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Prospect Heights families facing eviction

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After more than a quarter-century in Prospect Heights, Evelyn Suarez may soon have to find another place to call home.

Suarez is among a handful of tenants fighting to keep their rent-controlled apartments in a building on Bergen Street, near Carlton Avenue, that the new owners hope to use for their own growing family.

But with two teenagers and a grandson to raise, longstanding rent-control protection and a new diagnosis of colon cancer, Suarez doesn’t feel she should be forced out of her $400-a-month rental, where she’s lived for 28 years.

“Right now, I don’t know what to do,” the 50-year-old said last week, before the legal challenge she filed had been heard in court. “Where am I going to go, for that much?”

The new owners of 533 Bergen St. have rights, too. The courts have allowed owners to evict renters and take over their units if the expansion is for their own immediate family use.

“Do they wish there was some other way? Yes, but in today’s market, it’s just not possible,” explained Jeffrey Goldman, the lawyer for the four owners.

Suarez and her neighbors vowed not go without a fight. Attorney Brent Meltzer argued on Wednesday to stop the evictions, and the Fifth Avenue Committee, was slated to hold a rally for their cause on Thursday.

Whether it is legal or not to evict Suarez, Meltzer also sees an issue of fairness. Forcing out a dozen people who built the neighborhood to make way for one family, with plans for a five-bedroom home, doesn’t seem right, Meltzer said.

“I’m not trying to deprive them of the right to have a palatial home,” said Meltzer, “but I wish they didn’t have to make five families homeless in the process.”

Goldman conceded Suarez would be unlikely to find another apartment at the same low rent. But she’s enjoyed a “very good government deal” for a “very long period of time,” he said, and will now face market rates, like many other New Yorkers.

“I don’t think that’s unfair,” Goldman said. “It may be unfortunate. But I don’t think it’s unfair.”

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