NEW YORK CITY — The city will appeal a court decision to block some homeowners from receiving $183 credit on their water bills, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday.
The Appellate Division, First Department of the State Supreme Court ruled that the credit de Blasio planned to provide to owners of one- to three-family homes had "no rational basis," especially since it came at the same time the board approved a 2.1 percent rate increase.
The credit came when the city canceled the $122 million rent payment that the Water Board made to the city. The cost of the credit was virtually the same at $121.5 million.
"There's no reason to charge homeowners for things that aren't part of their water," de Blasio said Friday at a City Hall press conference, calling the rent payment a "hidden tax."
The credit would save some homeowners up to 40 percent on their water bill, a well-deserved break, the mayor said.
"This is part of working for an affordable city," said de Blasio, who has focused his administration on inequality and, recently, on creating "good-paying" jobs.
But the Rent Stabilization Association, a group representing large landlords, filed suit saying that it wasn't fair that the rebate only went to small homeowners. The city argued that the class of homeowner receiving the rebate included seniors and low and moderate income residents.
The court ruled that "the rationale for designating class one property owners as qualified for or deserving of a credit, but not other classes of property owners, is lacking" because "owners of luxury brownstones and other high value dwellings in the City" would also receive the rebate while seniors in low and moderate income owners of condos or co-ops would not.
The mayor and Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter argued that the Water Board, as the expert regulatory body on water rates, has the power to discern certain classes of users to provide relief to.
"The court has consistently held there should be deference to the experts in this field," said Carter. The only reason to deny the relief would be if the decision were "arbitrary and capricious."
Justice Marcy Kahn wrote a dissenting opinion that the credit was neither arbitrary or capricious because it included "financially overburdened lower and middle-class homeowners, many of whom are seniors, who had been disproportionately and adversely affected by the rise in water rates in recent years."
Staten Island homeowners Caryn Davis and Richie Roth said they have three jobs between them and that the $183 would help them get new tires for their car or repair their roof.
"The fact that there are people fighting to keep this from us is absolutely ridiculous. We are the heart of the city," said Roth. "We need this break."