Housing is a human right
“HPD! We’ll be back!”
85 Bowery Street tenants and their supporters chanted in both English and Mandarin front of the Housing Preservation and Development Department at 100 Gold Street on Friday, February 2nd. On January 18th, 75 of these Chinatown tenants were forcibly removed from their homes due to allegedly unfair practices by landlord Joseph Betesh.
Betesh alleges that the tenants had to be removed due to the staircase being unsafe. The tenants won’t be allowed to return for at least another 6 weeks.
According to The Village Voice, the New York City Department of Buildings gave Betesh two weeks to finish the staircase. But now it says that the staircase is too complicated to complete that quickly. It now says it’ll take 6 to 8 weeks to renovate the staircase.
Tenants were initially placed in the Brownsville hotel. Brownsville is used as a homeless shelter.
18 rooms were rented by Betesh’s Bowery 8385 LLC in a hotel on the corner of Bowery and Hester Street. 63 tenants are staying there now. But not all tenants are homed at that hotel, some are staying with friends while others are still in Brownsville.
Although to the outsider this situation may seem understandable, tenants and their supporters disagree. Betesh has tried to evict the tenants of 85 Bowery and 83 Bowery for more than 2 years.
83-85 Bowery representative Vincent Cao said “this fight has been two years. They wanted to kick out one of the families and both buildings, 83 and 85 we came together. We created a tenant’s association.”
Tenants believe the city government has been slow to act especially when it came to a 2016 court order mandating repairs.
According to a press release from the Coalition to protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side, a court order from 2016 mandated that Betesh make these same repairs. But Betesh failed to follow the order and HPD neglected the case.
Cao said “We even got HPV to do an inspection. We found 200 violations, some of them class A serious violations. Can be repaired immediately. We even got a court order saying that these repairs had to be made in 2 months in 16 days, otherwise he [Betesh] might go to jail. But that was 2016 now it’s 2018 and the landlord’s not in jail.”
In 2016 tenants rejected Betesh’s offer for a 99 year rent stabilized lease because of unspecified rent increases.
Cao said they had concerns about the hunger strike on February 8th. “We are very concerned, this is not easy for the tenants. They might not be able to go home for the Lunar New Year. We might have to celebrate the Lunar New Year on the streets. So we don’t have a choice, we’re gonna put everything out here February 8, fight! We wanna call for all the city to come.”
Cao finished with “We’ll be back!”
A Facebook event was made to support the hunger strike that happened on Feb 8th 11 am at 100 Gold Street.