DEP Not Budging, Despite Fact That Sonia Bender's Bills Now 10 Times Higher

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — It’s meter mayhem.

There is another water meter horror story. This time reported glitches in New York City’s new high-tech billing system may cost an upper Manhattan woman her building and her livelihood, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported exclusively.

Sonia Bender is a widow who said she is about to lose the only means she has of supporting her three kids, the rents from two apartments and two retail businesses in a tiny upper Manhattan building, all because of glitches in the city’s new water meter system.

“I’m upset because this is my means of living. They gonna support me and my children? And I don’t want to do that. I’ve been an honest person. I’ve been working all my life,” Bender said.

According to Bender, the water bills she got from the city went from $500 to $700 a quarter to $7,000 after the city installed a new automated water meter reader.

I had the building over 20-something years and I never paid a water bill like that,” she said.

The city sent her a lien notice. It means if she doesn’t pay the inflated bills the city can sell her property right from under her. She’s tried to fight the lien, hiring a lawyer to take on the city. However, the city has thrown cold water on all her efforts.

Bender said the Department of Environmental Protection was so heartless that in January it sent her lawyer a letter that said don’t write us anymore letters.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has received hundreds of complaints about problems with the new meters since CBS first told you about the problem several weeks ago.

“Now she’s facing the prospect of losing the house altogether, a house that she worked a lifetime to have. It’s unbelievable,” de Blasio said.

The DEP is insisting that its new program for billing taxpayers has no problems and that Bender’s bill “is accurate.”

“For months, the property owner underpaid for the amount of water the two rental and two retail tenants used,” a DEP spokesman said.

However, Bender said that’s ridiculous because after many complaints her quarterly bill has returned to the same amount she was paying before the new meter reader was installed.

Unless the city changes its mind Bender’s case goes to court next week, and she could have her building taken away.

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