Tenants of 85 Bowery frantically went through garbage bags Wednesday, salvaging what they could after finding their possessions in a dumpster.
"Tenants open the bag, we find their medication, books, DVDs," said Jin Ming Cao, a representative of 83-85 Tenant Association.
Some even found cash thrown out like trash. They called it the latest battle in an ongoing war with their landlord, who they say wants them out for good.
"How can they do that?" said Jin Ming Cao.
"This is barbaric. It's uncivilized, mixing all their stuff. This is their property," tenant organizer Zishun Ning said.
The city buildings department ordered the tenants out of their rent-stabilized apartments back in January, after the landlord cited structural problems.
Then, days before they were expected to return to their homes, they were told asbestos was discovered in the building.
While remediation work is being done, the landlord agreed to relocate tenants' belongings to a storage facility. But tenants and their advocates said what they saw Wednesday was not what they had in-mind.
"There were a lot of workers carrying a lot garbage bags and throwing them into the garbage," said Jin Ming Cao.
Most families have been temporarily relocated to the hotel next door. One woman said she was assaulted when she tried to confront the workers.
"They saw her, and so they tried to close the door immediately, but she stuck her elbow in. And when she tried to stop them from closing the door on her own elbow, they opened the door and kicked her in the chest," State Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou of Manhattan said.
The landlord, 83-85 Bowery LLC, released a statement calling the incident unintentional, saying, "Some items removed from the building were discarded because they were perceived to be perishable food or in contact with perishable food."
"Moving forward, we will not discard any of these items, unless they are obviously hazardous to health," the statement went on to say.
A spokesperson for the landlord also said they are committed to moving tenants back into their homes, and said that the discarded items will be taken to a storage facility at the landlord's expense.