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DEP spokesman Farrell Sklerov said this is unlikely. "Almost everyone decides to pay," he said. Eighty-nine percent of properties with liens eligible for sale resolve their delinquencies before the sale occurs, Holloway testified. But that means 11 percent are sold. "I always knew one could lose one's home for foreclosure and for tax liens," testified Anita Burson, who is fighting to keep her family's six-unit Brooklyn brownstone off the sale list. "But for water?"

Impact of the Council Bill
Thirty-four city council members have sponsored Int. 26, originally proposed by Councilman Albert Vann. The bill would exempt from water lien sale one-, two-, and three-family homeowners who receive the Enhanced STAR Exemption, a tax break for seniors with moderate income. The bill would also lengthen the time that owners get to resolve a water bill delinquency from one year to three.

Additionally, it would require DEP to scrub their rolls of seniors who may be eligible for additional tax credits and rebates but don't currently receive them. But the bill won't help the people now threatened with a lien sale.

The 7,045 properties facing lien sales under current law owed a combined total of $33.8 million as of May 1. To avoid placement on the list of properties with liens eligible for sale, owners of those properties were required to have rectified matters—repay everything or enter into a payment plan—by Friday.