Amidst Tenant Hunger Strike, Electeds Call for Investigation of 85 Bowery Landlord
Political pressure is mounting against landlord Joseph Betesh, whose tenants at 85 Bowery were evicted last month due to hazardous living conditions.
After the city’s inspection, Betesh had been forced, via court order, to remedy the unstable staircase within two weeks of the January 19 vacate order. That deadline has since passed, and on February 8, eight strong took to the steps of Housing Preservation and Development to stage a hunger strike. There they remain despite the cold and rainy conditions, huddled under tarps.
Behind the scenes, the political powers-that-be are tirelessly advocating for 85 Bowery. On Friday, Assemblymember Niou joined Congresswoman Velazquez, New York City Comptroller Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Brewer and Councilmember Chin have called on Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to explore launching an investigation of Betesh.
“The events at 85 Bowery over the past several weeks have made it abundantly clear that Betesh is an unscrupulous landlord who needs to be held accountable for his actions. In 2016, the courts ordered Betesh to repair the stairs at 85 Bowery,” said Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou. “Since the beginning, Betesh has argued that the deteriorating structure of the building is an inherited problem. He neglected to make the repairs ordered by the courts and let what was clearly a dangerous situation fester for years until weeks ago, the building was deemed uninhabitable unless the stairs were fixed.
During the time he could have been making the repairs, he instead searched for different ways to compel tenants to vacate their homes and asserted, contrary to what HCR has stated, that tenants are not rent regulated. An investigation of Betesh by Attorney General Schneiderman or District Attorney Vance can hopefully shed some light on what led to the current situation at 85 Bowery. Bad landlords who prey on tenants must be held accountable for their actions. I look forward to working with my colleagues to help these tenants get justice for their suffering.”
Be that as it may, the infrastructure fix at 85 Bowery is likely at least six weeks out, by some estimates. The replacement stairs are expected to arrive in roughly two weeks; it’ll then be another four weeks (at least) for installation, plus an additional week or two to “demolish interior partitions that are blocking emergency exits.”
As previously reported, none of the nearly-100 exiled residents have been permitted to return home to retrieve personal belongings. Some are still wearing the same clothes as the day the city came to evict them. 63 of the tenants are living on the Betesh dime at the Wyndham Garden Hotel next door, allegedly until construction is complete; the remaining are staying with friends or still holed up in the Brooklyn shelter.