2nd Avenue subway forcing out residents

September 8, 2009 3:53:59 PM PDT
The Second Avenue subway isn't expected to open for at least another eight years. But already it's forcing some residents out of their homes on the Upper East Side.Eminent domain lets the state take over the land, but is the MTA helping residents find a similar place to live like the laws says it has to?

Many residents in the area fear they'll be swept away. People like Conrad and Ann Riedi. Conrad grew up in a building on 83rd Street, where the couple currently lives in a three-bedroom apartment. Now, they must move to make way for the subway.

"We've had a whole room that's been packed for the last two years, you are kind of in a state of stand up in a hurry, because you don't know what's going on, moving or not moving," Ann said.

Under federal law, when land is taken by eminent domain, the MTA must find replacement housing that's considered "comparable" in size and monthly rent to a tenant's current apartment.

Officials say they're doing just that and, for some, even trying to find new rent stabilized apartments for those already dealing with that kind of lease.

"If we are not able to do that or if we are but it's slightly more expensive, the MTA will cover the difference in rent for as along as they would have been in rent-stabilized housing," the MTA's Jeremy Soffin said.

The Riedis' apartment is rent controlled, and the MTA says the same agreement stands. If they end up in a unit that's market price, the agency will make up the difference in price indefinitely.

That is news to them, the Riedis said. Both Conrad, 76, and Ann, 64, are on fixed incomes.

They are in the same boat as others who are anxiously navigating through uncharted waters.

"I am not going to move into a shoebox after having a large bi-room apartment," Ann said. "Not going to happen."

Considering the scope of the multi-billion-dollar project, the number of building effected is surprisingly low, just four. But that represents dozens of residents. And when it's your apartment, numbers don't really matter.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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