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Water authority bill passes Legislature

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On June 11, both the New York State Assembly and Senate passed a bill to establish a South Nassau Water Authority and a North Shore Water Authority that would replace New York American Water for ratepayers in the Town of Hempstead and Town of Oyster Bay, respectively.

The bill passed the Senate, 63-0, and the Assembly, 149-0. The measure now awaits Governor Cuomo’s signature.

NYAW President Lynda DiMenna issued this statement in response: “For two years, we have been advocating for the elimination of the unfair and unjust special franchise tax to provide our customers with meaningful rate relief, but the Legislature failed to act. Instead, legislation was passed that provides zero rate relief and condemns our customers to paying exorbitant taxes on their water bills for years to come. We will continue to educate our customers about the impact of this lack of action.”

The Merrick-based advocacy group Long Island Clean Air, Water and Soil fought for the bill through petitions, phone calls, emails and rallies spreading awareness and support for the bill.

“Obviously, there is a long way to go,” said Dave Denenberg, the CAWS co-director. “I promise that none of us are going to stop until we cross the finish line — clean, affordable public water for all.”

Claudia Borecky, also a CAWS co-director, said she was excited by the bill’s passage. “We like this one the best out of all the bills that they were going back and forth on,” she said. “It’s a first step, but we’re still cautiously optimistic. We seem to have the political will this time.”

An earlier iteration of the bill would have created a single Nassau County water authority, which would have had six commissioners on the North Shore and four on the South Shore. There would have been six representatives for about 5,000 residents in Oyster Bay and four representatives for the 114,000 residents in Hempstead.

Assemblywoman Judy Griffin, a Democrat from Rockville Centre, sponsored the Assembly bill.

“The 124,000 New York American Water ratepayers in Nassau County deserve a viable solution to the exorbitant costs, poor quality and inconsistent service that they have been forced to endure for years,” she said. “Reaching a consensus with the New York State Senate to resolve this major issue has been a priority for me, and I am so proud we were successful in our efforts.”

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, supported the bill. “By setting a path for a public takeover, we can help save real dollars for Long Islanders — and that is precisely what this bill does,” he said. “My colleagues and I will continue to fight for real relief for ratepayers, and Assemblywoman Griffin’s leadership here is much appreciated.”

At press time, the bill had yet to be delivered to Cuomo to sign into law. If the bill were to become law, water authority directors would need to be appointed.