The president of Glen Oaks Village said the co−op was put through “torture” by the city Department of Environmental Protection over the last 18 months in its effort to get $270,000 in erroneous water bills corrected.
“I call it DEP’s version of waterboarding because it’s a slow torture,” co−op President Bob Friedrich said Friday, three days after the Glen Oaks co−op settled with the city agency for more than $400,000 in water charges.
The settlement was reached nearly 18 months after the discrepancy was found by Friedrich, who said the $400,000 figure was about how much the co−op figured it owed during that span.
About 10,000 residents — including 3,000 families — live in Glen Oaks Village apartments. The co−op has 133 water meters.
Friedrich, also a candidate for City Council in 2009, said he noticed about 18 months ago that charges for six of the meters were grossly inaccurate.
The quarterly readings for the six meters generally come in at between $12,000 and $24,000, Friedrich said, but the co−op got a bill totaling more than $271,000.
“The bills were not consistent with the previous quarters,” Friedrich said. “They were billing us a lot more than we were paying in the past.”
Friedrich said the co−op’s letters contesting the charges went unanswered, with the agency even mailing Glen Oaks Village warnings that water liens were about to be sold and that its water would be shut off in 90 days.
“Obviously, we’re not going to pay $271,000 until we resolved the issue,” he said.
He said the discrepancies were taken care of after he got in touch with the DEP’s ombudsman, a position he first learned of after attending a DEP budget hearing hosted by City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Fresh Meadows).
“This was a long, convoluted process just to get them to acknowledge this was a problem,” Friedrich said.
Under the settlement, the co−op sent the agency a check Dec. 9 for more than $400,000 — a 40 percent decrease from the approximately $700,000 that DEP said Glen Oaks Village owed.
Despite the resolution of the overcharged bills, Friedrich said there was no guarantee that the co−op would escape future problems with the DEP.
“This is an agency that has a multitude of problems,” he said. “I’m not confident two years from now I won’t go through something again.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e−mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 173.
©2008 Community News Group
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