Disposal of Tenants’ Belongings at 85 Bowery Draws Community Ire
Roughly seventy-five tenants (mostly low-income) of 85 Bowery remain in exile three months after the city ordered their eviction. Adding insult to injury was the disposal of their personal belongings in a dumpster yesterday.
But it was purportedly just a misunderstanding.
A dumpster was deposited curbside yesterday, and by afternoon, workers began tossing tenants’ possessions. It created immediate furor on the local social media. Images of folks diving into the box to retrieve items quickly spread.
Landlord Joseph Betesh, under recent court order, granted access for tenants to retrieve possessions they could carry and pack the rest. Any remainders would then be transferred to an offsite storage unit (at landlord’s expense), with perishable items trashed. However, that’s not what happened yesterday. Instead, personal belongings were recklessly tossed, forcing an afternoon of dumpster diving. (Among the items discovered in black trash bags were children’s books and clothing.)
A spokesperson for Betesh noted that workers were told only to discard perishable items remaining inside the tenement, and that the discarding of personal items was not intentional.
“No usable items belonging to the families of 85 Bowery were intentionally discarded,” the Betesh spokesperson responded in a statement. “Some items removed from the building were discarded because they were perceived to be perishable food or in contact with perishable food.”
However, the politicians are not buying the whole “honest mistake” narrative.
“Joseph Betesh’s actions were beyond unacceptable,” Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou said. “Carting out tenant’s belongings and dumping them into a garbage container on the street is not only disrespectful, but inhumane. 85 Bowery tenants had no option but to look through these garbage bags on the street and pick out personal belongings like medicine, books and even money. These families have been out of their homes for months now, and to be treated like this by their landlord is a slap on the face to not only them, but to everyone who has been working to get these tenants back home quickly and safely.”
Obviously, the landlord is in damage control.
“To avoid any misunderstanding on the part of either party moving forward, we will not discard any of these items unless they are obviously hazardous to health. All items taken from the building as part of this process will be brought to appropriate storage facilities, where the families will have direct access to those items.”
Families living at 85 Bowery were vacated back on January 18. The heart of the city’s order was the destabilized staircase, which the landlord finally replaced last month. However, the deadline of a March 28 return for tenants did not happen. Discovery of asbestos during construction – or announcement of its presence – pushed the date back indefinitely; though, tenant advocates are quick to point out the suspicious timing of the reveal just days earlier. It’s still anyone’s guess as to when everyone can return.
— Caitlin (@ckelmar) April 11, 2018