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Avella wants city to pay for water line repairs

State Sen. Tony Avella (r.) tells reporters he believes it is unfair that Bellerose homeowner Arthur Collazo had to pay to repair his water line, which broke under the street. Photo by Rich Bockmann
TimesLedger Newspapers

A Bellerose homeowner was shocked when he received a bill for $3,000 to fix a broken water line under the city’s street and state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said that is just not right.

Avella stood at the corner of 89th Avenue and the Cross Island Parkway service road last week, where he said homeowner Arthur Collazo was required to pay out of his own pocket to fix a water line that ruptured under the city-owned street during the Aug. 23 earthquake.

Collazo, a retired Vietnam veteran, said he called 311 the day of the quake, when water was pouring out of the street. Three days later, the city Department of Environmental Protection sent him a notice informing him he had three days to pay for the repairs himself.

“I was told, to my surprise, that I’m responsible and not the city,” Collazo said.

He went over a week without water in his home as a private contractor repaired the main — services he had to pay for with his credit card.

The water line was built when the home was constructed to connect to the city’s water main. Considered part of the home, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain and repair the water line.

“Sen. Avella’s eight years in the City Council should have made him familiar with basic city law. Water service lines are private property that are part of people’s homes, just like a kitchen sink,” said DEP spokesman Farrell Sklerov. “Is he asking city taxpayers to pay for those repairs as well?”

Collazo said he reached out to a number of elected officials, and Avella was the only one who responded.

“The city needs to assume more responsibility to repair breaks on city property and under city streets,” said Avella, adding he believed most water line breaks under city streets are caused by the poor conditions of the roadway. “This is just another unfair burden that gets placed on the backs of middle-class homeowners who are forced to come up with thousands of dollars in three days to make repairs.”

The senator said the mayor’s office and DEP could easily lift this burden from homeowners’ shoulders. He said he would look at possible legislation in Albany to change the policy.

“It’s a long-standing policy that I’ve been fighting for years and it’s about time it changed,” he said.

Collazo said it was too late to get his money back, but he hoped the policy would change.

“Perhaps something can be done on the city or state level so that homeowners and the veterans and the senior citizens don’t have to be burdened,” he said.

The DEP is currently developing a water service line protection program, similar to an insurance plan whichhomeowners would pay into in order to be financially covered in the event of a break.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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