Upper East Siders Suing Over Subway 'Bait and Switch'

One group of New Yorkers is doing something that millions of others might like to try: suing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

But the residents at 233 East 69th St., left, have a very specific reason, according to last week's report in The Real Deal.

The Upper East Siders argue that the MTA illegally changed the plans for ventilation structures, dramatically increasing their size. The move is a "bait and switch," according to an East Side Council Member who says the neighbors "have a right to be upset."

Back in 2004, an environmental impact statement reportedly called for units that would be about "the same size as a typical row house - 25 feet wide, 75 feet deep, and four- to five-stories high, although some may be wider." The neighbors say the current design calls for a structure up to 10 stories high. That's not thrilling the neighbors, who Council Member Jessica Lappin says are "getting something dramatically different" than what was promised.

A week after the lawsuit went public, the MTA still has no response. "We're not commenting at this point," said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz on Monday. But he did add that the agency needs "a chance to review the legal documents."

Might be good to read speedily, MTA lawyers, and get out your side of the story. The ventilation units are part of the Second Avenue Subway project, which is in itself a long-running drama. The New York Times reminded us a couple of years ago about the travails of the project that began with Mayor John F. Hylan trying to kick things off in the 1920s. The groundbreaking didn't take place until 1972. So there isn't too much hysteria about the latest lawsuit slowing things down.

Still, the MTA's latest no-comment move resonates because the neighbors have been unhappy that the the agency's been unresponsive to their concerns, according to Lappin. "The neighbors feel like they went to the MTA and the MTA basically ignored them," Lappin said. Either the MTA should explain why the change in design was made or go back to the previous plan, she said, adding, "It's a bait and switch and it's not right."

It's hardly the only sad story along Second Avenue, where Lappin notes that residents and merchants have had to move to make room for the subway and its construction. The case at 233 East 69th Street is only, she said, "adding some insult to injury."

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