Tenants seek First Merit Bank’s help to confront retaliation, poor conditions

(Letters to Editors)

BJB Properties’ treatment of tenants at the Astor House building in Rogers Park reached a new low yesterday when an employee of the company seized several boxes of former tenant Arbie Bowman’s belongings, including her daughter’s clothing and toys.

Bowman had been finishing her move-out when the sheriff arrived to carry out an eviction. But unlike other tenants who have been allowed to retrieve their belongings after an eviction, staff informed Bowman – in what she believes was an act of retaliation for her organizing – that she would not be able to set up a time to get her possessions back.

At 12:15 p.m. today, Astor House tenants and supporters will rally outside the First Merit Bank at 20 N. Clark St. to discuss the worsening situation in the building.

At today’s event, tenants will demand that First Merit Bank, which loaned BJB the money to purchase the building, immediately convene negotiations between current building residents and BJB.

In the spirit of Friday the 13th, tenants will distribute Halloween candy and tell First Merit Bank that “BJB is Scary” in light of the horrifying situation they have found themselves in.

In spite of superficial renovations paid for by First Merit’s $10 million loan to the company, the building is still filled with terrifying small creatures like rodents and a variety of bugs. The ghastly conditions include no hot water, lack of heat, and a death trap of an elevator.

Tenants, many of whom are on the brink of homelessness, urgently need to negotiate with the building’s owners for relocation assistance.

“If First Merit Bank does not convene a meeting between tenants and the property owners, people will end up on the street,” tenant Melvin Jennings says.

Adds Bowman: “The bank needs to have BJB sit down and negotiate with the tenants. It’s unfair what they are doing.”