5 Months Later The Nightmare Ends For Some 300 Residents

HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBS 2) — After months of waiting, residents of a Hackensack luxury apartment building are finally moving home after a parking garage collapse sent them scrambling for a new place to live.

On Monday the city issued a certificate of occupancy that said the 18-story structure was safe enough to live in, and on Monday night some were ready to sleep in their own beds.

CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey was there for the long-awaited homecoming that was just in time for Christmas.

News that their high-rise apartment was ready to be called home again was music to the ears of Jeffrey Campbell and Stephen Elbel, who’ve been here for 13 years.

“It’s great. It’s been five months and three days so we’re delighted to be back,” Campbell said.

It was July 16 when their world was turned upside down.

“The building shook a little bit. I kind thought it was an airplane,” Campbell said.

Instead, it was an underground garage and its canopy that had collapsed, severing electrical, gas, and water lines and forcing the not-so-temporary evacuation of 300 people.

On Monday night, a handful of residents were finally staying in their own homes.

“We are thrilled. We’ve been waiting for a long time,” Elbel said.

“It’ll be good to be back here,” resident Gary Presslaff added.

Presslaff said he’s moving back over the next 24 hours, and can’t wait to sit in his living room and gaze at the Manhattan skyline; all while keeping things in perspective.

“A lot of people have had it worse if there was a fire or flood or something like that,” Presslaff said.

The garage area is still under construction. But that won’t stop Rose Owens from moving back in over the next day or so.

“I’m ecstatic. I’ve been waiting,” Owens said. “I just want to get, settle back in.”

Campbell and Elbel are already doing that, and even have tiny ornaments to celebrate their Christmas homecoming.

“It’s the best Christmas. Get to finally be home,” Elbel said.

Building management said roughly two-thirds of the residents elected to come back and that by early spring the garage will be fixed and the rest of the building will be open.

Residents told Hennessey they weren’t concerned about the structural integrity. The city said it has gone beyond code in making sure the high-rise is in good standing.

Comments (2)
  1. Hackensack Garage Nightmare # 2 says:

    Try living in Aztec East in Hackensack where our garage is about to fall as well (and it has been known since early 2009). It’s now winter 2010 going on 2011 and our garage was just shut down the other day so we are displaced with no where to park. They are still not planning to fix it “anytime soon” because they say we have no money. We are living in danger. If it’s a state of emergency, why aren’t they pulling out reserves or figuring it out? HELP!!

  2. Steve Pick says:

    It is a bit ridiculous for a contractor or construction manager to request an inspection when they are not really ready for it. Sure, they had to do a lot to be ready for the inspection, but a simple visual pre-inspection would have saved the embarrassment of failing the inspection for something so simple as painted sprinkler head covers.

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