City of Newark sues landlord over uninhabitable conditions

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Infested with rats, covered in mold and riddled with hundreds of structural code violations, the Garden Spires apartments in Newark are uninhabitable, according to Newark and state officials.

Officials announced Monday that they’re suing the owners and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development over the living conditions.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said that between the two towers at the Garden Spires apartments, a June inspection found nearly 400 fire and code violations. He said the problems have gotten so bad that no Band-Aid can fix it.

A tenant told News 12 New Jersey that her 6-month-old baby couldn’t live with her because rats were climbing into the child’s crib. She said a walk-in closet in her unit was sealed because mice continually entered through holes in the wall.

The city has filed a lawsuit against First King Property, the owner and operator of the building.

Officials said the property group has neglected the safety and health of its residents.

The city is in the process of seeking a court order to declare the building uninhabitable and demands that the violations be fixed soon, or else the residents will be relocated on the owner's dime.

City officials said as for also naming HUD in the suit, they believe the owners are inappropriately collecting federal funding for units that are vacant.

Elected officials said safe housing is not a privilege, it’s a right.

"We have human beings who live here in deplorable conditions. Well, someone asked me, ‘What do you think should happen to these landlords?’ I say, you know what? Jail is not good enough. They deserve to be forced to live in one of their apartments for a year, so they can recognize what they've been doing to the residents of the city of Newark,” state Sen. Teresa Ruiz said.

Officials said they won't sit back as slum landlords who hide behind LLCs pay small fines rather than fix the root of the problems in project buildings.

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