Tappan Zee Constructors to buy, and possibly rent, South Nyack homes

From left, Melissa McDonagh, 33, holding her son From left, Melissa McDonagh, 33, holding her son Fionn; her oldest son, Colin, 5; and her husband, Peter, 36, holding son River, 2, stand in their South Nyack driveway. The family was recently told that it might be left out of negotiations to have its home purchased as part of the new Tappan Zee Bridge project. (March 13, 2012) Photo Credit: Rory Glaeseman

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The long-running legal roller coaster for five South Nyack homeowners is inching toward a resolution as state officials confirm that their houses will be bought to serve as residences for top managers and executives who will be working on the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

Other residents are closely monitoring the deal, hoping that they might be able to rent their properties to contractors involved in the $3.9 billion bridge project. Construction is slated to begin this year and last about five years. It is not known how many of the thousands of workers on the Hudson River span will need housing. The lead member of the consortium -- Fluor Enterprises -- is based in Texas, but New York officials have vowed that the bulk of the jobs will go to local workers.

The five homeowners have been assured that nitty-gritty discussions would begin in weeks, some of them told Newsday. While they have heard variations of that promise before, the sense is that an offer is becoming "more of a reality," one homeowner said.

In January 2012, officials told the residents that their houses near the South Broadway Bridge -- an overpass that leads to the Thruway entrance onto the Tappan Zee Bridge -- would be acquired by the state and possibly torn down to make way for construction staging areas. By May, however, the footprint for the new Hudson River span had changed, and the state Thruway Authority rescinded its offer, leaving the frustrated homeowners clamoring for the original buyout deal.

Last month, bridge builder Tappan Zee Constructors announced it would definitely proceed with a home buyout -- and pick up the tab.

The residents said officials have told them that TZC would conduct three separate appraisals of their homes and base the cash offer on an average of the three figures. TZC spokeswoman Carla Julian declined to discuss details of the plan except to say that the builder is "committed to being a good neighbor during the project" with "the possibility of going above and beyond what is required." But, she added, "no final decisions have been made just yet."

The short list of South Nyack homeowners does not include two households that initially were contacted about selling part of their properties to the state.

Last year, Melissa and Peter McDonagh were told that part of their driveway or their entire South Broadway house might be acquired. To be left out of the current proposal is "just incomprehensible," Melissa McDonagh said. But after contacting Brian Conybeare, the special adviser to the governor, she has some hope of meeting with TZC representatives at some point. "We're waiting until they take care of our neighbors first," she said.

Tom Mulhearn, who also received a letter from state officials last year seeking to purchase part of the backyard of his Bradford Mews town house condominium, said that after consulting with his lawyer, he is "resigned" to being left out of the plan. "I don't see that there's much that I can do," he said.

However, Mulhearn, who is on the board of the eight-unit, Smith Avenue complex, said two of the units are on the market now, with one in contract. He also recently reached out to Conybeare and sees an opportunity to possibly lease his three-bedroom home to workers involved with the bridge project.

"He (Conybeare) said he'd help facilitate the renting of my town house, which makes me feel happy," Mulhearn said. Conybeare was not immediately available for comment.

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