Call for probe into Camden apartments

March 30, 2009 4:06:33 PM PDT
Officials in Camden want federal help to solve problems at a troubled high-rise.

Northgate One is a 321-unit apartment building near the Ben Franklin Bridge. It was once a luxury high-rise, but those who live here say it has become a monument to misery.

"It's filthy in the stairwells and in the hallways," said resident Rita Jones. "I mean, it's just getting dirtier and dirtier and dirtier."

Today Camden County Freeholders and Camden officials called for a federal investigation into the building's owner and the managers of Northgate One. A letter has been sent to U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra alleging a fraudulent use of federal funds. Most of the rents at Northgate are subsided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"I can tell you that the owners get close to $400,000 a month," said Camden City Council President Angel Fuentes.

But officials say the building fails to meet most code standards, and two-thirds of the units are not in compliance.

"There are fire code violations, and the balconies have structural issues," said Iraida Afanador from the Office of Code Enforcement. "The bricks are falling off the balconies onto the street, which is a public safety issue."

Northgate One Resident Ana Collins said, "It's not fit for anybody to live in. Dirt, roaches, mice, drugs - you know, everything."

Authorities and residents say the building is not only infested with rodents and roaches but with human vermin as well.

Camden County Freeholder Louis Cappelli said, "Residents have told me that gang members and drug dealers are residing in this complex with the full knowledge, if not cooperation, of members of management."

Many residents say they are too scared to complain.

The building is owned by a limited partnership based in Jersey City. It has been given six months to address violations found by H.U.D. inspectors last month. Our efforts to speak with the corporate president, Ephraim Hasenfeld, were unsuccessful. Residents say he told them he is working to address the problems. But they are skeptical, given the building's history.

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