A group of longtime residents of the Bowery will gather on the street in front of their homes Monday to officially announce their public fight against their landlord, who also owns nine other Bowery apartment buildings. A “couple dozen” tenants from adjacent numbers 83 and 85 have come forward to say they’ve been treated unfairly ever since the buildings were acquired by Joseph Betesh, according to Sarah Ahn, volunteer organizer for a tenants’ association that recently formed to address these issues.
In 2013, eleven Bowery buildings (numbers 83, 85, 88, 103, 105, 219, 221, 262, 276 and 280) changed ownership from a family trust to Betesh, whose family owns hip-hop apparel purveyor Dr. Jay’s. A Wall Street Journal item quoted the attorney representing the seller as saying that Betesh stood to make a lot of money from hiking up the rents for the buildings’ commercial spaces, as most of them were approaching the end of their lease.
But it’s the 27 apartments in 83 and 85 that have been lately causing a stir. According to a notice by the Chinese Staff & Workers’ Association and the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and LES, recently posted on the buildings, Betesh is refusing to issue lease renewals to current residents and has begun using court orders to evict some tenants — many of whom have lived in the building for 10, 20, even 30 years, Ahn said. He’s even been “going to far as to terminate the gas for over a month,” the notice states.
“Their main concern is the fact that there haven’t been repairs done to this building in years, and all of their leases are expiring or have expired,” said Ahn. The new tenants association will be holding a press conference announcing the evictions Monday at 10 a.m. in front of 83 and 85 Bowery.
Ahn said she believes many of the apartments should be rent stabilized but that the tenants are having a difficult time finding the records to prove it. She added that the tenants are not only worried about their own futures but also have concerns about what might be going on at the other Bowery residences owned by Betesh. Ahn said part of the reason they’re publicly announcing the evictions is to raise awareness of the situation and connect with others experiencing similar issues.
Betesh has not responded to our requests for comment.