NEWARK — Tenants living in the apartment building at 17-23 Stratford Place in Newark began putting their Thanksgiving holiday plans on pause Tuesday evening and not by choice.
“It's just craziness," said Karissa Gaines, a displaced resident. "A lot of people don't have anywhere to go, like myself."
She faces some basic challenges.
"Getting my kid ready, we're moving our stuff. We're trying to hurry up and it's just messed up."
Hers is one of 47 families removed from their homes under a mandatory, emergency evacuation, due to horrible living conditions cited by a city inspector who stopped by just over two weeks ago.
There were several violations, including “rodents, roaches, mold, broken emergency doors, a broken elevator and non-working smoke detectors."
This man, who identified himself as Shraga. the property manager, says the new owners bought the building only a few weeks ago and simply did not have enough time to complete all of the repairs before it was ordered shut down.
“They started writing violations, one after another," said Shraga. "We couldn't run after because we didn't have the report right away and even after we had the report, they came every day and said this and this and this. They added, added, added."
"We had a big crew of 25 people doing repairs for the building but there was no way to get it done," he added.
We showed the Shraga the e-mail Newark City officials sent us, which goes on to say " When the landlords failed to abate the violations by yesterday, the judge ordered the building closed, and the tenants moved at the landlords’ expense and re-housed until the building is safe to occupy.”
We asked Shraga if he believed this situation was inevitable, or if it was acceptable.
His reply? No, and no.
Caught in the middle of this mess, the tenants are all spending Thanksgiving at the Marriott hotel in downtown Newark on their landlord’s dime. While it is nice, it is not home.
“I have a friend who lives her and she's cooking in her own home," said Karissa. "She has the refrigerator full of food, a whole turkey that's brining right now. That's going to waste."
The city claimed these moves were only temporary.
"The tenants were moved so the place could be cleaned and sanitized and now they're back in their apartments," Mark DiIonno Newark's Interim Communications Director said.