Adams brings back hidden tax that will cause NYC water bills to skyrocket

Mayor Eric Adams.
Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

New Yorkers are already drowning in bills. And now, if a NYC proposal is approved, property owners will have to pay 8.5% more for water — or an additional $100 — annually. 

The huge increase is due in part to a “rental payment” fee NYC Mayor Eric Adams is imposing on the city’s Department of Environmental Protection. The city has requested a payment of $145 million in FY24 and $289 million in FY25 from water rate proceeds, the DEP said. Similar requests are also projected for FY26-FY28.

In turn, New Yorkers will end up footing the bill by paying 8.5% more for water come July 1 if the proposal is passed. 

The rental payment fee is not new. It was implemented in the mid 1980s and was used for years to successfully pay off general obligation debt from before 1985. But former Mayor Bill de Blasio suspended this “hidden tax” during his administration since it was no longer needed. 

Legally, Adams has the right to impose the rental payment on DEP, but some critics, including NYC Council Member James Gennaro (D-Queens), do not see it as fair, especially since the payments do not necessarily have to fund water and wastewater systems and projects. 

“It’s wrong, and he knows it,” Gennaro said. “He’s doing it anyway because he thinks he can do it in stealth. This is baloney and they know it.”

The council member added that even though the DEP’s Water Board is obligated to oblige Adams’ rental payment proposal, they do not have to do so happily.

“While theoretically they have no legal ability to deny the mayor the rental payment, it doesn’t mean that they can’t make a crusade over it, that they can’t make a statement or that they can’t resign and not be a part of this,” Gennaro said. 

Meanwhile, the water board still has to vote on the proposal and kicked off a series of public hearings in each borough this week.

How much more will New Yorkers have to spend for water?

Generally, a single-family home in NYC uses an average of 70,000 gallons of water per year. If an 8.5% water rate increase is adopted by the Water Board, New Yorkers will notice.

This means a typical single-family homeowner will see an increase from $1,088 to $1,181 per year for water and sewer bills—an increase of $7.71 a month or almost $100 annually. 

But there is a silver lining to the expensive news. Despite the increase, New Yorkers will still pay less than other Americans for water in larger cities, a City Hall spokesperson said in a statement to amNew York Metro.

“New York City continues to keep water rates low, with New Yorkers paying less than the average American living in a large metro area for exceptional water quality and delivery,” the spokesperson said. “Thanks to effective planning, we are investing billions of dollars in large-scale capital improvements over the next decade to enhance our water and sewage systems and make drainage upgrades, all while making sure that New Yorkers, particularly low-income and senior residents,  pay affordable rates.”

Another reason for the water cost increase is to support funding for continuing capital projects, including the $1.6 billion combined sewer overflow retention tanks for the Gowanus Canal and the build-out of a $2.6 billion drainage system for southeast Queens.

The city also cited delinquent payments exceeding $1 billion as a reason for the rate increase, which is roughly 25% of the annual payment revenue, according to officials.