E. Orange residents evacuated from building over electric fight

May 5, 2011 2:33:28 PM PDT
A New Jersey apartment building is in the dark tonight.

Its power was cut off because the bill wasn't paid.

But that has left hundreds of people in East Orange without power, many who were paying their bills.

"I got up, took my daughter to school, and the lights were off," said Tahan Williams.

And so began a mass exodus from 275 Prospect St not long after the power was shut off this morning.

"If we don't pay rent, they're taking us to court. Who's making them accountable," said Denise Grice.

Turns out, it's more complicated than blaming one person. These are all condos with individual owners, or people who own multiple units and rent them out.

The entire building has only one electric meter. Each unit pays maintenance fees that are pooled to help pay the electric bill.

But Franco Musano says more than 50 condo owners are behind on their fees. Way behind.

"And those are the people asked to pay, they laugh it off, and they live here," he said.

At about noon, PSE&G agreed to turn the power on, just long enough for people to gather their belongings, for the elevators to work, so that people could be evacuated.

The city says PSE&G wants $175,000 of the nearly $300,000 bill paid, before regular service is restored.

"My mom's been here for 24 years, where is she going to go," asked Sage Sydney.

Ambulances were called to retrieve the disabled and a NJ Transit bus came for others with no ride. The city is scrambling to find shelter.

The city is holding emergency meetings to try to find a solution.

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