Letter to the Editor: Whose Side Is Leglislator Delia DiRiggi Whitton On?

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I read with curiosity the letter by Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton regarding New York American Water’s (NYAW) proposal to build a filtration system in Glen Head. I believe some clarification is necessary.

The Sea Cliff-Glen Head-Glenwood Landing area has been subject to the private profit-mongering NYAW since 2012. This area has had private water since the late 19th century because there has been no political will or interest in municipalizing the district. Unlike Great Neck and New York City, local politicians have turned a blind eye to obtaining affordable public water.

On Aug. 9, 2017, the “civic group” to which the Legislator refers held a meeting attended by approximately 400 ratepayers, local politicians and the NYAW President, wherein the community aired its grievances about the rates and service. From that meeting, another “civic” group, “North Shore Concerned Citizens” (NSCC) was created. Both groups are composed of volunteers working without pay.

In 2019 and again in 2020, Senator Jim Gaughran sponsored and got passed in the Senate a bill forming a North Shore Water Authority, to allow a public corporation to buy out the assets of NYAW and operate the water service. That always has been the goal of both groups. A similar bill was introduced in the State Assembly and never passed despite support from our three local assemblymen.

Last year, after being caught lying to the Public Service Commission (PSC), criminal investigations and bad publicity from local newspapers and radio stations, NYAW submitted a petition to the Public Service Commission to sell its assets to another private water monopoly, Liberty Utilities, a Canadian company. The “civic group” and NSCC have been fighting this sale with the goal of stopping it and forcing a sale of the assets to a municipal entity. Thanks to the community pressure, the PSC is seeking proposals from municipalities and public water districts to take over the NYAW system. The only governmental entity that has been involved in this fight (other than the State legislature) is the Village of Sea Cliff.

To appear and speak at these hearings, an entity must file a formal “Party Status Request.” Such Requests have been filed by the Village of Sea Cliff, NSCC and the Glen Head-Glenwood Landing Civic Council. Other municipalities and another volunteer group, L.I. CAWS, on the South Shore, have filed Requests. The Town of Hempstead, Village of Sea Cliff and Massapequa Water District have commissioned feasibility studies. Notably absent from these proceedings are the Nassau County Legislature and the Oyster Bay Town Board, both of which have been asked to join in the fight and have failed to do so.

DeRiggi-Whitton’s article focuses on a $1,000,000 building which will cost $200 per ratepayer. This is not a minimal charge but approximately one year ago, NYAW agreed in writing to build a new Glen Head water tower for $3.2 million. When it was built, they said that the cost is $6.4 million. That will cost each ratepayer $600, three times the amount.

When the “civic group” and NSCC complained about this, the DeRiggi-Whitton and other elected officials did nothing.

The complaint about the $200 is relatively minor compared to the cost paid every month to this profiteering company. Our rates are approximately five times what our neighbors pay to a public company. Instead of focusing on the $200, the focus should be on getting private water out of Nassau County. Suffolk County, Great Neck and New York City have done this. NYAW services 10 percent of Nassau County. Whenever DeRiggi-Whitton was asked about the county getting involved, it was always, “The County has no money.”

No “civic group” approved this filtration system building. “Civic groups” do not approve building applications or issue building permits. The water company submitted an application to the zoning board of appeals and it was approved. Notices for these hearings are published in the same newspapers that published the legislator’s letter. Property owners within 300 feet were notified. They and their civic representatives met with the town zoning board and water company representatives. There were several meetings held—in person, virtually and by conference call. The Village of Sea Cliff approved the application. It is hard to believe that DeRiggi-Whitton did not know about these meetings unless you consider the fact that this building is not in her district. This proposed structure is in the 18th Legislative District. She represents the 11th District. The building was also approved after an expert on commercial filtration systems, a retired water commissioner and university professor, stated a building was necessary for the system to properly function during sub-freezing conditions and this is the recommended method of construction in cold climates.

The legislator wants the ratepayers to call American Water. Thousands of ratepayers have already signed petitions to get rid of this company. The ratepayers have a chance to speak at the public part of the PSC hearings in November. How about the County Legislature doing its civic and ethical duty and getting involved in the fight to get all of Nassau County public water? This company and any of these other private water monopolies are ripping off 10 percent of Nassau County. This is a county issue. Let’s look at the big picture.

—Lloyd Nadel
Lloyd Nadel is the attorney for the Glen Head-Glenwood Landing Civic Council

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