Dozens of residents were displaced Monday after Wilmington building inspectors declared 27 apartment units along North Adams Street unsafe and uninhabitable.
By late Monday afternoon, residents, including young children, were standing outside the apartment complexes, stunned by the news and unclear of what comes next.
Devastated and angered by being forced out of their homes, several people started confronting the landlord and property owner A.J. Pokorny, who stayed inside of his truck for hours outside of the buildings avoiding tenants.
“Where’s AJ?” one woman said, then began approaching his car. “What do you mean you don’t know what to say?”
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John Rago, Mayor Mike Purzycki's deputy chief of staff, said apartment units in 808-820 N. Adams Street were condemned after inspectors responded to a partially collapsed wall in the alleyway between two buildings and determined multiple buildings were not structurally safe.
The partial collapse happened overnight Sunday and prompted the city to call in a structural engineer to review the integrity of the buildings, Rago said. A contracted engineer's inspection prompted the city to place "red and yellow placards" Monday on the front doors of seven apartment buildings because of "structural problems."
The doors of the apartments, from 808 to 820, each had a red and yellow sign, as well as a Wilmington police officer standing outside. The signs said: “Condemned,” “Dangerous and Unsafe" and “Unfit for Human Habitation.”
Rago said a total of seven buildings, hosting 27 apartment units, were impacted. Officials in Wilmington's Licenses and Inspections Department were unsure Monday evening how many tenants were affected.
All the buildings are owned by Pokorny, who declined to speak to a reporter at the scene.
Delaware landlord/tenant code requires that a landlord provide emergency shelter for 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 didn’t see any concerning structural issues, others have had chronic issues with their apartment. These issues, they say, were ignored by the landlord.
Resident Jason Slavik said he has had several structural issues in his apartment, including a large hole in the ceiling of the bathroom. He showed photos to The News Journal.
He heard a loud noise on Sunday but didn’t think it was serious at the time. When he came home from grocery shopping, he realized there was a collapse and a pile of bricks in an outdoor passageway. He took video of it and posted it to social media.
Stephanie Lambert, who lived in one of the apartment buildings for several years, said she has had issues with suspected black mold, a caved-in roof and an electrical fire. On Monday, she was forced to call out of work and was trying to figure out where she, her two children, grandchild and pet were going to stay for the night.
“I don’t know where I’m going to go,” Lambert said. She then began to cry.
Desire Dorsey said her apartment had issues but not “enough for everybody to be homeless.”
“They can’t do this to us,” said Bernard Dorsey, her partner. “They can’t do this to us.”
“If the city cares about us so much, then do something! Ya’ll 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 Social Services" to assist with the situation.
As of 5:30 p.m., the residents were not allowed to re-enter the apartment to collect any belongings.
Some people noted how they had animals inside and candles lit, in addition to their clothes, furniture and personal belongings. One 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 unfolding, she said.
By early evening, state Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker and New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer were talking to residents. Dorsey Walker was helping connect people with services. The police officers had been taking people’s information to connect them with housing for the night.
Meanwhile, young children played with one another, seemingly unaware. Just before 6 p.m. a resident brought chips and water for residents, some of whom had been outside for hours.
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This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Dozens displaced after partial building collapse in Wilmington