WEST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A New Jersey apartment complex was seriously damaged by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. Residents were forced to leave, and, for weeks, the town has been paying for hotel stays for many of them.
But now, those families are learning they could soon be homeless, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported Tuesday.READ MORE: 1,000 Cresskill Students Still Learning Remotely Months After Ida Destroyed School
Christine Catalano’s 6- and 10-year-old daughters keep asking when they can go play with the toys in their rooms. But since being evacuated on Oct. 11 from their apartment complex on Northfield Avenue in West Orange, they and 40 other families have been calling a hotel room home.
“It’s very hard for me to find something, especially this is within my price range, and I want to stay in West Orange because I have my 6-year-old who has an IEP,” Catalano said.
Mayor Robert Parisi’s philanthropic “Sunshine Fund” has been covering the hotel stays. The mayor even assured residents on Oct. 14, “The town is here to help for as long as we have to.”
But now he has sent out a letter saying, in part, “… the township, having limited resources, cannot continue providing the current hotel assistance beyond Dec. 4, 2021.”
“We need more time,” West Orange resident Patrick Colucci said.
“You’re not allowing us even the emotional time to prepare,” Charity Bracey added.
“Our budgets for the year have been approved and every allocation has been made, but it is something we’ll be discussing this evening,” Council President Cindy Matute-Brown said.
Since Sept. 1, when Ida sent a tree into one building and triggered a rockslide totaling cars, residents were told by the town everything was fine.
But then six weeks later, at around midnight, first responders knocked on their doors advising them they had minutes to get out.
They’ve since been allowed to go back during daylight hours to retrieve their belongings, but the building will soon be torn down.READ MORE: Federal Disaster Assistance Deadline Approaching For New Jersey Residents Who Suffered Property Damage From Ida
“I’m 85 years old. I have to live on valium because I get so nervous all the time,” resident Gilda Paris said.
Catalano said property security told her they’ll stop guarding the property on Nov. 21, and the day after that landlord John Jakimowicz will lock the gates, which would mean residents only have two weeks to get their stuff out.
By phone, he told Rozner that’s misinformation.
“Is there a deadline for them to move out?” Rozner asked.
He said “not as of yet” and hung up.
The tenants have also informed the landlord, town and Seton Hall Prep, which has a field next to the complex, they intend to sue.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that Christmas will likely not be in a home.
“The best I can do is Santa left the gifts by the door, if we’re still there,” Catalano said.
The mayor told Rozner off camera the hotel stays have cost $5,000 to $7,000 per day, and his philanthropic fund may not even be able to provide Christmas gifts and annual Thanksgiving meal for families in need.
CBS2 asked if the Federal Emergency Management Agency would help with extending hotel stays, but a spokesperson would only say the agency is working with residents individually.
The landlord would not tell Rozner how much longer residents can retrieve their belongings.
None of the parties being sued got back to Rozner.MORE NEWS: New York City Set To Unveil Lower Manhattan Waterfront Protection Plan
The West Orange town council president has set up a GoFundMe page to provide meals for the residents. For more information, please click here.