After living in hotels for over three months, the tenants of 85 Bowery rallied outside of the city Department of Buildings office in Manhattan Thursday evening to demand that the agency give them a deadline to return to their homes.
Caitlin Kelmar, a representative for the group, said DOB is breaking the law by not giving tenants an end date to a vacate order that was issued in January.
Local Law 150 of 2017 states that a “written vacate order shall include the date by which the owner shall certify the correction of any and all violations giving rise to such vacate order.”
A spokesman for the DOB said members of the agency regularly visit the property to ensure progress is being made on necessary safety repairs and asbestos abatement but declined to directly comment on a deadline for completion.
“DOB and our fellow agencies are pushing an aggressive plan to complete repairs at 85 Bowery as quickly as possible — and this work done by the landlord is well underway,” the spokesman said. “We remain committed to holding the landlord responsible to provide a safe place to live for his tenants.”
The protest was held just weeks after landlord Joseph Betesh was caught throwing out the tenants’ possessions under the guise that it was garbage. Photos of tenants pulling the bags out of a dumpster and opening them showed items like medicine and stuffed animals, among other household items.
The tenants believe Betesh was able to do this even under DOB’s watch.
“When the tenants were initially evicted from their building almost 100 days ago, the Department of Buildings gave a two-week deadline to the landlord,” Kelmar said Thursday. “Betesh and city agencies have since pushed the deadline further and further back to the point where there is no deadline at all.”
Betesh and the building’s owner, Bowery 8385 LLC, are involved in a lawsuit with the tenants, who claim they’re being pushed out of their rent-regulated units in order to change them over to market-rate rentals.
A spokesman for Bowery 8385 LLC has repeatedly denied the accusation and vowed to return the tenants to their homes as quickly as possible.