CHINATOWN, Manhattan — Jenny Hee couldn’t believe what happened when she came home from work Thursday.
“I have no clothes . I just got back from work. They don’t let me take my stuff,” Hee told PIX11.
Hee is one of the 75 tenants out in the cold after her entire building at 85 Bowery was evacuated.
It’s the latest chapter in an a year and a half long legal dispute between landlord Joseph Betesh and the tenants association at this building just steps from the Manhattan Bridge.
As part of that case, a state Supreme Court judge ordered a city inspection on the building.
That’s when Department of Building engineers determined that the main stairwell was unsafe, ordered an evacuation and required that the repairs be completed within two weeks.
But tenant leaders claim the landlord is hoping the tenants are never allowed back in.
“They want to take down the building and put a hotel here a hotel and make a lot of money,” Jin Ming Cao, the tenant association spokesman, told PIX11.
But New York City Councilwoman Margaret Chin said this evacuation is purely a safety issue and that the city is not siding with the landlord but rather trying to ensure the safety of all tenants.
“It’s tough on the families, but the Red Cross will work with the families to find them hotel rooms," Chin told PIX11. “The city will make sure the landlord fix the building.”
Most of the residents are restaurant and garment factory workers who have lived in this building for decades, according to the tenants association, and generally pay between $1,000 and $1,200 a month rent.
Many are waiting to find out where they will be spending the next two weeks.
“I don’t know where I will go,” Hee told PIX11.