State officials are moving toward a solution for the handful of South Nyack homeowners whose homes originally were to be purchased by the government to make way for the new $5.9 billion Tappan Zee Bridge -- an offer that later was rescinded.
Brian Conybeare, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's special adviser on bridge-related issues, told Newsday on Wednesday that a resolution is finally in sight.
"While we understand the homeowners' frustration with the process, we are working toward a resolution of their concerns and hope to have an announcement in the near future," Coneybeare said, though he declined to comment further.
In January, five homeowners received letters from the state informing them that their one- and two-family homes eventually would be acquired. But by May 25, project officials had changed their minds and dropped the offer. On July 18, the homeowners met with another Cuomo adviser, Larry Schwartz, who promised weekly updates -- but those never materialized.
Homeowner John Cameron greeted Coneybeare's assurance with skepticism Wednesday, pointing out that much remains uncertain about the bridge project, including who the builder will be.
"It's already past Thanksgiving and they haven't awarded the contract yet," Cameron said. After getting the state's initial offer to acquire their South Broadway home, Cameron and his wife, Hope Elliot, made plans to move out by June. Cameron said Wednesday they don't know what to expect now.
"Should I rake my leaves?" he said. "Or do they get shoveled into a Dumpster if they take my house? It's a limbo that's very annoying."
Bob Wisner also remained unconvinced that a workable solution would emerge for his two-family residence on Cornelison Avenue. He can't decide whether he should spend an additional $3,000 and finish replacing the gutters or let water leak in when it rains.
"What I'm upset about is the way we've been treated," he said. "Our houses are unsellable at this point. I'm stuck holding this house."
In recent months, the frustration level prompted one of the South Broadway homeowners, Melissa Hall, to start venting on a blog she created, eminentdomainblues.wordpress.com.
She said she keeps "trying to move on" but can't because of uncertainty about the state's plans.
"It doesn't seem legal that I can be put into such a prolonged position of limbo," she said.
Not all homeowners are upset. Bill Truss, a former head of the village Planning Board who attended some of the meetings between South Nyack Mayor Patricia DuBow and state bridge project officials, has supported saving the neighborhood instead of destroying the houses.
No matter what happens, his wife, Susan Truss, said they are already clear on how they feel about the state sparing their properties from demolition.
"We're thankful that we're allowed to stay in our home," she said.
Bridge project officials decided not to buy the properties after talks with the mayor. DuBow has said it is important to save what is left of South Nyack. In the 1950s, construction of the existing bridge brought about the destruction of more than 100 houses and the village's entire downtown.
In place of the properties that were destroyed, the State Thruway Authority built Exit 10, a mammoth interchange that is now used in part for parking Thruway Authority trucks and heavy equipment.