RAMAPO, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Fifteen families in Rockland County, New York are being evicted from their historic longtime homes.
Their landlord isn’t some heartless real estate company, it’s the town of Ramapo — their own local government.
“My girls come here with their children,” evicted tenant Sharon Cuomo told CBS2’s Brian Conybeare. “They spend the night every Christmas Eve and it’s gonna change.”
Cuomo and her husband, Bill, have lived in a tiny cottage on Lake Street for 35 years. Now, they’re being evicted by the town, which owns the property.
“It’s devastating what they’re doing, throwing us out like this,” Bill told CBS2. “Kicking us to the curb and the town doesn’t even care.”
76-year-old Bob Heddy says he’s lived in his house, down the street from the Cuomos, for 56 years. He received an eviction notice giving him and 14 other families until November 30th to pack up and move.
He’s already got boxes stacked up in his living room.
“It’s really a trying time because it comes right in the middle of our holidays,” Heddy said. “They had all the time in the world, they could’ve done this and they do it in the middle of our holidays.”
The town bought the houses in 2009 and many, built for immigrant workers in the 1850’s, have fallen into disrepair. Some renters were told the structures were dangerous.
“My house isn’t dangerous, I put the floors in my house, I did the work,” Bill said. “I never asked the town for one penny.”
Ramapo town hall was closed Monday in observance of Columbus Day, and nobody agreed to answer CBS2’s questions on-camera. The active town supervisor says the eviction notices are all about protecting town taxpayers.
The town plans to tear the historic houses down, rezone, and sell the land for commercial use like warehouses or manufacturing.
In a statement to CBS2, acting Supervisor Yitzchok Ullman said; “The unfortunate reality is that even under the best circumstances the town was losing money each year renting these properties out. Now, we are facing repair costs of close to one million dollars.”
Tenants say they aren’t sure where they’ll go after all these years.
“Real bad, real bad,” Bill said. “Like, I’m homeless. Really I am homeless with them kicking me out.”
The town is offering help finding new rentals and paying security deposits, but residents say this is home, and they’d rather stay put.
Ullman says by selling the homes to a developer, the properties will start generating tax revenue for the town once again.