85 Bowery Landlord Responds to Vacate Order, Alleges Illegal Conversion of Apartments to SRO
The controversial landlord of two Chinatown tenements is now responding to the ongoing drama with the embattled tenants of 83-85 Bowery.
You’ll recall that last Thursday evening, as part of the ongoing legal case between the two parties, the State Supreme Court ordered an inspection of 85 Bowery. An alphabet soup of city agencies and first responders descended upon the Bowery (near Canal) and ordered the tenement vacated. Nearly 100 low-income residents were forced to evacuate, the youngest only a few months old, and the oldest a nonagenarian. It happened on one of the coldest evenings in the last couple weeks.
The Red Cross found them temporary accommodations in a Brooklyn hotel where “large mice in the rooms are scaring the children at night,” according to a recent press release. Tenants remain fearful that they won’t be able to return to 85 Bowery, as promised. Instead, the rumor of a potential hotel construction onsite is the operating assumption.
The residents continue to accuse the landlord of neglecting the properties in a play to permanently vacate the premises.
“No tenant should ever have to experience what the residents of 85 Bowery went through last [Thursday] night, and continue to experience, at the hands of their predatory landlord, Joseph Betesh,” Councilwoman Margaret Chin said in a public statement after the vacate order. “As Council Member, I plan to reintroduce legislation to hold negligent landlords responsible for the relocation costs of tenants who are forced from their homes. My priority right now is to make sure that tenants are safe, and that the landlord makes the necessary repairs within the two week timeline issued by the judge so that residents can come home.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Joseph Betesh’s camp (i.e. 8385 LLC) provided the following response to the ongoing drama, and simlutaneously accused 85 Bowery tenants of illegally converting most of the apartments into single room occupancy dwellings:
The safety of the occupants of 83-85 Bowery is our top priority and we are taking immediate steps to repair building infrastructure and make the property safe for habitation. While the DOB was correct to vacate the building in the interest of safety, we believe this action should have been taken long ago.
Over the past two years, we repeatedly told city officials that it was necessary to vacate this property in order to safely perform much-needed repairs and ensure structural stability. Undertaking that work while the building was occupied would have put its occupants in grave danger. We repeatedly communicated all of this information to the building’s occupants and have spent the past two years working to find a positive resolution, but our proposals were rejected at every turn by their lawyers and other representatives.
Aside from refusing to vacate despite our repeated attempts to fix these problems, occupants of 83-85 Bowery have apparently engaged in illegal renovation work that further contributed to the building’s structural instability. Following the execution of the DOB’s vacate order, it was determined that 11 of the building’s 16 apartments were illegally converted into nearly 40 single room occupancy (SRO) units. This unauthorized renovation work was done without our consent and put all the building’s occupants at greater risk by leading to dangerous overcrowding, blocked fire escapes and other safety hazards. We were unable to prevent this activity because occupants and their representatives repeatedly denied us access to their units.
Now that the DOB has executed its vacate order and we have regained access to all areas of the property, we are already taking steps to clear out debris and begin repairing the building’s infrastructure. Our intention is to restore this property to its intended use as quickly as possible and we will continue working diligently with the DOB, the Mayor’s Office and other stakeholders to do just that.