April , 2018

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Letters to Editors

Last week, 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore made a statement regarding the prayer vigil held outside his office, organized in support of affordable housing in Rogers Park.  As tenants of 1246 W. Pratt (also known as Astor House) and concerned community members, we believe that his statement distorts the facts and does not fully reflect the situation at 1246 W Pratt.

Former tenants have been served eviction lawsuits without the building’s owners going through the required legal processes.  This includes tenants who paid their rent on time every month.  While Moore’s statement says that BJB desires “any tenant in good standing to remain in the building during the repairs,” there were tenants who were relocated to other united on temporary leases while their units were being repaired, with the understanding that they would return to their original units, who were then evicted from the building.  One former tenant was evicted after being denied a week’s extension on rent, which was needed due to an extended stay in the hospital.  Former tenants, visiting friends at 1246 W Pratt, have tried to talk to potential new tenants which subsequently got them barred from the building.

Moore reported that his and his staff’s interactions with the building owners have been positive.  This is not the experience of the tenants of 1246 W. Pratt, who still experience problems with the building, such as an elevator that often breaks down.  If the building owners have permits to make repairs on the elevator, as Moore mentions, why are they not prioritizing the basic need of tenants to access their apartments– particularly those who are physically disabled and must deal with nine or more flights of stairs?  The statement also mentions that “neighbors who reside in adjacent properties have expressed satisfaction with the improvements they have seen to the buildings.”  Considering there have been no changes made to the exterior of the building, we are not sure to what improvements he refers.

The statement also claims that the owners have promised not to significantly raise rent prices.  Perhaps we have different understandings of what a “significant” raise would be.  One current tenant pays $550 for a studio apartment, while Craigslist ads for studio apartments at 1246 W. Pratt state that rent is $695 and up.

While we applaud Moore’s stated goal of “[getting] the building into the hands of responsible ownership,” we disagree that it has been achieved.  1246 W Pratt is currently in building court, seeking that management be turned over to the city.  Several tenants new to Astor House this summer reported that they did not find out that Astor House is in building court, or the extent of repair and pest issues, until after they moved in, and are looking to break their leases.  Building code violations from before the new owners obtained the building have yet to be addressed.

The statement suggests that tenants are engaging in this now months-long struggle in an attempt to extort money from the owners, and that community organizers are looking for an attempt to justify the existence of a “new advocacy group.” The organizations that support the tenants of 1246 W Pratt, Northside Action for Justice and Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, were both founded long before their involvement with Astor House, and both support other campaigns to support community members at risk of losing their homes.  Our mission is to ensure accessible, affordable housing for all Northside residents regardless of income status, not to engage in ethics violations.

An Alderman setting up a meeting between tenants and the owner who is displacing them to discuss the support the tenants need is not being involved in extortion. Convening such a meeting is what an alderman is supposed to do. 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney did exactly that; Tunney convened a meeting with Jamie Purcell of BJB Properties to discuss preserving affordability at all of the Lakeview SROs he has purchased (Abbott, Chateau, Sheffield House, Bel Air, and Ambers). While negotiations are still going on, it has so far resulted in a mutually acceptable solution that allowed some tenants to be able to move with dignity. We are the Alderman’s constituents and we need him to advocate for tenants at the Astor House. The mischaracterization of the Astor House tenants and supporting organizations is troubling coming from an Alderman who touts his “decades-long advocacy of tenants’ rights.”

The tenants of Astor House stand firm in their conviction that they have provided Joe Moore with “objective evidence that the current landlords are not fulfilling their obligations,” and continue to request that he work with us to negotiate with BJB, the current owners of 1246 W Pratt.

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