Photo credit: Untapped Cities
Anytime New Yorkers hear about an upgrade in public transportation it probably starts off with excitement and ends with either dismay, frustration, apathy or all of the above. The people of East Harlem have been hearing about a planned train for some time. The stop is slated to be on Second Avenue at 106th and 116th streets, and two more on 125th street and on Lexington Avenue.
Here’s the part that gets residents feeling frustrated. Preliminary MTA plans for the new subway lines require, you guessed it, eminent domain. It is possible that several dozen of properties, some even say up to 41 properties, will be taken through eminent domain. This would result in the displacing hundreds of people along the Q train’s planned path.
No one knows the exact numbers just yet, but in the case of so many of these projects, the MTA still needs billions of dollars for funding to even start. As you may have heard, this year’s Trump administration budget has included zero dollars for the project.
The City, a local news outlet that covers NYC, went through the federally approved 230-page document. Their reporters note that “on the 23rd page of the sixth section… the MTA’s plan is laid out in black and white: The subway construction is slated to permanently displace 505 workers and 140 residential tenants.”
This is by far the largest property seizure in recent MTA history. The first phase of the Second Avenue Subway on the Upper East Side displaced 56 residential tenants. It is also triple what the MTA estimated in 2004 for a preliminary plan for the East Harlem portion of the train project.
Eminent Domain could affect a variety of businesses from large development lots on East 125th Street to hair salons, bodegas and small apartment buildings farther south.
For many who have grown-up and continued to live in buildings all of their lives, the thought of leaving is difficult. It can also be difficult for those who wish to sell their property, as buyers often do not want to be caught in an eminent domain battle. For commercial businesses, it can be a difficult decision whether to stay or go, and information is difficult to come by. Often residents find out at local community board meetings.
Commercial tenants are entitled to compensation. The Uniform Federal Relocation Act requires the State to reimburse losses caused by moving the business, among other things.
According to the MTA, officials say that they alerted property owners about the possibility it would take their properties in letters sent beginning in May. Residents say that this is not the case and that they have not received any information. Even if the construction began in mid-2019, it is not expected to be completed until 2029. We will keep you posted…