2007-10-31 / Political Page

Gennaro, Weprin Gain In Water Rate Fight

The campaign by City Councilmembers David Weprin and James Gennaro against huge water rate increases appears to be achieving success, as the board is seeking revenues from sources other than beleaguered homeowners.

Gennaro (D- Fresh Meadows), and Weprin (D- Hollis) started berating the board after its members invoked a hefty rate increase earlier this year and brazenly announced they might have to piggyback a second hike before the ink had barely dried on the first one.

The two lawmakers complained that the increases foisted upon homeowners were way out of line and senseless, and the water board should first explore ending a rental payment which goes into the city's general fund and second, go after deadbeats who haven't been paying their water taxes, which amount to millions of dollars.

Now some reforms are in the wind. Last week, the Water Board ran a notice in the New York Times about a hearing on November 9 regarding the regulations covering the discontinuance of water service supply, that is, shutting off water, because of non-payment.

Under the new rule, the action could be taken after a customer is at least six months overdue instead of a year, or at least $500 in arrears instead of $1,000. Other changes, could also speed up the collection process, too.

The other major response to complaints by Gennaro and Weprin about the payment the Water Board must make to the city to cover the costs incurred by water project debt services occurred at a recent hearing held by Gennaro's Environmental Protection Committee.

At the hearing, Gennaro reported, Water Board Chairman James Tripp testified and reiterated sentiments Gennaro had previously expressed, "Claiming the residual portion of the rental payment paid by the Water Board to the city is deplorable because it is diverted into the city's general fund and does not go where it should: water and sewer projects".

Gennaro's reaction to Tripp's testimony was, "Maybe now we will see the proper response from the Bloomberg administration, which is simply to change the lease between the Water Board and the city and to eliminate the rental payment."

Basically, diverting some Water Board revenue to the city reduces the money the

Water Board would have on

hand and requires the board

to increase the water tax

so it can carry out its

mission.

MAYOR IN

ROW OVER DEAD

WTC COP: Mayor

Michael Bloomberg may have

over-reacted or reacted unnecessarily harshly in his comments about New York Police Department Officer James Zadroga, who worked at Ground Zero before he died and is now the subject of controversy over the cause of his death.

In defending New York City Medical Examiner Charles Hirsch's finding that Zadroga died from injecting himself with crushed prescription pills, the mayor stated, "In this case, the science says this was not a hero."

According to the New York Daily News account of the mayor's comments on Zadroga, made when he accepted an award from the Harvard School of Public Health, the deceased cop's father Joseph Zadroga reacted by saying, "For Bloomberg to say that he's not a hero, that is a disgrace. Why is he trying to malign my son and deny that Jimmy is a hero?"

Before Hirsch issued his autopsy finding, Zadroga was said to have died from the effects of his labors at Ground Zero, which went on for a considerable time, about 450 hours.

Given the tragic nature of the case and the different causes of death given by different medical examiners, it would seem that the mayor could have chosen his words more carefully to spare Zadroga's survivors' feelings.

VALLONE PUSHES PLASTIC BAG RECYCLING: On Monday, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. and Speaker Christine Quinn unveiled a controversial bill requiring food supermarkets to set up a system of packaging groceries in recyclable plastic bags which would then be returned to the supermarket for disposal. The bags would be marked clearly as being recyclable. The legislation calls for fines for anyone not carrying out the mandates set forth.

The bill is designed to reduce the hundreds of thousands of plastic bags that currently wind up in city garbage, contributing to the costs and problems associated with garbage disposal.

One huge supermarket baron already complaining about the bill is John Catsimatidis, owner of Gristede Supermarkets and a possible Republican candidate for mayor in 2009.

Catsimatidis feels that the proposed program places a huge burden on businesses that use plastic bags. Catsimatidis also thinks the program should be voluntary, not mandated.

The legislation applied to wholesale stores larger than 5,000 square feet. It also calls for store owners to provide non-plastic bags for shoppers who might want them instead of plastic.

MALONEY BRINGS $4.5M GRANT TO LaGCC: LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, named one of the three best community colleges in the U.S., on Monday received a $4.5 million grant from Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D- Queens/Manhattan).

The funds were secured by Maloney, Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D- Queens/The Bronx) and Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, both from New York. Described as highly competitive grants, they are designed to strengthen the college experience for minority and low-income students and to expand service to armed service veterans, Maloney said.

Of the school's 54,000 annual student enrollment, 80 percent require language and reading help. Despite the challenges, the graduation rate for the school, at 29-10 Thomson Ave., is 60 percent higher than the national average for community colleges.

TABONE A DAD FOR 3RD TIME: Vince Tabone, formerly a top Republican party activist in Astoria and now playing a similar role in Northeast Queens since he moved to Bayside, recently announced the birth of a third child to him and his wife, Saida, an assistant principal at Forest Hills H.S. They've named him Vincent Aurelius. He joins sisters Sabrina, 12 and Victoria, 7, in the Tabone household. Salute!!

FUNDRAISERS: Crowley and Councilmember Melinda Katz (D- Forest Hills) have scheduled fundraisers for next month. Crowley, planning for re-election next year, has set his event or Monday, November 12 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Sidetracks, 45-08 Queens Blvd., in Sunnyside. Suggested donations are: Friend, $100, Sponsor, $250, Co-host, $500 and Host, $1,000. RSVP to Sara Conrad at 202-543-8556.

Katz's shindig is set for Thursday, November 15 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at The Cornell Club, 6 East 44th St., Manhattan. The candidate for city comptroller in the 2009 election suggests a minimum contribution of $1,000 up to the maximum allowable contribution of $4,950. One of Katz's rivals for the Democratic nomination is Weprin, a fellow councilmember.

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