Life in a notoriously squalid Chinatown boarding house only got worse after the city tried to bring the building at 81 Bowery up to code, the Village Voice reports. For years, poor immigrant tenants have paid around $100 a month for tiny cubicles on the kitchen-less fourth floor of the lodging house, where they share two shower stalls, a urinal, and four toilets. But after the city evacuated tenants last year because of fire code violations, the landlord tore down the tenants' handmade partitions, which blocked the sprinklers but had given residents a slight sense of privacy.

Now, without the partitions — and under the constant watch of newly installed security cameras — tenants say the constant noise and fluorescent lighting has made a bad situation worse. "Even a prisoner doesn't live like this," one tenant told the weekly. "You only stay here and continue to stay here because you are poor," another said.

Landlord Donald Lee — who has already converted part of the building into an up-to-code hotel and has once attempted to evict his cubicle tenants — said most of the problems stem from renters subdividing their tiny spaces to make extra cash. "These are not real apartments, not a normal place to live for people to stay for long. People are not supposed to stay here for 10, 20 years."