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Demanding Answers: What's Next For Residents Of Unsafe Bowery Building?

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Dozens of families have been forced out into the cold with nowhere to go because of safety concerns in their building.

On Friday, CBS2's Reena Roy demanded answers after nearly 100 people were suddenly evacuated from their homes.

The city said the building's structure is not safe.

New video Friday, showed the rickety slanted staircase that's so unstable a source said it could collapse.

The dangerous conditions abruptly forced everyone out of the five-story Bowery building into the cold yesterday.

The city called it 'imminently perilous to life.'

"God forbid there was a fire or something, it just cannot hold that many people," Councilwoman Margaret Chin said.

On Friday, the nearly 100 displaced tenants were escorted back in as they gathered necessities before going back to hotels.

One 57-year-old resident told CBS2 through a translator that he has no idea what's next.

"I feel extremely tired and I don't know where I'm going to. I'm really depressed," he said.

Meanwhile city and state officials are working with the FDNY and NYPD to figure out how things got so bad. A source said the judge-ordered inspection also showed illegally converted units.

"We wanna make sure that bad landlords are held accountable. They have to make repairs," Chin said.

It leaves the oldest and youngest of tenants unsure about their futures. They've been provided with temporary housing by the Red Cross, but aren't sure how long it will last.

"Where I'm going to live, I even don't know," one resident said.

A spokesperson for Bowery 8385 LLC released a statement, following an inquiry from CBS2 on Friday.

"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."

The Department of Buildings said the landlord has two weeks to finish repairs. Building workers said construction will likely start Saturday morning.

The owner said they are already taking steps to clear debris and fix the infrastructure.


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