Tenants at 85 Bowery should be able to move back into their building within the next few days.
The Department of Buildings rescinded the vacate order for the second through fifth floors at the long-troubled building on Wednesday, according to the agency’s website. Although it remains in effect for the building’s cellar and first floor, the partial lift should still allow management to begin moving tenants back into their homes shortly, according to Sam Spokony, spokesperson for the building’s owner Joseph Betesh.
Tenants have fought with Betesh for years over the condition of the building, accusing him of neglecting it in an attempt to force them out and increase the rents. Betesh has said he wanted to clear out the building to improve its infrastructure.
These issues came to a head in January, when at least 75 residents of the Chinatown building were forced out after the DOB found that the main staircase was unstable and deemed the property uninhabitable. Their initial return date was delayed after findings of asbestos and additional structural issues at the property, but tenants and Betesh reached an agreement earlier this summer that required all repairs to be finished by the end of August.
That agreement also required Betesh to pay $25,000 per apartment and a $200,000 lump sum to cover personal property claims. The city was required to approve all work before residents would be cleared to return.
Betesh has completed making the necessary repairs by the August 31 deadline and expects tenants to be able to move back to the building in the coming days, Spokony said.
“Our team has replaced the staircase that initially caused the vacate order, replaced dozens of rotted floor joists on each floor of the building and rectified all issues regarding the unlawful partitions installed under previous ownership,” he said in a statement.
The DOB released a statement saying that a “huge amount of work was done” to make the building safe, including “asbestos abatement, new fire-safety protections, new kitchens and bathrooms in all units, and more.”