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Displaced Bowery tenants end hunger strike

The tenants believe their landlord has agreed to a return date, but no agreement has been signed.

Tenants of 85 Bowery and housing advocates protest

Tenants of 85 Bowery and housing advocates protest in front of the Department of Buildings office at 280 Broadway in Manhattan on April 26. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

The tenants of 85 Bowery, who have been displaced since January, have ended their hunger strike, days after it began, a representative of the group said.

Seven tenants began a hunger strike Wednesday in an attempt to force the city to set a hard deadline for them to return to their building after being evacuated in January due to safety violations. They now believe their landlord, Joseph Betesh, has agreed to a deadline of Aug. 31, but no formal agreement has been signed by either the tenants’ lawyers or the building’s lawyers.

“The tenants have been told by the landlord’s lawyer that the landlord is agreeing to guarantee the Aug. 31 date,” tenants’ representative Caitlin Kelmar said.

However, a spokesman for the building’s owner, Bowery 8385 LLC, said an agreement has not been reached.

“As per our previous updates to the tenants and their representative, they have also been aware for weeks that our goal is to complete that work by the end of the summer, barring unforeseen circumstances,” spokesman Sam Spokony said in a statement. “However, a great deal of work remains to be done — and while discussions are ongoing and we remain committed to moving families back into the building as quickly as possible, it is not correct to state that an agreement has been reached.”

The tenants were originally evacuated from their apartments on Jan. 18. They expected to move back in March, but the discovery of asbestos pushed the return date back, and they have been living in hotels or with family since then.

A Department of Buildings spokesman this week said that “substantial work” had been completed at 85 Bowery, where the city is “committed to holding the landlord responsible for providing tenants a safe place to live.”

The tenants also are embroiled in a lawsuit with Betesh and Bowery 8385 LLC over whether the apartments are rent stabilized.

This week’s hunger strike, which began with a rally outside City Hall on Wednesday, was the tenants’ second such demonstration. Eight tenants previously staged a four-day hunger strike in February to call attention to their situation.

With Lauren Cook

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