MTA officials held a meeting at Bushwick’s Market Hotel on Wednesday night, sharing information with the general public about the upcoming M train shutdown and speaking privately with the group of residents who will be displaced by some of the work.
MTA President Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim, MTA Deputy General Counsel Anthony Semancik, MTA Program Manager Ray Wong, and Helene Cinque and Frank Phillips – both of the MTA real estate division were on hand at last night’s M Line Reconstruction and Temporary Relocation Program meeting held at the Market Hotel to connect face to face with the residents and business owners who are being asked to leave, voluntarily, come July 2017, for as little as three or as long as 10 months.
Hakim kicked off the meeting by telling assembled group, most of whom dwell or work within the triangular block of Myrtle Avenue, Ditmars Street and Broadway that “You know the structure we’re talking about— It’s critically important that we get this project underway.”
The challenges presented by the work needed on the103 year old, 310 foot long Myrtle Viaduct are manifold. Because of how closely the viaduct was originally built to the buildings it surrounds, the temporary relocation program is a safety precaution, in the event that any damage occurs to the residential structures.
Wong explained that there will be plywood and barricades in place during the work to protect the housing. When a resident raised concerns about whether the construction will cause the ground to shift, Wong reassured the crowd that there will be vibration monitors within the vacated buildings’ basements and promising that there will be photo documentation of this so residents can closely monitor any changes.
Backyards will also be effectively made anew, told Hakim, and residents will have the option of having concrete laid.
Statements by both Cinque and Semancik emphasized that the MTA’s goal was to ensure that there would be as minimal a financial impact on residents as possible. “We understand that it’s going to be disruptive, and you’ll be paid in full—You’ll be taken care of. It’ll be on our dime,” promised Cinque. Cinque also revealed that the rent, as well as any logistical expenses (such as hiring a moving truck) having to do with the move, will be “on our dime.”
Cinque further revealed that the residents will be given an allowance per diem, which she explained will hopefully patch up all the extra little expenses one finds themselves in when they’re out of their comfort zone— “Like ordering take-out and delivery,” she went on. The affected residents were given space at the end of the presentation to discuss their financial needs privately with the officials.
Though construction work is scheduled to commence in January of 2017, residents aren’t being asked to leave until July of that year.
Treading lightly around the option of asserting eminent domain, everybody on stage agreed that that is a procedure which they absolutely don’t want to enforce, but, technically, can, and theoretically will have to if those surrounding the viaduct don’t follow the MTA’s temporary relocation program.
“There is a process we have to follow, whether or not we receive voluntary involvement,” said Semancik. “The agreement, covered by New York law, is designed to protect the residents’ rights,” he continued. “If you have pets, we’ll make sure we accommodate them,” echoed Cinque.
Thinking far ahead, one of the residents asked: “What will happen when the rodents go crazy?” Though there was no definitive answer, Wong explained that “We have a professional company that will be maintained throughout the project and will be setting traps.” “And we are aware of vector control,” added Hakim.
Though no specific contractor company was confirmed for the project, Hakim ended the public portion of the meeting by stressing that the MTA would do everything possible to ensure the contractor on the job was capable and expedient, noting that “What we’ll be doing is entertaining competitive proposals,” and insisting that whoever does take on such a critical project will be more than qualified and equipped to complete it under the high standards that New Yorkers deserve.