State officials are stepping up efforts to settle with frustrated homeowners who want compensation for declining property values and mitigation problems caused by the new Tappan Zee Bridge.
Although Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration has made it clear that remediation cannot be offered until a builder for the bridge has been selected -- a vote that is at least 12 days away -- homeowner groups on both sides of the Hudson River report solid movement in their ongoing talks with state officials about issues that stem from living at the foot of the bridge in both Rockland and Westchester counties.
Details are hard to come by as tight-lipped state officials hammer out details. But with the pace of negotiations picking up, speculation abounds that the builder will help pick up the tab for remediation.
"They are calling it a 'good-neighbor policy,' " said Faith Elliot of South Nyack, one of the half-dozen or so South Nyack owners of single- and two-family homes who hopes to hear good news soon.
In January, the homeowners received letters from the state saying that their homes would be bought -- an offer that was rescinded in May when designs changed. Elliot has been one of the homeowners agitating for the state to make good on its original agreement and buy them out.
The process seemed hopeless until her last phone call to Brian Conybeare, Cuomo's special adviser on the new bridge. Elliot said he told her that project officials were "going to try to get the developer to buy the houses instead of the state."
Although state officials confirm that they hope to reach a resolution before the end of December, they declined to comment further.
At Salisbury Point, the 120-unit waterfront cooperative in South Nyack, board president Cathy McCue said state project officials are at last negotiating on specific points from her list of issues. McCue said Conybeare has asked her to deliver by Dec. 15 specific proposals for replacement windows that will shut out noise and dirt, security gates to keep bridge workers and others from wandering on their complex and options for enclosing the private swimming pool to protect it from falling debris.
"While he said that there's nothing absolutely confirmed, the Thruway Authority is willing to engage in dialogue on those three things and wanted proposals from us," McCue said. Other items on her list, which include compensation for declining property values, would be discussed later, after the bridge design team is named, she said she was told.
"He said December or January; he wasn't sure because the date keeps getting pushed back," McCue said.
Talks are also fueling cautious optimism on the Westchester side.
"I feel confident that the state will come through with compensation and remediation and support the homeowners like they said they would," said Alice Goldberg, president of board at The Quay, an 89-unit waterfront complex in Tarrytown that sits near the bridge.
She declined to comment on details but said that there have been continuous meetings since the summer. "It's an ongoing dialogue," Goldberg said.