Today, Astor House tenants and members of the Rogers Park community are bringing their frustrations with unsafe building conditions and BJB Properties’ forced displacement of residents to 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore’s office.
For weeks, tenants have been asking Moore to assist them in getting Joe Slezak of BJB Properties, an owner of the 1246 W. Pratt building, to the negotiating table. But Moore’s office has declined to intervene.
At a rally and 4:30 p.m. press conference outside Moore’s 7356 N. Greenview office, tenants will call on Moore to do the right thing: take action to prevent the remaining Astor House tenants from becoming homeless.
BJB has purchased dozens of buildings housing low-income tenants—such as the Hotel Chateau in Lakeview—to convert them more profitable luxury housing. Since it purchased the building, BJB has filed at least 60 eviction cases at 1246 W Pratt.
Meanwhile, management has ignored worsening problems with the building.
“I have pictures from all over the building—appliances in disrepair, bedbugs, cockroaches, rodents, elevators not working, mold, water damage, faulty fire equipment. Not to mention heat, water and electricity being turned off for days at a time,” says tenant Adenrele Adeboje.
Multiple calls into Chicago’s 311 building complaints telephone line have documented people being stuck in elevators every week, as well as narrowly missed falls after elevator doors opened to reveal an empty shaft.
“There’s a lot of elderly folks living here that can’t move around that easily. How are they going to get out when the elevator is broken for a week at a time?” asks tenant Arbie Bowman.
Like at the Hotel Chateau and Abbott Hotel, BJB has begun construction at the Astor House with little concern for the tenants still living there. Much of it occurred before the company had proper permits on display or even processed by the city. Even now, the company is doing more construction than is covered by the permits it has.
As a result, tenants have endured electricity shut-offs and construction noise from the early morning through the late evening. Dust from the project sent Bowman’s elementary-age daughter to the hospital from asthma attacks.
Weeks ago, BJB Properties began advertising apartments on Craigslist, even as its remaining tenants fight their eviction cases in court. But Loyola students, BJB’s target market, have been spreading the word about these conditions on campus.
“I can’t believe the price they are renting at. I wouldn’t pay $850 for a bedbug-infested studio. Not even with new floors!” says senior Tala Said.
She, like hundreds of Loyola students and other community members, have signed on to a boycott of BJB in protest of these conditions. “The least Alderman Moore can do is help negotiate reasonable time and compensation for tenants to move,” Said says. “If these tenants end up homeless, we will hold Alderman Moore responsible.”
Arbie Bowman, 773-302-5171
Melvin Jennings, 312-256-6772
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