Chinatown tenants hold rally, fear landlord won’t let them return

CHINATOWN, Manhattan — Dozens of tenants who were forced to evacuate their homes when the building was deemed unsafe are furious repairs are taking so long and don't believe their landlord is making real efforts to fix things.

Shuifang Zheng and her family were placed in an emergency hotel all the way out in East New York, but their lives are in Chinatown.

"I've been there for 20 years with my children and my family," Zheng said. "We've been kicked out now."

Zheng and other irate residents of 85 Bowery gathered at the New York City Department of Housing, Preservation and Development headquarters Wednesday evening.

The HPD gave their landlord, Joseph Betesh, a Feb. 1 deadline to complete the repairs, which includes replacing the building’s main stairwell.

But tenants say Betesh is a deadbeat landlord who is dragging his feet on repairs and upkeep. Betesh, who also co-owns the legendary retail chain Dr. Jay’s, and the real estate investment firm Milestone Equities, purchased 85 Bowery and ten other adjacent lots for a whopping $62 million.

Betesh is  in an ongoing legal dispute that goes back at least two years over his alleged efforts to get the tenants out and bring new development in.

A spokesperson for Betesh says reports the landlord plans to demolish the building or replace it with a hotel or condominiums are false.

"We all share the same goal – moving families back into their homes as quickly as possible," the spokesperson said.

The HPD, a spokesperson said, "is working across agencies to pressure the owner to make the repairs needed to get them back into their homes as quickly as possible.”