OCEANSIDE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he’s appointing a special monitor to investigate skyrocketing water bills on Long Island’s South Shore.
“They are a utility, they are licensed by the state, they have that franchise, and then they abuse consumers,” the governor told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan in an exclusive interview.
In one month, Oceanside resident Tara Brasch’s water bill from New York American Water tripled.
“These rate increases are astronomical,” she said.
Her family was among the hundreds of outraged customers who blasted the water company during a public forum Thursday night.
“I got the bill and I nearly dropped dead. The month before was $81. This was $281,” Barbara Levits said.
“It’s really obscene,” said Pearl Bluth, who showed her water usage went down by 5,000 gallons, yet her bill went up.
Company executives are on the hot seat over a lack of warning about its new conservation rate that was approved by the state Public Service Commission last year, raising the cost of water as customers use more.
“We’ll look at those case(s) individually and if we have to go out to the field to check the meter itself, we’re going to do that. So we’re going to make sure everyone’s satisfied,” New York American Water Chief Operating Officer William Varley said.
Nassau County’s comptroller noticed bills spiked in county parks.
“We are going to hold back payment on those bills until we receive satisfaction,” he said.
Peace Garden Park in West Hempstead, for example, saw last month’s water bill jump to $4,300 – compared to $46 in July of last year.
“They should be angry and they should keep their voices up until we get something done,” said State Sen. Todd Kaminsky.
“To have a private company come in and pretty much say ‘this is what you have to pay,’ we have no choice,” Brasch said.
Cuomo pledged to “order the Public Service Commission to do a full investigation.”
“I am also going to refer the matter to the New York attorney general,” he added.
New York American Water said it will work diligently to address all concerns.
In a separate case, the state ordered the company to refund $293,000 to Sea Cliff residents due to mishandling of property tax filings.