of New York in jeopardy."
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:New York, New York Mayor David N. Dinkins
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Sep 30, 1992
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