HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBS 2 / WCBS 880) — Hopes of returning home were dashed for hundreds of residents of a Hackensack apartment building.

They’ve been homeless for months after the collapse of their parking garage, and were hopeful to return to their homes after a final inspection Friday.

Apartment management was ready to allow residents into their homes Friday, even putting out a “welcome back” sign, but it was premature. The fire department did a walkthrough Friday afternoon, and found problems.

The building’s certificate of occupancy was denied.

“The word is today, they’re not moving in this weekend,” Hackensack Building Inspector Joe Mellone said.

Mellone said it’s a no-go for the reopening of the Prospect Place Apartments. The 167-unit building has been closed since July after a massive collapse pancaked the attached parking garage and forced residents from their homes.

It was hoped that Friday would be the first day residents would be allowed back in, but the building failed a final inspection by the fire department.

“Some of the sprinkler covers had been painted on to be free, for it to do its job,” Mellone said.

Gigi Anders is one of dozens of residents who were hoping to move back in Friday after months of living in temporary housing.

“I want to go home,” she said.

The reopening all hinged upon a certificate of occupancy covering the first 65 units located farthest from the collapse. That certificate is now being withheld, at least until Monday, to give building management time for some last-minute fixes.

“I’ve been wearing the same thing, basically every day, since July,” Anders said.

Residents have been displaced for nearly five months, and heading into Christmas week, only those 65 units are slated to open. The rest will have to wait until the garage is totally rebuilt sometime this spring.

“We’re going to make sure that it’s all done before we allow all the residents back in,” Mellone said.

The building inspector said the apartments are all structurally sound, but there are some minor fixes that need to be made.

Overall, the holdup is the parking structure. Legally, there has to be enough available parking for all of the building’s residents to return.

The official word is that work will be completed in the spring, but residents say they’ll believe it when they see it.


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