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Material issues persist in notable tenants' displacement case

The apartment complex at 85 Bowery in Manhattan's Chinatown neighborhood continues to garner major media ink for reasons linked to what tenant advocates say is bad-faith conduct on the part of owner Joseph Betesh.

The matter -- a heated and protracted spat between Betesh and scores of tenants in rent-stabilized units -- has been ongoing for many weeks now, steadily escalating and now involving a number of city and state officials.

At its core, it is linked with a relatively simple issue, namely, an uncontested destabilized stairway that spans several floors of 85 Bowery. Its unstable condition ultimately led NYC's Department of Buildings to order a vacate order for the entire building last month.

That mandate has understandably impacted renters -- more than 75 of them -- in a harsh way. One city councilmember advocating on their behalf says that they "suffer terribly due to the negligence of their landlord."

Many of the displaced individuals and families say that Betesh's conduct transcends negligent behavior. They argue that actions leading to the present have collectively rendered them suspicious of the landlord's motives. They believe, as noted in a recent news account of the vacated building, that Betish is "plotting to deprive them of their rent-stabilized apartments."

A state court judge recently stepped into the melee at the request of affected renters and city agencies with an order mandating a timeline for the stairway's fix and the tenants' return to the building. Reportedly, maintenance work could yet take several weeks to complete.

That ambiguity perplexes many people. A letter sent recently to relevant city offices (including the Department of Housing Preservation and Development) requests specific details concerning a plan to cover tenants' displacement costs and return them to their dwellings. Among other parties, that communication was signed by state and national legislators, Manhattan's borough president and the city's comptroller.

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