MTA projects start to dislocate residents, businesses
After 50 years of serving veal cutlets to archbishops and local literati, Giambelli's 50th Ristorante was put out of business -- by an MTA ventilation plant.The classic restaurant is the first in a row of Manhattan businesses being displaced through eminent domain by the new Long Island Rail Road connection to Grand Central Terminal. A similar drama is being played out farther uptown, where the Second Avenue Subway is sending 47 residential tenants packing. Giambelli’s neighbor, The Mid-Town Wine & Liquor Shop, is preparing to close in a few months, after a 54-year run. “We thought we'd be here forever. But nothing is forever,” said Allan Kalish, 59. The East Side Access project promises to slash commuting times for 76,000 LIRR passengers once it opens 2016, as the MTA currently predicts after several delays. But progress has its price. The MTA is tearing down four buildings to make way for the Second Avenue Subway. Some of the tenants have packed up, with the MTA providing assistance to those displaced, said Councilwoman Jessica Lappin (D-Manhattan). “No one wants to be kicked out of their homes,” Lappin said. “But I have to give the MTA credit for making a real effort to come up with fair deals.” In 2006, the MTA was criticized after it displaced 150 businesses in lower Manhattan to construct the Fulton Street Transit Center, then nearly ran out of funds for the above-ground development. For the LIRR connection, the MTA will knock down five properties on East 49th and 50th streets, including two dating to 1910. The agency held a public hearing about the construction in 2005, and cut the facility's height and width down by half in response to local concerns, according to MTA documents. The development will include landscaped public space.
Still, some New Yorkers view the shuttering of Giambelli's as the tragic death of a New York fixture, which was first reported on the Lost City blog.Business owners at the five operating stores are at a loss for where to go. “My power is very small. The legal people don't care,” said Susan Park, 50, owner of a 9-year-old nail salon that will be displaced. The MTA meets face-to-face with those being displaced and helps them receive compensation such as moving expenses, as mandated by federal law, an agency spokesman said. Businesses and building owners will receive fair market value for their properties and assistance to reopen. Kalisih would not say how much he is receiving for his five-story building, as the deal is being negotiated. He has lost business and residential tenants during the drown-out process, he said. “They are ruining this street,” Kalisih said.