The ceiling of a home in Newark’s West Ward collapsed yesterday. Although no one was injured, according to reports from community members, the tenant, who was not identified, was forced to evacuate with only the belongings she could carry with her two hands.
The aftermath of the incident was filmed by long-time community activist Donna Jackson, who posted an 18-minute video to her Facebook page showing the devastation inside the third-floor apartment at 37 Chadwick Avenue.
“You know how someone’s walking on squeaky floors — that’s what it sounded like,” the tenant was filmed saying in the uploaded video. “I’m like, wait— are there mice in the walls?”
Moments later, the tenant said the living room ceiling caved in, dumping decades of accumulated dust and debris where she had been sitting on the couch, leaving the roof’s wooden beams fully exposed above.
“For the grace of God no one was hurt,” Jackson said.
It is unclear how long the tenant had been living at this address. However, the woman is heard saying that she had filed several complaints to the building’s maintenance over the past two years that the wall was separating from the ceiling and that rainwater was leaking into her apartment.
“They keep coming and patching them up and patching the cracks up,” the tenant said. “They come, put something over it, then leave.”
The building management had been alerted to the collapse and ordered a maintenance crew to clean up the debris, Jackson said. A few filled trash bags filled, as well as a shovel, can be seen in the film. The entire room was still covered in several inches of rubble and there was concern that some of it might contain asbestos, a building material that was banned in 1989 because of its cancer-causing chemicals.
“This is what they left,” said Jackson, as she pans across the living room. “They didn’t feel the need to clean up everything.”
Jackson also filmed the conditions of another room in the home that was identified as the bedroom of the tenant’s daughter, who wasn’t home at the time of the collapse. The film showed cracks in the ceiling as well as early signs of buckling. “It’s not going to be long till this falls as well,” Jackson said.
In several pointed remarks, Jackson seemed to suggest that there is an epidemic of substandard housing happening in other parts of the city. “These are the condition that people in the city of Newark have to deal with,” said Donna Jackson. “We demand better housing and we can have it.”