‘It doesn’t seem legal to me’: Tenants of Roosevelt building challenge move out order in court

The Roosevelt building told tenants they needed to be out by Friday, Jan. 13. Tenants challenged that demand in court, and a judge decided to allow them to stay in the parts of the building that aren’t currently condemned, at least for now.

“They have to get me out of that apartment legally, and right now it doesn’t seem legal to me,” said Gloria Robinette.

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Gloria Robinette has lived in the Roosevelt building for almost a decade. She said her apartment looks exactly the way it did before the fire.

The fire started in the kitchen on the 11th floor on Dec. 11. The City of Pittsburgh condemned that entire floor plus 18 other units on nine other floors.

Attorneys representing the Roosevelt building told the judge in court that the building is not safe for any residents. They say they also need everyone out in order to renovate safely.

“We have information that these units are not safe for occupancy, and the way the reconstruction work has to happen,” said Attorney John Kamin. “We’re talking about something that could be six months to a year. We would love to be able to have people back in our building and our building back up and running but that requires a lot work with this kind casualty loss.”

Attorney John Kamin says they’ve been working around the clock trying to find other places for the tenants to live.

“We have been working with HUD,” said Kamin. “We’ve been working with various other agencies. Both government and no governmental agencies to try to get this done. There are certain rumors out there and misinformation that’s being spread that people don’t have to move and that their units are safe for housing so that has created an extra layer of complication in an already difficult situation. All we’ve been trying to do is to be able to put the cards on the table so people can understand what is happening. What has happened.”

Neighborhood Legal Services is representing the tenants. They said about 40 residents are still in the building and another 20 are temporarily in hotels. There is a discrepancy in those numbers. Kamin told the judge their numbers show fewer than 20 are still in the building and fewer than 10 are in hotels. The judge says both sides need to figure out how many people need a new place to stay and work together on a solution because at the end of the day no one wants to see anyone out on the streets.

“If there is a risk, and my alternative is the streets,” said Robinette. “I’ll take the risk. I mean it’s that simple.”

The judge said this isn’t going to be resolved Wednesday or Thursday. With that being said, he said no one’s going anywhere Friday. They’re going to be back in the courtroom on Jan. 12.

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