This morning shoppers looking for American flag swimsuits or bright-patterned leggings at Dr. Jay’s streetwear store in downtown Brooklyn were greeted by a flurry of slogans and posters decrying the brand’s owner, Joseph Betesh, as a slumlord. Tenants from 83 and 85 Bowery were gathered with local activists out front, chanting against Betesh’s efforts to evict them.
The tenants, mainly low-income Chinese families, have been organizing against eviction for more than a year and trying to get their apartments recognized as rent-regulated. Back in 2013 the building was bought by Betesh’s Milestone Equities for $62 million. Last March, Betesh refused to renew leases, arguing that the building was not in fact rent-regulated because it underwent substantial rehabilitation. When that didn’t work (they dropped a court case against one of the residents and paid his legal fees) they seemingly changed tactics, deeming the building “structurally unsound” and ordering all the tenants to vacate so they could make repairs.