The 85 Bowery Hunger Strike ‘Temporarily’ Ends to Celebrate Lunar New Year
The hunger strike has concluded, but allegedly not due to city intervention in the ongoing battle over the hazardous living conditions at 85 Bowery. Rather, after four days of inclement weather and no food, exiled tenants are ending their strike (for now) in the name of the Chinese New Year (the year of the Dog).
Following the annual Lunar New Year festivities, the tenants plan to announce their next steps in demanding the City give a firm deadline by which the necessary construction at 85 Bowery is to be finished. Because that worked well the first time around.
As previously reported, landlord Joseph Betesh had been forced, via court order, to remedy the unstable staircase in 85 Bowery within two weeks of the January 19 vacate order. That deadline wasn’t obeyed. Now, none of the nearly-100 exiled residents have been permitted to return home to retrieve personal belongings, nor will they be celebrating the New Year in their home. Some are still wearing the same clothes as the day the city came to evict them. A majority of the tenants are living on the Betesh dime at the Wyndham Garden Hotel next door, allegedly until construction is complete.
Simply put, there is no trust between the two parties, and the embattled tenants remain skeptical of a return. However, they are prepared to end the strike if, according to a recent press release, the “Department of Housing Preservation & Development, Department of Buildings, and the City guarantee in writing that the tenants can return home as soon as the staircase is repaired; a clear deadline, less than the 8 weeks given by the landlord, for tenants to return, and a commitment to prosecute the landlord if he fails to meet the deadline; and no alterations in tenant units until tenants are returned home and give consent.”
Team Betesh, meanwhile, claims they’re doing everything possible to expedite repairs.
“We are focused on repairing and replacing the severely damaged infrastructure of 85 Bowery so families can move back safely into their homes,” a Betesh spokesperson told us. “We will remain focused on providing a safe building for those families regardless of any false perceptions that others may have about us or our company. Ever since we took over ownership of 85 Bowery, we have been telling the City that temporary relocation was required in order to address the structural instability of the building and ensure the safety of the families living there.”