An advocacy organization, Coalition to Protect Chinatown & the Lower East Side, staged a protest yesterday in front of 83-85 Bowery, in an effort to force the landlord to take better care of the buildings.
In 2013, 83-85 Bowery and nine other properties were purchased by Joseph Betesh of Milestone Equities for $62 million. Since that time, tenants allege, their living conditions have deteriorated dramatically. According to the organization, there’s a serious rat infestation, water is leaking from many apartments, there are gaping holes in ceilings and walls and stairways are potentially unstable. The gas was only turned back on recently after a 40 day outage. In a press release, the local activists asserted, “The landlord is deliberately allowing the buildings to deteriorate as as way to force tenants out because he can not do so legally.”
The activists say only one tenant has received an eviction notice, but almost all of the other rent stabilized apartments lack current leases. Recently they formed a tenant association. The residents are almost all Chinese. In many cases, tenants have lived in the buildings for decades, making it difficult to prove their legal right to the apartments.
Public Advocate Letitia James spoke out yesterday, saying “the landlord must be held accountable for his actions.” Jenifer Rajkumar, a district leader, also spoke in support of the tenants. Betesh has not responded to requests for comment.
The Coalition to Protect Chinatown & the Lower East Side is made up of several groups, including Chinese Staff and Workers’ Association, National Mobilization Against Sweatshops, Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund, Project Reach and the Sixth Street Community Center.