At least 75 people were forced out of their home in Manhattan's Chinatown Thursday due to an unstable stairway.
85 Bowery was evacuated after authorities found the building's main stairway was structurally unstable and called it a life-safety hazard.
The building's department issued a commissioner's order requiring the owner replace the stairway within two weeks.
Tenants and advocates believe it's a ploy by the landlord to get them out because they're rent-stabilized.
They also feel they should be allowed to stay in their homes while the repairs are being done.
"The landlord told the Department of Buildings that the building is in disrepair. The tenants have been trying to get the landlord to do repairs on this building for years, and he has refused and has been trying to evict them. Now the city is doing the landlord's bidding and kicking these tenants out onto the street on a cold winter night," said Susan Ahn, organizer with the Workers Center. "There's old ladies, there's babies. They won't tell them anything about where they're going to go. It's ridiculous."
The Red Cross is offering relocation assistance to any tenant who needs it.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Bowery 8385 LLC responded to this story. The statement reads:
“The safety of the occupants of 83-85 Bowery is our top priority and we are taking immediate steps to repair building infrastructure and make the property safe for habitation. While the DOB was correct to vacate the building in the interest of safety, we believe this action should have been taken long ago.
“Over the past two years, we repeatedly told city officials that it was necessary to vacate this property in order to safely perform much-needed repairs and ensure structural stability. Undertaking that work while the building was occupied would have put its occupants in grave danger. We repeatedly communicated all of this information to the building’s occupants and have spent the past two years working to find a positive resolution, but our proposals were rejected at every turn by their lawyers and other representatives.
“Aside from refusing to vacate despite our repeated attempts to fix these problems, occupants of 83-85 Bowery have apparently engaged in illegal renovation work that further contributed to the building’s structural instability. Following the execution of the DOB’s vacate order, it was determined that 11 of the building’s 16 apartments were illegally converted into nearly 40 single room occupancy (SRO) units. This unauthorized renovation work was done without our consent and put all the building’s occupants at greater risk by leading to dangerous overcrowding, blocked fire escapes and other safety hazards. We were unable to prevent this activity because occupants and their representatives repeatedly denied us access to their units.
“Now that the DOB has executed its vacate order and we have regained access to all areas of the property, we are already taking steps to clear out debris and begin repairing the building’s infrastructure. Our intention is to restore this property to its intended use as quickly as possible and we will continue working diligently with the DOB, the Mayor's Office and other stakeholders to do just that.”