The East Orange residents who were forced to evacuate their apartment building last week due to a building code violation still have nowhere to stay tomorrow and many are facing homelessness.
The city condemned the building at 65 South Harrison Street on Sept. 26 and 15 families — some with children, others with chronic health problems — were forced to flee that same day. The evacuees are currently staying at the Ramada Inn on Evergreen Place. But their former management, Estate Realty Group, refuses to pay for their hotel stays past tomorrow.
“I don’t know where to go,” said Alison Artist, 54, who suffered a stroke this year and now walks with cane. “I guess I’ll go sit on the City Hall steps”
Mayor Ted Green, who could not be reached at the time of publication, vowed not to abandon them. “We’re not putting these tenants out,” Mayor Green told CBS News last Wednesday. “I got with my team and early this morning and I told my team whatever we have to do for these people to stay here and get them somewhere to live, we’ll do that.”
Mayor Green also told the news organization that there is a warrant out for the owner of the building, who operates under Harrison Management, LLC. “We’re trying to locate him and we will get him,” Mayor Green said.
Despite these assurances, Arthur Morton, 65, still had not received word about where he will go tomorrow.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” Morton said. “I hope they text us and tell us what they’re going to do.”
Morton, who is also caring for his disabled brother, said the landlord’s failure to disclose the building’s current state of disrepair is to blame for their current predicament. “I would have left,” said Morton, whose family has lived there since the 1970s. “He didn’t care about the tenants — he just cared about getting his money.”
Since 2021, the owner has been issued three code violations citing the structure as unstable, including one issued last year by the city’s Construction Official Jean Charles, declaring the building an “imminent hazard.”
“The building has been unsafe for years,” Artist said. “Do you know how many times we called code enforcement?”
The situation at 65 South Harrison echoes the plight of many others in the four-square -mile city. In March, the Four Oranges ran a story about the neglect of a nearby apartment building at 75 Prospect Street, whose residents have since filed a lawsuit against the building’s landlord. One resident, LeGrand Quick, claimed the landlord’s neglect of the building was a “scare tactic” to get the tenants to leave so they can hike up rents.
Since that story was published, the residents of 49 Prospect Street have also alleged similar oversight at their apartment tower, leading many to believe that East Orange is suffering citywide housing crisis spurred by gentrification.
Cheryl Gandy founded the Greater East Orange Tenants Association earlier this year to fight back against slumlords and City Hall’s failure to hold them accountable.
“Why have these violations not been addressed?” asked Cheryl Gandy. “Why is the landlord still renting even after having been giving due notices?”
What is happening at 65 South Harrison is only a symptom of a larger problem, Gandy said.
“This city is prime real estate, but it may come at the expense of the most vulnerable and longtime tenants,” Gandy said. “We don’t want this to become another Harlem.”
Since publication, Mayor Green has issued the following statement:
To contact the Greater East Orange Tenants Association, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Members of the East Orange City Council can be contacted through the city’s website.
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