Tenants forced out of unstable building in January finally get to go home

CHINATOWN, Manhattan — Dozens of tenants made homeless by a forced evacuation in January are finally going home.

It’s been a challenging time for the residents, many of whom have been living in the Wyndham hotel next to their home at 85 Bowery. They've gone on hunger strikes and rallied, claiming their landlord needlessly threw out personal belongings.

“I come back home and I am happy,” Jin Shuo, a resident of 85 Bowery, said.

Shuo gave PIX11 a sneak peek of her newly renovated studio apartment. There's a new oven, stove, refrigerator and bathroom.

She is just so happy her family, including her 5-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son, will be moving back home to 85 Bowery on Friday and so are her neighbors and tenant organizers.

“We learned that people were able to come together and achieve things that are unprecedented,” Zishun Ning, Chinese Staff and Workers Association said.

City engineers ordered an emergency evacuation on Jan. 18 because the main stairwell at 85 Bowery was deemed unsafe. The tenants worried that landlord Joseph Betesh was really trying to evict these rent stabilized tenants and build luxury condos instead.

But a coalition of tenant organizers stepped in and took up their plight.

“When the city comes together, the city government and landlords can’t ignore them,” Jihye Simpkins, a Youth Against Displacement spokeswoman said. “The moral is teamwork."

The agreement between tenant organizers and the landlord hammered out in July included an Aug. 31 move back in date, a guarantee of rent stabilization, a $25,000 payment to each family for hardship and a $200,000 fund set up for property claims. The landlord also paid their hotel bills since January.

“I am very happy,” Danny Chau, a 15-year tenant at 85 Bowery, told PIX11 News. “This story definitely has a happy ending”