Astor House Residents Get Legal Help To Fight Bed Bugs, Busted Elevators

By Benjamin Woodard on June 10, 2013 6:27pm 

ROGERS PARK — The remaining 30 or so residents living in the Astor House, which was purchased by a developer known for kicking out residents to renovate derelict buildings, have a new advocate on their side.

The Lawyers' Committee For Better Housing has agreed to represent the tenants during a building court hearing planned for 11 a.m. Tuesday in the Daley Center, 50 W. Washington St.

"While they’re living there, [residents] want their units to be habitable," said Victoria Ogunsanya, an attorney with the organization.

Ogunsanya said the building, which was purchased by BJB Properties last year, suffered from several building code violations, including bed-bug infestations, busted elevators and faulty plumbing.

She said those things ought to be fixed for the current residents, regardless of the building owner's plans for the building.

Melvin Jennings and other Astor House residents say BJB and principal partner Jamie Purcell should have helped them find new housing before dolling out "bogus" eviction notices earlier this year.

"A lot of tenants are being threatened or pressured that they need to leave," said Jennings, who hasn't paid rent since he disputed his notice in court.

In April, Jennings, other residents and affordable housing activists boarded a bus to protest outside the BJB's Park Ridge offices — and on Purcell's front lawn.

Neither Purcell nor a representative of the company could be reached for comment Monday.

Ogunsanya said one of the possible outcomes of Tuesday's building court hearing would be for the judge to place the building into the care of a receiver who would make necessary repairs.

"I see it as an emergency and something that should be dealt with" on Tuesday, she said.

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