85 Bowery Tenants Threaten Hunger Strike if Emergency Repairs Not Complete by Feb. 7
During the rally action last Friday, the tenants association promised to launch a hunger strike in front of the office of Housing Preservation & Development if not back home by this Wednesday (February 7).
Landlord Joseph Betesh was under court order to fix the unsafe staircase in his derelict building by February 1, a deadline that was not met. And won’t be for some time…
Below is an excerpt from the press release:
February 1 marked the end of the two-week City deadline given to landlord Joseph Betesh who forced the eviction of 75 tenants after neglecting to building repairs. The tenants of 83-85 Bowery demand that the Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) take over the required construction through their Emergency Repair Program, and will launch a hunger strike in front of HPD if they are not back in their homes by Wednesday, February 7th.
[Friday], the 83-85 Bowery Tenant Association and the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and Lower East Side, along with dozens of other community groups and supporters, protested in front of HPD to mark the passing of this deadline and demand that City laws be enforced and followed.
Betesh, has been trying to evict the tenants for 3 years, claiming the buildings are not rent-regulated, and forcing the tenants into lawsuits. A few weeks before the City-led eviction, the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) sent a letter to the judge in support of the units being rent stabilized. Betesh then resorted to using the unsafe conditions he created as a means to evict the tenants. The City gave Betesh two weeks to conduct repairs – a deadline that tenants knew he would not meet based off previous behavior. Now, the landlord has flouted the deadline and tenants are still out of their homes.
Just hours before the tenants’ announcement of a hunger strike, HPD issued an update explaining that on Feb. 8th tenants are due in court and the City plans to further postpone the deadline for repairs, but the tenants are tired of being dragged around by the landlord and the city agency.
On a defensive footing, meanwhile, team Betesh notes that they’ve started the repair process toward the goal of tenant return, but the scope of repairs is much broader. For instance, claims that several rooms at 85 Bowery were converted into an illegal SRO.
“Our team is working diligently each day to repair the severely damaged infrastructure of 85 Bowery and make the building safe for habitation,” a spokesperson tells us. “We all share the same goal – moving families back into their homes as quickly as possible. We understand this a very difficult time for families of 85 Bowery and we are providing quality hotel accommodations in Chinatown, for the duration of repairs, so families are able to remain in the local community while our work continues.”
Below are letters from the landlord and hired contractors verifying that work has begun: