The residents of 85 Bowery have been looking forward to returning home, two months after the city slapped a full vacate order on their building. According to a court-approved timeline, property owner Joseph Betesh was to have finished replacing 85 Bowery’s staircases by the end of this month. But there have been complications.
According to a letter from State Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, asbestos has been discovered in the building, delaying the residents’ return.
The letter was sent yesterday to officials at the city and state departments of health, Buildings Department, Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Department of Environmental Protection, the mayor’s office and to the landlord. It was co-signed by U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez and NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer.
The elected officials expressed concern for the health of the tenants, and requested medical examinations to make sure they’re all ok. They also noted that the asbestos abatement can’t begin until DEP inspects the building. It could apparently take two weeks for that to happen. They’re urging a speedier timetable and new commitments from Betesh and city officials to complete the work as quickly as possible.
The city evacuated 85 Bowery Jan. 18 due to safety concerns. While the residents were initially housed in a Brooklyn shelter, Betesh eventually agreed to put many of them up in a Chinatown hotel.
Some of the tenants staged a hunger strike in the days before Lunar New Year celebrations began. Residents and Betesh have been engaged in a long-running legal dispute about the repairs and the status of their rent stabilized apartments.
We have contacted Betesh’s press representatives. This story will be updated if they have anything to say about the latest developments.
UPDATE 11:54 a.m. Here’s a statement from the landlord, 8385 Bowery LLC:
We are committed to safely moving the families of 85 Bowery back into their homes as quickly as possible. We have already taken steps to demonstrate that commitment by installing a new steel staircase ahead of the timeline agreed upon with city officials. In the process of investigating additional structural issues that predate our ownership, our team discovered asbestos inside the ceilings of the third and fourth floors. We immediately reported this finding to the Department of Buildings and are coordinating with relevant city agencies on a plan to abate the asbestos. We are taking this discovery very seriously and have conducted independent air-quality testing to ensure that it is safe for families to collect their belongings. We recognize how difficult this situation has been for the families and we will continue to provide high-quality hotel accommodations at our expense until the conclusion of work.
According to the landlord, the staircase replacement was complete and city inspections had been completed ahead of schedule (the court-approved timeline indicated a final inspection on Match 28). Because the stairwell repairs are finished, residents will be allowed access to their apartments to pick up personal items.
A spokesperson from the Department of Buildings tells The Lo-Down, “The asbestos remediation will take 30 days and the owner will be performing as much work as possible during that timeframe. We remain committed to ensuring the safety of the building for its tenants. ”