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Worry over water rate hikes prompts RSA to act.

The 9.4% increase in the water and sewer rate enacted by the City this year could pale in comparison to next year's rate hike, a top rental housing official has warned.

"As long as owners of rental apartment buildings in New York City are forced to continue paying for watershed and infrastructure improvements mandated by the federal government, property owners could be slammed in 2007 with double-digit increases in water rates not seen since the late 1980s and early 1990s," said Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA), which represents 25,000 owners of 1.1 million rent-stabilized apartments in the five boroughs.

"The transition from frontage billing to metered billing is placing an even greater financial drain on building owners, particularly since they have no direct control over water usage by their tenants," Strasburg added.

RSA plans to address the cost crisis, billing and other related water issues at a comprehensive "Water/Sewer Seminar & Workshop" on Tues., Oct. 17, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the City University of New York Graduate Center (Fifth Ave. & E. 34th St., Manhattan).

City Councilman James F. Gennaro, chairman of the committee on environmental protection, will be the event's keynote speaker. Gennaro (D-Queens) has consistently pressed the City's Water Board to lower water and sewer rates.

In 2003, Gennaro scored an unprecedented victory when he successfully challenged the board's proposed rate hike, saving property owners millions of dollars.

RSA is sponsoring the seminar/workshop in conjunction with industry groups that include the Bronx Realty Advisory Board, Community Housing Improvement Program, Small Property Owners of New York, and Bronx-Manhattan North Association of Realtors.

"We want to reach as many building owners and managers as possible because they are struggling with important and potentially costly decisions regarding the transition from frontage billing to metered billing," Strasburg said.

"A property owner who was paying $10,000 under frontage billing has seen his water bill more than double, and in many cases triple, under metered billing.

"Metered bills can make or break small property owners with low-income tenants because there is usually a higher population density in these apartments--and that means a greater usage of water," Strasburg explained.

At the Oct. 17 event, owners will learn about the flat-rate monthly billing option offered by the board, and little-known cost-saving programs available through the Department of Environmental Protection, such as "Cap on Metered Charges" and "Forgiveness Program for Extraordinary Leaks and Disasters."

DEP customer service representatives will run a workshop to help building owners with unresolved billing issues.

A panel of building owners will provide information on the decision-making process of switching to metered billing, and the implementation of specific measures to reduce water and sewer bills. Other professionals will be on hand to provide tips to help owners assess the accuracy of their bills and steps to take when they suspect that bills are too high.

There will be a discussion of the DEP's anticipated $9.9 billion environmental infrastructure investments--including $904 million to protect upstate watersheds; $1.3 billion to build a filtration plant for the Croton Water System, and $3 billion to upgrade the City's sewage treatment plants--all of which will impact water and sewer rates paid by building owners in the years ahead.

The seminar and workshop is free to all dues-paid members of the sponsoring organizations, but advance reservations are required and can be made by calling Lisa Richmond at RSA at 212-214-9243.
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Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Oct 4, 2006
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