In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the Sea Cliff Village Board of Trustees voted to approve the formation of the Sea Cliff Water Service Area Advisory Committee. Through research and analysis, the committee will make recommendations to the board to identify an entity to conduct a feasibility study, which will be funded with $80,000 in grant money, obtained by Senator Carl Marcellino.
The area is currently under the jurisdiction of New York American Water, a private water utility, but rising rate hikes, poor water quality and scathing investigations have pushed ratepayers to the boiling point. Over the past year customers have written to elected officials, rallied and organized civic groups all calling for a state condemnation of the company.
On Aug. 20 — two days after the state reached an agreement with NYAW to reduce rates for financially strained customers on Long Island — the village accepted the grant money to study the feasibility of switching the area’s water supplier to a public utility.
“The American Water Must Go group has worked very hard in the quest to obtain public water, and to expose New York American Water for their improper and unlawful practices,” said Village Administrator Bruce Kennedy, who will serve as the Sea Cliff advisory committee’s co-chair. “It’s constantly reported in the papers that our allegations have been accurate from the beginning, and now that we have [money to conduct] the feasibility study we can move forward.”
Kennedy will head the advisory committee with Glen Head resident Lawrence Ruisi. Fellow residents George Esernio, Agatha Nadel, and George Pombar are also on the taskforce. The five committee members are also members of the anti-American Water group, North Shore Concerned Citizens, whose mission it is to remove the company as the community’s water provider. In addition to Sea Cliff and Glen Head, the service area encompasses small pockets of Glen Cove, Roslyn Harbor and Brookville.
“I’m very passionate about this whole fight,” Nadel said. “Having this task force work with the Board of Trustees and the Village of Sea Cliff will strengthen our commitment to bring public water to our community.”
Kennedy explained that the committee would provide “expertise and knowledge” to the board by identifying an entity to carry out the feasibility study. Before an RFP is solicited, however, the group is planning to meet with nearby public water districts — specifically Jericho and Roslyn — to ensure those entities also have input.
“That way when we do put out an RFP, it would include all the information that would be required by the public utility,” he said.
The question of a feasibility study was first raised in February when local civics and elected officials attended a board meeting of the Jericho Water District. The commissioners said the district would need a feasibility study to determine if they had the proper means to accommodate Sea Cliff’s customers but could not expend its own funds to do so.
Nadel said the ultimate goal of the committee is to ensure the study is done correctly and thoroughly. “We all believe that it is feasible,” she said, “but obviously the study has to be done right.”
Much like most Sea Cliff ratepayers, Esernio is looking forward to potentially bringing public water to the North Shore. “We’ve been at this for over three years, he said, “and we’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”