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Developer Tries to Boot Tenants from Chinatown Buildings

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He had ordered them evicted, but now he’s suing to get them out.

A developer who scooped up a bunch of buildings in Chinatown is making a third go at getting the existing tenants to leave. The owner of 85 Bowery and 83 Bowery is suing his tenants, the New York Times reported. This comes after trying to evict them (until they took him to housing court) and then offering them $15,000 each to leave. Joseph Betesh, who runs the Dr. Jay’s clothing chain, picked up the buildings, along with several others, in 2013.

His initial eviction attempt was based on an assertion that renovations done 35 years ago had been so extensive as to disqualify the units from rent regulated status, but then tenants’ lawyer told a housing court judge she would hire an engineer to see just how much of the building was renovated. Now, after a failed buyout attempt, the landlord is suing to get them out, saying that he can’t make necessary repairs without them gone. The city says there is no hazard, according to the report.

Among the tenants is second-floor resident Shu Qing Wang. The 42-year-old lives her husband and two sons in a tiny two-bedroom apartment for $950 a month. The developer’s move highlights the wild west aspect of Chinatown. While the East Village got new height restrictions in 2008, no such special consideration has been given to parts of Chinatown, where a dozen hotels have been built since then, the Times reported.

City Planning director Carl Weisbrod has thus far dismissed a special district there as unfeasible, but a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "Keeping Chinatown affordable is a major priority of the administration."

A Clash of Old and New in a Manhattan Real Estate Prairie [NYT]