EAST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A half-dozen families have talked to CBS2, saying a New York City program meant to help solve their housing crisis instead left them in crumbling homes in New Jersey.
While City Hall talks of taking action, East Orange, N.J., is stepping up and holding landlords accountable.
CBS2’s Tara Jakeway has more on the forgotten families.
City officials showed up in force for judgment day for a landlord behind some of the dilapidated Special One-Time Assistance — or SOTA — homes rented by New York’s Department of Homeless Services.
Under review were homes like those at 57 and 59 Ashland Ave., but there was no sign of the man responsible for them.
“The owner, Sean Young, did not show up in court again, for the second time, so the judge issued a $25,000 bench warrant,” said Mark Barner, East Orange’s director of property maintenance.
Young was expected in court to face 14 property violation offenses. Instead, as he often does, the landlord sent a representative.
Anthony Urena did admit to being the property manager for the SOTA houses. Bolting from court, he did offer a solution for one of the displaced families — another one of their properties, which may not be habitable either.
“It’s not good. It looks like somebody just moved out, so they’re trying to get it ready,” inspector Safiyy Britton said. “The windows don’t fit together. The radiators don’t look good. There’s no refrigerator in here. The bathroom looks horrible.”
He was describing the home at 210 Amherst St., which is also under construction and not livable.
For professional driver Michael Leake and his family, it was a case of deja vu.
“Before you go into any housing situation, make sure it’s safe for your kids. We went on blind faith and think we got into something good and it’s just a bunch of bull crap,” Leake said.
CBS2 first met Leake on Friday at 59 Ashland Ave., where he was placed by DHS. He spent the next five nights in a hotel room with his two daughters after the house was condemned. He said DHS promised to be at the new housing option Wednesday to give it the OK. But like the landlord, the agency didn’t show up.
But a slew of East Orange officials did show.
“Prior to you giving us the hotel we were sleeping on the ground at my parents’ house, and that does something to a man when you see your wife and your kids laying on the floor,” Leake said.
While CBS2’s Jakeway called DHS and got voicemail, others wondered how the organization could stand by and let the same landlord move a family to an unfinished home, again.
“To treat any individual, any family in this manner, there is zero tolerance in the City of East Orange,” Mayor Ted Green said.
The property manager assured CBS2 on Wednesday that the first floor of the three-family home will be ready for the Leake family by Saturday. City officials tend to disagree. Meanwhile, they are going to foot the bill for the Leake to stay at the Ramada downtown.