Last holdouts face eviction to make room for ‘Willoughby Square Park’

There are dozens of tenants left in the city-acquired properties on Albee Square between Willoughby and Fulton streets, some of whom allege that the city isn’t helping them find new homes.

“They keep telling us that they’ll help us get a place, or that they’ll pay us to move out — but they lied,” said Ray Ahamed, a 14-year resident of one of the properties. “Some people have been living here for 50 or more years. My family will have a hard time finding a place to go.”

Ahamed added that he was given a July deadline to get out — a date not confirmed by the city.

Early last year, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development used eminent domain to secure 10 properties on the plot surrounded by Willoughby and Duffield streets, and Albee Square. Since then, officials have been “assisting” tenants into other affordable housing to make way for the 1-1/4-acre greenspace and underground parking garage later this year.

Some of the dozens of residents who remain will be eligible for HPD-assisted housing. Others have already chosen similar units to move to. But for some, like Ahamed and five others who live in his home, the future is unclear — only a select few can make it into HPD’s affordable-housing program under strict guidelines, and moving out of a 14-year abode isn’t an easy feat.

“What’s the worst-case scenario? We’re not sure,” said an HPD official, who asked not to be named. “The good thing is that there is still a good amount of time for us to continue our work with the tenants.”

Ahamed said that his family’s worst-case scenario will be to start the arduous process of finding a new home in Downtown, but he isn’t sure about the rest of the newly displaced tenants.

But his and other families on the block also have immediate problems to deal with: when our staff visited tenants on Monday, we discovered that the HPD and Con Edison had shut off a majority of the tenants’ electricity — though the agencies claim it was an error.

“[Con-Ed] came by last week, shut off the power to my home and told us only four families live here,” Ahamed said. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? There are nine families here at least!’ Now they’re saying we have to go to court to figure this out.”

City officials weren’t reachable by our deadline, but the lights in Ahamed’s and other tenants’ apartments were indeed cut off. Wires crowded hallways, connecting some homes to the basement power, and food in several refrigerators was going sour.

Ahamed said his family isn’t retaining a lawyer — they’re just looking for a way out.

The city is still looking at designs for the park, a square block of open space that will have a 700-car garage beneath it. Until then — Housing officials wouldn’t confirm a timeline — residents are looking for answers.

Many admitted that they have no other options and will move out eventually, while others allege that they aren’t getting the help they were promised.

“If they’re trying to push us out, they should stop bulls—ing and actually give us a hand,” said Carlos Barrera, another tenant on the outs. “This is my home and family we’re talking about.”

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