Ongoing Tenant Harassment on the Bowery Sparks Rally Against Landlord Joseph Betesh

Posted on: April 13th, 2016 at 5:00 am by

This image has been archived or removed.

Photo: Zhen Hong Tang

​Embattled tenants of 83-85 Bowery are still struggling against their landlord of three years, Joseph Betesh. The Dr. Jay’s magnate purchased these adjacent tenements back in 2013 alongside ten other Bowery buildings in a blockbuster portfolio deal valued at $62 million. It didn’t take long for the alleged harassment to begin.

Holdout tenants subsequently organized to fight Betesh and his purported inaction in repairing the structurally challenged buildings. (This is a common harassment tactic by slumlords.) The activists are now demanding the city take action to “bring criminal charges against millionaire landlord Joseph Betesh.” A rally was held yesterday to gain visibility and support for the cause. Hundreds of supporters were reportedly in the ranks.

“Unscrupulous landlords must be held legally accountable for their actions,” Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez said in a public statement. “I applaud these residents for standing together in defense of their rights. I will continue working to ensure residents are afforded further protections that prevent landlord abuses.”

This image has been archived or removed.

Photo: Zhen Hong Tang

Lower Manhattan Democratic District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar added, “We must keep the Lower East Side and Chinatown affordable for the families who live here. I stand with the tenants of 83-85 Bowery. I stand against discriminatory zoning policies that make the Lower East Side unaffordable and that have led to the displacement of thousands of families in our community. We must come together to end this crisis.”

Also part of the media blitz is an article published in the Daily News today.

Last year, the landlord served Ms. Wang [in the 2nd floor apartment] with an eviction notice when her lease expired, arguing that based on renovations done to the building about 35 years ago, none of the apartments in the building were rent-regulated. Therefore, the argument went, she and other residents were not entitled to stay in their apartments. The landlord withdrew the case when the tenants’ lawyer, Janet Ray Kalson, told a housing court judge that she was hiring an engineer to determine how much of the building had been renovated.

The landlord offered the tenants $15,000 each to leave. They declined. Last month, the boxes of lawsuits arrived for a new case brought by the owner in State Supreme Court. It argues that the buildings cannot be fixed unless the tenants are out. Moreover, the owners “firmly believe that neither of these buildings were rent-regulated,” Mr. Goldsmith said.

If true, that would mean the tenants would not be entitled to come back, though Ms. Kalson says the tenants’ engineer believes that the most serious problems can be repaired without requiring them to leave.

This image has been archived or removed.

Photo: Zhen Hong Tang

And a good point posited in the press release:

83-85 Bowery tenants are in a similar situation as most residents in Chinatown and the Lower East Side. Due to recent discriminatory zoning policies, the neighborhood has become ground zero for displacement. Even many residents with rent-stabilized units are being forcibly displaced by landlords who use various underhanded tactics to evict tenants. That is why supporters are calling on the City to adopt the Chinatown Working Group rezoning plan. This plan would introduce protections such as contextual height limits to stop slumlords like Betesh and corrupt companies like Extell Development Corp. from building high-rises in the community. It would stabilize rents and real estate taxes, and enable the tenants of 83-85 Bowery and other low-income tenants in the community to stay.

The Betesh Bowery portfolio includes 83, 85, 88, 103, 105, 219, 221, 262, 276, 280, and 284 Bowery. These properties had been family owned since the 1930s until 2013.

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