Letitia James withdraws Chinatown tenants’ battle against Joseph Betesh

Public advocate, residents clashed over terms of settlement

83-85 Bowery and Letitia James
83-85 Bowery and Letitia James

Public advocate Letitia James will no longer defend a group of Chinatown tenants in their battle with landlord Joseph Betesh after clashing over the terms of a settlement.

Betesh sued to evict the 27 tenants at 83 and 85 Bowery in April, citing the need to make structural repairs to the properties.  A month later, James negotiated a deal that would allow them to stay in the buildings under stabilized, long-term leases. He and his partners had agreed to pay to temporarily relocate tenants while repairs took place. But the tenants rejected the deal because it would force them to temporarily leave the building while repairs are made. They hired an engineer who determined the repairs could be done while they remained in the building.

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In response, James and another attorney filed a motion to withdraw as the tenants’ lawyers. “Defendants have stated that they do not want to agree to the terms outlined to the Court,” they wrote in the motion. “There are irreconcilable differences’ between defendants’ counsel and defendants.”

Betesh leads an investor group that bought an 11-building portfolio, which includes the two five-story buildings, for $62 million in 2013. [NYDN]Konrad Putzier