Dozens displaced after partial building collapse in Wilmington
Dozens of residents were relocated on Monday after Wilmington building inspectors declared 27 apartments along North Adams Street unsafe and uninhabitable.
Late Monday afternoon, residents, including young children, stood outside the apartment complexes, stunned by the news and unsure of what was to come next.
Devastated and angry at being kicked out of their homes, several people began confronting landlord and landlord AJ Pokorny, who stayed inside his truck for hours outside buildings avoiding tenants.
“Where’s AJ?” a woman said, then began to approach her car. “What do you mean you don’t know what to say?”
John Rago, deputy chief of staff for Mayor Mike Purzycki, said the apartments at 808-820 N. Adams Street were condemned after inspectors responded to a partially collapsed wall in the alley between two buildings and determined that several buildings were not structurally safe.
The partial collapse happened overnight Sunday and prompted the city to bring in a structural engineer to examine the integrity of the buildings, Rago said. A contract engineer’s inspection prompted the city to place “red and yellow signs” Monday on the front doors of seven apartment buildings due to “structural issues.”
The doors to the apartments, 808 through 820, each had a red and yellow sign, along with a Wilmington police officer standing outside. The signs read: ‘Doomed’, ‘Dangerous and dangerous’ and ‘Unsuitable for human habitation’.
Rago said a total of seven buildings, housing 27 apartments, were affected. Wilmington Licensing and Inspections officials did not know as of Monday night how many tenants were affected.
All buildings belong to Pokorny, who declined to speak to a reporter at the scene.
The Delaware Landlord/Tenant Code requires a landlord to provide emergency shelter to displaced tenants.
A handful of people interviewed by Delaware Online/The News Journal on Monday described negative experiences with their landlord. While some of the tenants said they did not see any concerning structural issues, others had chronic issues with their apartment. These questions, they say, were ignored by the owner.
Resident Jason Slavik said he had several structural issues in his apartment, including a large hole in the bathroom ceiling. He showed photos to the News Journal.
He heard a loud noise on Sunday but didn’t think it was serious at the time. On his way home from the grocery store, he realized there was a cave-in and a pile of bricks in an outside passage. He took a video of it and posted it on social media.
Stephanie Lambert, who lived in one of the buildings for several years, said she had problems with suspected black mold, a collapsed roof and an electrical fire. On Monday, she was forced to call unemployment and was trying to find out where she, her two children, her grandchild and her pet were going to spend the night.
“I don’t know where I’m going to go,” Lambert said. She then started crying.
Desire Dorsey said her flat had problems but not “enough to leave everyone homeless”.
“They can’t do this to us,” said Bernard Dorsey, his partner. “They can’t do this to us.”
“If the city cares so much about us, then do something! You don’t care about us.
Rago said the city is monitoring the situation and “has been in contact with the Red Cross and the Delaware Department of Health and Human Services” to help with the situation.
From 5:30 p.m., residents were not allowed to enter the apartment to collect their belongings.
Some people noted that they had pets indoors and lit candles, in addition to their clothing, furniture, and personal effects. A woman asked to use a News Journal reporter’s phone to call her mother, who was still inside. The woman’s mother was unaware of what was going on, she said.
In the early evening, State Representative Sherry Dorsey Walker and New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer spoke to residents. Dorsey Walker was helping connect people to services. The police were taking information from people to connect them with accommodation for the night.
Meanwhile, young children were playing with each other, seemingly oblivious. Just before 6 p.m., a resident brought crisps and water to residents, some of whom had been out for hours.
Do you have any advice? Contact Amanda Fries at [email protected], or by calling 302-598-5507. Follow her on Twitter at @mandy_fries.