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Ousted Residents Of Previously Unsafe Bowery Building Finally Allowed To Return Home

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Dozens of families were forced from their apartments out into the cold seven months ago after the city deemed their downtown building unsafe.

On Friday, they returned home with a grand welcome. For one woman who lived there for more than 20 years, walking up secure stairs and opening the door to her third floor apartment was a stark contrast to the rickety and slanted staircase that prompted the DOB to take action.

Nearly 100 tenants were forced out on a cold January night. Qui Rong Wang's 90-year-old parents got sick, and Minwey Ho sat on a bus for hours with his two toddlers.

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

"We got nowhere to go and we got nowhere to pack our stuff, and we lost a lot," Ho told CBS2 in January.

Residents went on two hunger strikes in protest as asbestos and other structural problems prolonged their vacate order. Tenants say the landlord, Joseph Betesh, threw out photos and other valuables months after the evacuation. Under a recent legal settlement, Betesh is paying $25,000 per apartment and $200,000 to cover all personal property claims.

His lawyer defended his actions.

"The landlord's goal was only to make the building safe, it was never about getting the tenants out," attorney Ken Fisher said, adding that new bathrooms and kitchens were installed with new beds provided at no cost to the tenants.

"It's home again, and it's a new home," Ho said.

A representative for the Tenant Association said tenants hope to move on from the ordeal and keep the peace with Betesh. As part of the settlement, most units will stay rent-stabilized for the next few years.

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