Bowery tenants will temporarily end hunger strike

A hunger strike over the repairs to a Chinatown building deemed unsafe to live in will temporary end so the tenants involved can celebrate Chinese New Year, a representative of the participants said.

The tenants of 85 Bowery were evacuated on Jan. 18 when a Department of Buildings inspection revealed an unstable staircase that required repairs. The inspection also revealed illegal partitions in some apartments.

Eight of the tenants went on a hunger strike on Thursday, Feb. 8, outside the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development headquarters in lower Manhattan, demanding the city issue a deadline for them to return to their homes, among other demands. The city has said repairs to the staircase will take six weeks and removing the illegal partition will take another two weeks.

The tenants remained on the strike through Monday morning, but they will announce a temporarily end to it at 3:30 p.m. in order to celebrate Chinese New Year, which begins Friday, Feb. 16, Caitlin Kelmar, who represents the group of tenants, said.

“With Chinese New Year approaching this week, the tenants have decided to pause their fast in order to celebrate with their families,” a news release about the strike said.

The demands to officially end the strike include a city-imposed deadline for tenants to return to their building, not for construction to be completed, with written consequences if the deadline is not met; written confirmation that the vacate order will be lifted by the DOB and the padlock on the building removed as soon as the staircase is repaired; and an agreement that no alterations to tenants’ units will take place until they are able to return to their homes, so they can oversee the process.

The city appointed a commissioner to oversee the repairs and make sure they are not dragged out, as well as ensure construction on any apartments won’t be done without consent of the tenants, but a firm deadline has not been set, according to Kelmar.

The city aims to get tenants back into their apartments “as soon as possible,” a statement from the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit said.

While repairs are happening, the tenants are living in hotel rooms, which are being paid for by the building’s owner, Bowery 8385 LLC, the city said.

The tenants of 85 Bowery are also involved in a lawsuit with Bowery 8385 LLC and their landlord, Joseph Betesh, over whether the apartments are rent-regulated.

With Lauren Cook


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