February 8, 2018
Two weeks ago, residents of 85 Bowery were displaced from their homes and their community due to the negligence of their landlord, Joseph Betesh. Since then, my elected colleagues and I have been urgently working with city agencies to hold the landlord accountable and ensure the 29 displaced families receive the services they need to have some normalcy in their lives.
I am heartened by your concern, support, and solidarity with the residents. I hear your calls for these residents to be able to return home as soon as possible, and I want to take this opportunity to provide you information about what I’m doing to reach this goal together.
When I was first notified about the incident, I went to 85 Bowery to ensure that residents were able to connect with the Red Cross and access other services. Later that night, I was able speak with some of the residents who went to MS 131, a local school, to have dinner before heading to a temporary housing location in Brooklyn. Since then, I have been in constant contact with various city agencies, including the Department of Buildings, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and the Mayor’s Office, to keep a watchful eye on the progress of the repairs that will allow all of the residents to safely come back home.
As part of this effort, I requested that HPD look into the feasibility to have its Emergency Repair Program (ERP) make the necessary repairs instead of the landlord. In the attached later, HPD stated that the use of ERP “would slow down the projected timeline and would delay residents from moving back into their homes.”
However, if I find that there is any credible evidence that the landlord is stalling the repairs or intentionally delaying the residents ability to return home, I will call on ERP to take over and charge the landlord for the repairs.
In the meantime, I believe it is the landlord's responsibility to keep the families of 85 Bowery in the community. That is why I demanded he provide immediate arrangements to cover hotel accommodations in Lower Manhattan for all displaced residents for the duration of the repair. He acquiesced and has provided rooms for most displaced families -- but not for all.
That was unacceptable. I pushed HPD -- the agency responsible for sheltering these displaced families -- to find a solution. Last night, four additional rooms at the same hotel were made available, allowing the remaining families housed in Brooklyn to return to Chinatown while these structural repairs are being made.
Unfortunately, the deplorable situation at 85 Bowery isn't unique to Chinatown, the Lower East Side or other parts of our city. That is why the first bill I introduced in this new legislative term is Intro 30, a bill to require landlords to cover relocation expenses of residents forced from their homes due to a vacate order.
I thank you for your support of the tenants, and I will continue to keep you updated on the progress of efforts to get these 29 families home.