Bowery Landlord Must Fix Unstable Staircase within 2 Weeks, City Says
Controversial landlord Joseph Betesh must fix the destabilized staircase inside 85 Bowery within two weeks, the city stated yesterday after dozens of tenants were evacuated from their homes.
As part of the ongoing legal case between Betesh and the tenant association here, the State Supreme Court yesterday afternoon ordered a city inspection of the property. Apparently, the FDNY responded in time for a protest action outside the building.
During the inspection, engineers from the Department of Buildings concluded that the main staircase and exterior fire escapes (i.e. primary and secondary egress) are structurally unstable. The city subsequently issued an order requiring Betesh to replace the destabilized staircase within two weeks.
In the meantime, more than 75 rent stabilized tenants are now displaced. And many fear that they won’t be permitted back inside if and when the repairs are concluded. Indeed, there is already chatter that Betesh wants to demolish the buildings for a new hotel on the spot.
Councilwoman Margaret Chin, for her part, doesn’t seem too concerned. “It is tough on the families that they have to leave,” she told PIX11. “The city is doing everything, working together with the Red Cross, to make sure that these families are taken care of. The city will continue to make sure that the landlord does his job and fixes the building.”
It’s worth noting that the tenants in this building perpetually accuse Chin of “selling out Chinatown.”
Update: Betesh is responding to the coverage with the following statement.
“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.”