New Tappan Zee builder to homeowners: We want to buy your homes

An artist's rendition of the design for the An artist's rendition of the design for the new Tappan Zee Bridge that was selected by a panel of experts as the best value among the three proposals submitted. The winning design must be approved by the State Thruway Authority. (Dec. 5, 2012) Photo Credit: NYnewbridge.com

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After a year in limbo over the future of their houses, a handful of South Nyack homeowners living near the Tappan Zee Bridge have received solid assurances that they will get cash offers for their properties to make way for a new $3.9 billion span.

"We plan to buy your home and want this to be handled in a manner where we are addressing all real estate transactions in the correct legal manner," Tappan Zee Constructors spokeswoman Carla Julian wrote to homeowner Melissa Hall in a March 15 email, which was obtained by Newsday.

TZC will conduct three separate appraisals of each of the targeted single- and two-family houses and will then make a cash offer based on an average of the three appraisals, Hall said. The consortium has hired an unnamed local real estate attorney to handle the transactions, according to the email.

Julian declined to confirm details, including how many homes would be purchased, but said "we are still working out the process with the attorneys" and "we are working with the homeowners to reach a desired outcome."

Other homeowners reached by Newsday declined to comment on the negotiations.

Still, homeowners remain frustrated. Hall said the procedures have dragged on for so long that some of them complain their personal lives are in complete disarray. "This is going to go on into next year," she predicted. "This is just tearing our lives apart. ... They give all kinds of reassurances that haven't come through."

The nightmare for the disheartened handful of Rockland County homeowners began in January 2012, when the state Thruway Authority initially notified them that their South Nyack houses near the Thruway entrance to the bridge would be taken by the state and the homeowners would be compensated.

But in May, when some of the homeowners were already making plans to move and had multiple property appraisals in hand, state officials rescinded their offers.

The residents were left adrift until late December, when TZC was hired to handle what will be one of the largest infrastructure construction projects in the country. The contactor agreed to take on the problems of unhappy homeowners living closest to the bridge on both sides of the Hudson River. Their issues range from the soundproofing of windows to financial compensation for their losses in property value.

Even though the South Nyack homeowners were told an offer was forthcoming before the end of 2012, they are still waiting.

Now, said Hall, she and her husband are wondering if and when they and their affected neighbors will vacate their homes, which are clustered along South Broadway, Smith Street and Cornelison Avenue.

If the state was still seeking to buy their homes under eminent domain, the homeowners would be forced to take the checks and leave their houses. But now that the builder is handling the issue, the homeowners have an option to refuse TZC's offer and stay put, according to Hall.

"They seem to be confident that we will be happy with the offer," Hall said. "But the real estate market in South Nyack is in the toilet. Yes, they are going to make an offer but it may be so low that it may make more sense for us to keep the house and rent it."

Brian Conybeare, special adviser to Gov. Andrew M.Cuomo, remains optimistic that the homeowners will be satisfied. "Tappan Zee Constructors has agreed to a 'Good Neighbor Policy' and the state is encouraging them to go above and beyond what is required for residents directly impacted by the project," he wrote in a statement released to Newsday. "We will do everything we can to move the process forward to a positive conclusion."

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