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Despite criticisms of MTA effort to relocate renters, ESDC faces lesser obligation in AY footprint

A New York Times article yesterday, headlined Tenants Evicted by M.T.A. Ask: Move Where?, sympathetically related the situation facing tenants being displaced by the construction of the Second Avenue Subway on the Upper East Side.

While federal law requires the transit agency to find the renters comparable homes, they've been shown places outside the neighborhood and outside Manhattan, because--no surprise--it's not easy to find inexpensive or rent-regulated housing in the area.

Interestingly enough, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) is obligated to do much less for rent-regulated tenants who'd be displaced by the Atlantic Yards project.

MTA obfuscation

The Times reported:
But the options for tenants are limited. At first, Mr. Ortiz denied that the relocation service hired by the authority, a national real estate company called O. R. Colan Associates, had suggested that residents move outside their district, which stretches from East 59th Street to East 96th Street. Given an e-mail message showing that one tenant was encouraged to consider housing in Harlem, at East 116th Street, Mr. Ortiz said the authority wanted to offer as many choices as possible.

(Commenters on the Times's web site were not so sympathetic.)

And what about Brooklyn?

Attorney George Locker, who represents eight tenants in the AY footprint, has gone to court, contending that it was impossible for his clients to find similar rent-stabilized apartments.

The court ruling relied on the fact that the law requires only a "feasible" method for relocation, which includes "professional relocation consulting, real estate brokerage and moving services, the payment of moving expenses, and an additional monetary payment for other ancillary expenses."

I asked Locker, who also represents two of the Upper East Side residents, to contrast the two situations.

"As compared to the UDC Act's relocation requirements applicable to residential tenants in the case of ESDC's Atlantic Yards Project, the MTA appears to interpret the federal relocation requirements applicable to the MTA's construction of the Second Avenue Subway differently than does ESDC," he responded. "The MTA has stated publicly that it deems itself obligated to relocate tenants into comparable rent-regulated apartments in the neighborhood. ESDC has never taken that position."

"The MTA also has stated to me that it may provide 'lump-sum relocation payments' in cases where comparable rent-regulated apartments are not available in the neighborhood," he added. "It is called the MTA's 'Housing of Last Resort' program. It is not mentioned in the NY Times article. Maybe you need an attorney to receive this level of treatment. I don't know. At any rate, ESDC has never taken such a position. Having described the theoretical differences, I hasten to add that, so far, the MTA's relocation service, O.R.Colan Associates, Inc., has not followed these procedures with my clients, the Riedi Family."


  1. In terms of relocating residential condemnees, I would NOT say that ESDC has a lesser obligation in Atlantic Yards Project than the MTA in the Second Avenue Subway.

    I would say that ESDC acts as if it has a lesser obligation in terms of comparability, location, cost, and, ultimately, financial compensation. ESDC is simply ignoring the UDC Act and acting unlawfully, but what else is new?

    When it comes to relocating Upper East Side tenants, the MTA talks a good game (and spends federal money), but I don't see the implementation.

    Be in court on September 14 to hear what the MTA has to say.


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