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Queens Chronicle

188 St. rally for utility responsibility bill

Homeowners join state lawmakers in urging Gov. Cuomo to sign legislation

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Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2019 10:30 am

The city billed 188th Street homeowners in Fresh Meadows thousands of dollars for water pipe damage on their properties. One senior citizen had to pay $10,700.

But oddly enough, the city did not ultimately conclude the residents were responsible for the damage. A Department of Environmental Protection report identified the problem’s source as stray electric current from disconnected Verizon cables.

Still, the homeowners had to pay the bills.

Outraged, they found allies in their state legislators. Sen. John Liu (D-Bayside) and Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) introduced bills in their chambers, S4118B and A5254, respectively, that would force utilities like Verizon to pay for damage that the DEP finds them responsible for.

Fighting for the bill in Albany, Liu and Weprin allied with Brooklyn legislators who have constituents who have undergone the same issues with a utility. While the legislation was making its way through the process, Verizon sent letters to the 188th Street homeowners.

While not technically admitting responsibility for the damage, the company said it would reimburse the residents for the repair costs as long as they agreed to sign a release of claims against the company over the damage.

The company told the Chronicle any future leaks would be evaluated and paid for. But residents took issue with the letter, not wanting to have to go through the same process if the problem reappears.

They may soon have a solution.

With the Legislature having passed the Liu-Weprin bill, the two lawmakers joined other area leaders and 188th Street homeowners at a rally last Thursday to call on Gov. Cuomo to sign the legislation.

“This bill, at the end of the day, is about making sure that companies are responsible for their own equipment, supplies and infrastructure,” Liu said. “And it’s about accountability. And it’s even moreso about proactive measures.”

Weprin said the bill being codified into law should be a major victory for middle-class homeowners in New York City.

“Homeowners should not have to worry about laying out the money or be responsible when it’s clearly the utility’s fault,” said the assemblyman. He grew up on 188th Street, and much of the road is co-named for his father, the late Assembly Speaker Saul Weprin.

Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), who helped pass the bill as chairman of the Cities Committee, said it’s “clearly the right thing to do.

“Middle-class homeowners cannot afford the litigation costs to sue a deep-pocketed utility to repair the water lines and they need an easier way,” he said.

In an email to the Chronicle last Friday, the Governor’s Office said it is reviewing the legislation.

The 188th Street homeowners who had to pay for repairs for damage they didn’t cause are among the plaintiffs seeking damages in a class-action lawsuit filed in Brooklyn state Supreme Court against Verizon in May. Other plaintiffs include homeowners in Brooklyn and other streets in Queens.

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1 comment:

  • Buster57 posted at 3:41 pm on Thu, Jul 18, 2019.

    Buster57 Posts: 77

    OMG, Verizon should be strung up & SUED massively!! That is just insane. AND that the city/DEP wouldn't do this without the aid of local officials or check into who was responsible and get the money directly from them yet bill the homeowners is even more insane. What the "eff" is wrong with the city/DEP?? The quality of life in this city is at an all time low.