Tenants homeless because of reality tv star

7 On Your Side
March 3, 2012 10:57:06 AM PST
Fire officials say tragedy was narrowly averted for families living in a building owned by the husband of a reality tv star. The building featured in a "Real Houswives of New Jersey" episode was shut down and its tenants locked out of their homes because of unsafe conditions.

"Unsafe for Human Occupancy" signs plaster the door to Sani Ankewe's apartment. In a blink 5 families are homeless.

This is what I came home to, Sani said.

One tenant, M.K. Koumoul, slept with her kids behind the cash register at her hair salon.

"Yes, we slept on the floor," she said.

They were all locked out last Wednesday over fire hazard concerns. Power to their building was cut, stemming from meter tampering and their landlord's unpaid electric bill.

Reality TV fans might know the landlord, Joe Giudice. He and his wife, Teresa Giudice star on the reality TV series, "Real Housewives of New Jersey."

The apartment complex was even featured in an episode of the TV series.

It's a far cry from where the reality hubby lives. He and his family live in a lavishly appointed, 10,000 square foot million dollar mansion.

"I wish he would let us stay in the mansion," said one tenant. "He would let us all come and live there because I mean I have nowhere to go, I have a little girl I have a wife, a family."

"We all work, we are not millionaires. We are not on TV. We don't have that luxury," said tenant Ty Davis.

The tenants all pay their electric bill separately, yet got caught in the middle when the power was shut off to the whole building.

According to Hillside's mayor, Joe Menza, even after the unsafe meter tampering problem was fixed, utility company, PSE&G, still wouldn't restore power until the Giudice paid off an outstanding balance of $53,000. The utility said later power was turned off solely due to a safety issue.

The reality hubby denied responsibility for the tenant's troubles. He left us a voice mail message,

"Theres nothing I can do," said Giudice. "I don't own the building okay, I basically manage the building for a company in New York, they technically own the building."

Not true. The owner is listed as 1576 Maple Avenue Associates LLC which is in turn owned by, you guessed, it Guiseppe or Joe Giudice.

Faced with our research Guidice admitted ownership, saying he even tried to help tenants by installing a generator.

But that backfired. Hillside's fire marshall said, that generator filled the apartments up with deadly carbon monoxide .

"They could have potentially been dead from the carbon monoxide poisoning," Hillside Fire Marshall Douglas Ferrigno said.

But after the fumes ventilated, pressure from the mayor, and calls to PSE&G from 7 On Your Side, power was restored and residents were allowed back inside.

The tenants collectively thanked 7 On Your Side for helping get their power restored.

The story didn't end there. A final inspection by local fire officials revealed the fire alarm wasn't working. The reason? The owner, whose own gated estate is equipped with surveillance cameras, didn't pay the alarm monitoring bill. Fire officials told us Joe Giudice will be cited for negiligence which put his Hilliside tenants lives in danger.


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