Landlord A No Show At Meeting, Frustrating TenantsBy Lisa Rozner

WEST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Homeless in a heartbeat.

Dozens of residents in West Orange were kicked out of their homes close to midnight Monday, and are now living in a hotel.

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It’s all because of building damage, but that damage was caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida weeks ago.

At a meeting Thursday, tenants were told the building, where some have lived for decades, will have to be torn down.

Tenants walked away from the meeting with some money, including their security deposits, October rent and a little bit of money to move, but without many answers to their questions.

Watch Lisa Rozner’s report —

As CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reports, people who live in the apartment complex on Northfield Avenue says Hurricane Ida sent a tree into one building Sept. 1, evacuating four families, and triggered a rockslide that totaled cars. But other than that, the other 40 units were told everything was fine. In fact, the landlord just painted new parking spaces.

But six weeks after the storm, this past Monday, close to midnight, residents were told they had 15-30 minutes to get out, possibly forever.

“It’s very traumatic,” said Charity Bracey. “We’re living in limbo.”

Bracey and others are living out of hotel rooms.

“It’s been rough, rough on the kids, rough on everybody,” tenant Arnold Castro said.

Castro and his wife have three kids, ages 12, 9 and 5.

“Monday night they banged on our door and they basically ripped us out of our home, right? They were traumatized,” he said.

“It’s been OK, but, you know, obviously, there’s no place like home, so,” another tenant said.

It turns out Friday, Oct. 8, engineering firm Langan informed the town “the slope… is not stable,” and part of the building’s foundation is unsafe, which could result in “possible loss of life.”

Rozner asked the mayor why it wasn’t until three days later everyone was evacuated.

“I know it was a Friday night, and I don’t think our engineer kind of caught it right away, and so it as soon as he caught it, we started talking and spent the day mobilizing the different professionals in town,” said West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi.

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“I think management did drop the ball,” said Gwenda Williams.

Rozner called the landlord John Jackimowicz to ask why six weeks after Hurricane Ida residents only learned of this now. Shortly after Rozner asked this:

“Are they going to be able to move everything out of their apartments?”

Jackimowicz only said “we have a plan,” and he can’t talk further because he has an attorney, and hung up.

“We’re not living here rent free. We pay to live here, and we need help all right?” said End Olsen. “Some of us are disabled. Some of us are elderly. There are some residents that rely on oxygen tanks for survival. What’s going to happen?”

As CBS2’s Jessica Layton reports, Thursday night, the mayor and several town officials met with residents to try to help them with next steps.

“We are very sorry to see you all in this circumstance,” Mayor Robert Parisi said.

Jackimowicz, however, was a no-show. Instead, he sent his attorney, and that didn’t sit well.

“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s a disgrace that he did not show up and that his representative is not prepared to answer many of our questions and has been very evasive, and I feel that it’s wrong, and that he should have been here. At least to show us and give us the respect that we deserve,” tenant Enid Olsen said.

The landlord’s attorney, Steve Eisenstein, told CBS2 Jackimowicz doesn’t live in New Jersey but wouldn’t say where he does live, adding, “It’s a very hostile crowd.”

“You can understand why some people are upset, though. They feel like they’ve gotten no communication from him whatsoever since this happened,” Layton said.

“I disagree. We have communicated through the super of the building. We’re doing everything that we can reasonably do under the circumstances, which are completely unexpected,” Eisenstein said.

It’s unclear exactly when demolition will take place, but tenants are being assured they’ll be able to clear out their apartments, including their furniture, before that happens.

If you want to help the residents, you can donate to a nonprofit fund run by the mayor. To do so, CLICK HERE.

Parisi says the money to house them in hotels will run out in a week, but promises no one will be left homeless.

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CBS2’s Jessica Layton contributed to this report.