Hunger Strike Set, Displaced 85 Bowery Tenants Likely Face Another 6 Weeks in Exile

Posted on: February 8th, 2018 at 5:00 am by

Despite public outcry, a potential hunger strike, and plenty of media coverage, the evicted residents of 85 Bowery won’t be returning home for at least another six weeks. That’s the timeline circulating from landlord Joseph Betesh’s camp for “emergency repairs” to conclude.

Progress is at a trickle. According to The Village Voice, 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.”

Until then, the residents must live in exile. None have been permitted to return home to retrieve personal belongings. Most are still wearing the same clothes from January 19, 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 20 are staying with friends or still holed up in the Brooklyn shelter.

Yesterday was the deadline day that tenants threatened to begin a hunger strike to force HPD into repairs. The fast starts today at 11am on the agency’s office steps at 100 Gold Street.

More from the Voice:

The department has approved Bowery 8385 LLC’s architectural and structural plans. The owner, it says, has already installed emergency structural-stability shoring on the first and second floors, and hired a steel company to manufacture prefabricated stairs for all five stories. No work will be done until those stairs arrive, but the city has “directed the landlord to give us a plan to allow tenants to retrieve their belongings.”

The stairs are expected to arrive in about two weeks. Once they do, the department projects that it will take at least four more weeks to install them, and another week or two after that to “demolish interior partitions that are blocking emergency exits.”

There is no trust lost between the tenants and the landlord, who has been trying to evict them and those at 83 Bowery next door for almost three years, and little more for the city government, which tenants see as slow to enforce a 2016 court order mandating repairs, but quick to throw them out when the building was deemed unsafe.

“They refuse to enforce the law, allowing the building to fall into disrepair,” Francesca Benitez of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side told the February 2 rally, once in English and once in Spanish. “But when it’s time to vacate the building, they act with incredible efficiency.”

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