Update on the Tenant Eviction at 81 Bowery

Posted on: March 11th, 2013 at 6:18 am by
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Last Thursday afternoon, the embattled SRO at 81 Bowery was liquidated thanks in large part to a CNN exposé. It wasn’t the first article written about the space, nor the first time tenants were evicted. CAAAV has been on the front lines since the FDNY reportedly “broke down the doors.” Apparently it was someone in Arizona who saw the report and alerted our fire department.

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Below is an extensive on-the-ground update on the situation from the advocacy group:

On March 7th, about 50 residents were forced out of their homes at 81 Bowery by the Fire Department of NY (FDNY). A vacate order had been issued earlier that day, citing safety reasons. Personnel from the FDNY showed up in the middle of the day, when almost no one was home, and broke down the doors to all the tenants’ rooms. When the residents came home, they were told they could not stay in their homes and had to leave immediately. They have been given emergency shelter by the Red Cross until Monday morning. On Monday, they will be homeless.

How did this happen? The FDNY received a tip from a person in Arizona after watching the clip below from CNN. The vacate order cited fire egress and sprinkler issues. After an inspection, the FDNY also determined that there were gas leaks in other parts of the building.

This was preventable. In 2008 the residents were forced out of their homes for the same reasons. CAAAV worked with them for 9 months until they were able to return. Since the tenants moved back in 2009, the landlord has not met their obligations by keeping the building safe. Not only have the landlords not provided any services, they have also not been aware of the condition of their own property.

It is easy for the media and the landlords to point fingers at the tenants and judge them on the conditions with which they live under. It is also easy to sensationalize their stories or assume that people want to live under these circumstances. But, New York City has been in a housing crisis for decades. It is clear to everyone who lives in the city that the development of new housing has not meant a decrease in poverty and homelessness. In poor communities like Chinatown, people it is no secret people live in overcrowded conditions that are often unsafe.

The residents of 81 Bowery live in a rent-regulated Single Room Occupancy (SRO) building on one of the busiest streets in Chinatown. SROs some of the most affordable housing in the city. For immigrants who are an invisible workforce, who are underemployed in service sectors where they have no job protections or a guaranteed income, 81 Bowery is their home and their only choice for a place to live. They have created and built a community together.

CAAAV was on site when the FDNY vacate order was executed. We are actively meeting with the residents every single day and working with MFY Legal Services, and we are determined to get them back into the building.

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