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No Answers for Bushwick Residents Who May Lose Homes to MTA Construction

 Ada Hernandez, 48, and her father Gregory Hernandez, 66, have lived on Ditmars Street for decades.
Ada Hernandez, 48, and her father Gregory Hernandez, 66, have lived on Ditmars Street for decades.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

BUSHWICK — More than a month since dozens of residents found out second hand that they'd be forced to leave their homes while the MTA reconstructs a section of the M train line, they say they're at their wits end, still without any solid answers from the agency about where they'll go, if they'll get to stay in the neighborhood and who will safeguard the homes they've lived in for decades while they're gone.

The MTA needs the residents of 26 apartments out and to close two businesses during a 6- to 8-month stint, or potentially longer, while it rebuilds the "Bushwick Cut," a section of the M line that juts off from the J and Z lines at Myrtle Avenue, according to signed by the MTA's board in March.

Over the last several weeks, affected residents at several addresses on Myrtle Avenue and Ditmars Street received letters explaining they would have to move and that they would soon have a meeting with a "relocation expert," though none who spoke with DNAinfo, had been able to schedule those meetings.

Homeowners got letters from the MTA dated April 15 though they received them several days after news had already broken that they'd be forced to temporarily leave their homes. Renters got letters about two weeks later, like the one included below. 

MTA Letter to Bushwick Residents by M train by DNAinfoNewYork

And the last two weeks Real Estate Manager Frank Phillips has been knocking on doors and stuffing more letters into mail slots saying he'd been there and he'd be back, residents said.


A renter on Myrtle Avenue whose apartment building needs to be vacated said they got a letter from Phillips saying he'd been at their apartment and that he'd come back the next day.

"My roommate...stuck around all day Saturday waiting for him to come," said Abby Campbell. "He never showed up."

"This is ridiculous. I'm 25 years old and I'm being stressed into my forties."

Campbell took matters into her own hands last week and called Phillips, who assured her that it wasn't "going to be that bad" that "it's not moving its just going to stay somewhere else," she said, he'd told her. 

In the months that she'd be out of her apartment, she could pack a bag and stop back at her place on scheduled times to pick up items she needed, he told Campbell. But that frustrated the renter even more, giving her the impression she'd be living out of a suitcase for months, she said.

“My apartment is my sanctuary,” said Campbell. "I need my pots and pans, my pantry full of spices, I need my bed. That’s why I have a home, that’s why anybody has a home."

Another resident said she'd bumped into Phillips on several occasions, but that he hadn't been able to offer any kind of details about the impending fate of her home.

"He keeps asking me, 'Who lives in my home, who lives in my home?'" said Ada Hernandez, 48, whose elderly father and uncle live in two different houses owned by the family on Ditmars Street that have to be vacated. "I don't understand. I keep telling him the same answers."

"How come he keeps coming around?" Hernandez said. "Pick a date and a time and we'll show up."

"He's coming around talking to the retirees and people who don't know any better," said Hernandez. "These are old folks that are stressed."

Staffer Lacey Tauber at City Councilman Antonio Reynoso's office said they too, like the resident who may be displace, were waiting on the MTA. 

The agency is focusing its efforts on organizing public meetings on the L train shutdown and then will regroup and deal with setting up a public meeting to discuss M train issues, as well as individual meetings with renters, homeowners and businesses that it needs out, Tauber said.


O.R. Colan Associates, a company that the MTA hired to find new homes for residents who had to be moved during construction of the Second Avenue Subway and that the Port Authority employed to move thousands of Midtown residents for construction of the Gateway Tunnel, is in charge of efforts to find Bushwick residents new temporary homes.

Delores Singletary of O.R. Colan Associates didn't respond to a request for comment.

Following a meeting with MTA last week State Sen. Martin Dilan said the MTA had mentioned potentially paying for residents to stay in hotels during the construction. When Hernandez heard that, she confronted Phillips on the street when she saw him around most recently.

"I told him I didn't want to be put in a hotel," she said. "He got real quiet."

"It's his job to make us all agree and leave quietly," Hernandez said. "That's not gonna happen."

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said that the agency had made spoken with all the homeowners and "been in contact with approximately 70-80% of the tenants that will be affected."

"We will meet with everyone and tailor plans to the specific needs and circumstances of each tenant and property owner," he said. "We understand the serious inconvenience that each of these individuals are likely to experience in order to allow us to undertake this critical infrastructure project and we will do everything we can to minimize the impact on this community."

These are the addresses that the MTA said it has to vacate, though some of these are vacant land:

Myrtle Avenue: 1168, 1158, 1156

Ditmars Street: 29, 27, 25, 23, 21, 19, 17, 15, 13, 11

Broadway: 979, 977, 975, 973, 971, 967, 969

Here's a map, the colored areas are buildings that will be impacted.