Bergen County Executive James Tedesco and Edgewater Mayor Michael McPartland will join Mercer County officials and local elected officials for a joint press conference Tuesday, Feb. 3 to discuss the devastating apartment complex fire in Edgewater to the future of the planned AvalonBay housing project in Princeton.
AvalonBay built the 408-unit Avalon at Edgewater apartment complex in Edgewater, Bergen County that was destroyed by a five-alarm blaze Jan. 21.
County and local officials have called for an emergent review of the state’s Uniform Construction Code prior to the state Department of Community Affairs’ formal evaluation of AvalonBay’s plan to construct 280 housing units on the former hospital site on Witherspoon Street in Princeton.
The press conference Tuesday will be held at the parking lot on Franklin Avenue between Witherspoon Street and Harris Road at 1:30 p.m.
Several tenants of the Edgewater complex are suing AvalonBay, alleging that the billion-dollar real estate trust was negligent “on multiple levels.” The lawsuit seeks punitive damages for “malicious” conduct, claiming AvalonBay “recklessly disregarded and was indifferent to the interests of others.”
AvalonBay is a publicly traded company with more than 270 apartment complexes across the country.
Maintenance men accidentally sparked the fire at the Edgewater complex and displaced about 1,000 people. Two unlicensed workers doing plumbing accidentally started the blaze with a blowtorch, authorities said. They tried to extinguish the flames, and called a superior, but waited 15 minutes before calling 911, officials said.
The company said in a statement last week it believes the incident “is substantially covered by its insurance policies, including coverage for the replacement cost of the building, third-party claims, and business interruption loss, subject to deductibles as well as a self-insured portion of the property insurance for which the Company is obligated for 12 percent of the first $50,000,000 in losses.”
The lightweight wood construction used to build the Edgewater complex complies with state code.
Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R- Passaic, Bergen, Essex and Morris) has proposed halting all multi-family developments in New Jersey until the state’s building code can be revised.
— Eyewitness News (@ABC7NY) January 30, 2015