85 Bowery Tenants, Landlord Joseph Betesh Announce Settlement (Updated)

83-85 Bowery.
83-85 Bowery.
83-85 Bowery.

An agreement if finally in place for the return of tenants to 85 Bowery six months after they were displaced.

The residents were forced to leave their tenement building in January after the Department of Buildings determined that the staircase was unstable. Later, asbestos and additional structural issues were discovered, delaying the tenants’ return. Along the way, there have been two hunger strikes, many protests against owner Joseph Betesh and city agencies, and legal skirmishes.

On Friday, the 83-85 Bowery Tenants Association and the landlord (Bowery 8385 LLC) released the following statement:

This agreement represents a positive outcome for the families of 83-85 Bowery, the building owners and the Chinatown community. Necessary building repairs to address problems are scheduled to be completed by August 31. As has been our shared goal from the beginning of this process, 85 Bowery will now be a safe, affordable, quality building for generations to come. With all permits in place, work is well underway so that the tenants will be able to return to their homes. The tenants and the owner look forward to putting this unfortunate situation behind them and are glad that they were able to reach an agreement.

Tenants plan to celebrate the settlement agreement at 85 Bowery today at 3 p.m. In a separate news release, they called the deal, “an unprecedented settlement” and “a momentous achievement for tenants across the city.”

Seth Miller, an attorney representing the tenants, told NY1, “A lot of the things landlords and tenants fight about in New York City have been resolved in this agreement… Because I think that landlord genuinely wanted to make peace with my clients, and my clients certainly wanted to be able to have some certainty about what their rents were going to be, whether there were going to be rent increases and how future repair issues are going to be dealt with, and all of that is in this agreement.”

You can read the agreement below.  In the settlement, Betesh agreed that the apartments at 83-85 Bowery are covered by rent stabilization. He has committed to completing all restoration work by Aug. 31, and will be required to pay $150 per day, per apartment if the construction isn’t completed by the end of next month. The city must approve all of the work before residents can move back into their apartments. The agreement also requires the owner to pay $25,000 per apartment as well as a lump sum payment of $200,000, covering personal property claims.

UPDATE 7/10 More reaction to the settlement agreement. Here’s part of a statement from State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou:

Tragedy after tragedy occurred to our families who reside at 83-85 Bowery. The beginning, almost exactly 6 months ago, was an unforgettable night for all of us. My office will never forget how the families here were locked out of their homes on that cold winter night.  Families were forced out of their homes with little to no preparation for basic necessities like food, warmth, and shelter. Families also had little to no understanding of what exactly was occurring as no one provided even our office a clear answer. My team was on the ground at 85 Bowery since the beginning to assist tenants with desperately needed language services to better inform them of the situation. From then on, we watched as a spiral of events continued to keep our tenants out of their homes. Delays to the staircase repairs, the discovering of asbestos, other construction needs, and even personal possessions being dumped into massive garbage containers a few months later with no notice to tenants. Since the beginning of this nightmare, we’ve stood with the tenants and we will continue to stand with them making sure that all of these agreements are met. After 6 long months of fighting, I’m happy that the tenants and landlord have come to an agreement. We think that the agreement is fair and I am glad we finally have a firm date to look forward to for the tenants to return to their homes.

And here’s a statement from a local advocacy group, Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side:

Today we are happy for the families of 83 and 85 Bowery, yet at the same time we are furious that it took over three years intense work to fight in the courts and in the streets to get justice. 83-85 Bowery would have been protected under the Chinatown Working Group (CWG) Rezoning Plan. This city-sponsored plan was designed by the community to rein in out-of-scale luxury development by creating a height limit to new development. Many more tenants face a similar struggle as 83-85 Bowery, even in rent-stabilized buildings, due to Mayor de Blasio’s refusal to adopt the CWG rezoning plan. Mayor Bill de Blasio has turned a blind eye to the 83-85 Bowery tenants just as he has the mega-towers on the waterfront and the CWG rezoning plan. Instead he is green-lighting privately owned luxury skyscrapers on the waterfront in the middle of a huge swath of publicly owned land and housing… We say to Mayor de Blasio: Not one more eviction. Not one more family displaced. Pass the full Chinatown Working Group rezoning plan, now!

85 Bowery Settlement Agreement by The Lo-Down on Scribd