PLAINFIELD, N.J. (PIX11) — More than a week after one apartment building in Plainfield, NJ was condemned by city inspectors for unhealthy and unsafe conditions, residents of the building next door could face a similar fate.
That’s what officials from Plainfield, NJ said on Friday, as they looked at conditions in the building next door with greater scrutiny. Meanwhile, the city’s own methods for dealing with neglected buildings, and people living in severe conditions are coming under scrutiny by some elected officials and activists.
The building that was condemned at the beginning of last week now has an electronic sign in front of it, placed there by the city. In Spanish, it encourages people who’d been displaced from building, at 501 West 7th Street, to get assistance with housing and supplies at a city help center at the Plainfield Performing Arts Center, six blocks away.
The electronic sign’s instructions were also directed to residents in the building next door, 515 West 7th Street, said Jazz Clayton-Hunt, the chief of staff of the Plainfield Mayor’s Office. She said the conditions inside 515 West 7th Street left it at risk of also being condemned.
Meanwhile, residents from the condemned building next door had been served by $1.5 million in resources made available to the city by the State of New Jersey, and administered by three charities that work with the city.
“We had at least 61 families that had been placed in either permanent or temporary housing,” Clayton-Hunt said. “They’re helping them with a security deposit, first month’s rent, things like that,” she added.
Giselle Elgar, 13, who was with her mother, Nadia Sarceno, at the city’s help center, bore out Clayton-Hunt’s description.
“They’re going to give us a month of rent, and the deposit,” she said, conveying what her mother had said she’d been told by aid agencies.
In her family’s case, though, they haven’t been displaced. They live at 515 West 7th Street, the building next door to the one that was condemned. Elgar said that the family’s apartment had no cold water for weeks, only hot, among other problems.
On Friday, though, she said that the water problem had been fixed.
The building where her family lives, 515 West 7th Street, and the condemned building next door, 501 West 7th, are owned by a company called Cyclone West 84 LLC. It also owns four other buildings in Plainfield, two of which were condemned in June.
Elvia Nolasco lived in one of the Arlington Avenue buildings with her son, Alexander. They’d shown up at the help center on Friday and were given supplies, like toiletries and food.
However, Nolan said in Spanish as her seven-year-old translated, they’ve not been able to get the help they need most.
“We need our security [deposit] for the house” that they’ve had to move into, she said.
She’s by no means alone. On Thursday evening, residents from the Arlington Avenue buildings held a protest outside of their now-boarded-up homes, calling for more help from the city, and criticizing the landlord. They were joined at the protest by residents of 501 and 515 West 7th Street.
For its part, landlord Cyclone West 84 LLC did not respond to requests for comment from PIX11 News on Friday.
However, it did issue statements last week indicating that it had dismissed its property management company and had hired contractors to repair problems at its West 7th Street properties. There were contracting crews at work there on Friday afternoon.
Still, some advocates for residents said that the problems extend beyond the buildings that are in disrepair and their owner.
“The real issue is not the bad landlord,” said Sean McKenna, a city council member, who said he’s also a realtor.
McKenna said the landlord needs to be pursued but added there is “a management issue here,” on the part of the city government.
“This building was sold in 2021,” he said, about 501 West 7th Street. “The city [had] to get a certificate of compliance for sale inspection. Where is it?” he asked. “How did we go from passable to sell to ‘You’ve got to get out in 24 hours’ — in two years [time]?”
He said that one strong example of mismanagement on the part of the city was the hours it made assistance programs available to displaced and at-risk residents.
The city’s help center is open on weekdays, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Most residents have to work during those hours on those days, McKenna said. He called for the help center to be open on weekends.