The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Astor House Residents, Fighting Eviction and Bed Bugs, Confront Ald. Moore

 Astor House residents and community activists marched Monday outside Ald. Joe Moore's 49th Ward office.
Astor House Residents Protest Ald. Joe Moore
View Full Caption

ROGERS PARK — Tenants of the Astor House, fighting evictions and bed bugs, sought their alderman's help Monday by protesting outside his office.

Moore made an appearance and agreed to meet with five of the residents after they spoke to TV news cameramen and marched up and down Greenview Avenue with megaphones with about 50 other volunteer organizers and community residents.

The tenants said they've been tangled in eviction hearings since last year, when developers involved with BJB Properties, who also purchased the Chateau Hotel in Lakeview, bought the Astor House at 1246 W. Pratt Ave. The developers said they intended to rehab and rent the units at market rate.

The tenants said they are particularly angry at BJB partner Jamie Purcell.

"Mr. Moore," said Astor House tenant Melvin Jennings, "we want to talk to BJB properties. We want to look [Purcell] in the eye."

But Moore said the tenants had "poisoned the well" when they protested outside Purcell's Park Ridge home earlier this year, and a meeting with him and other investors would only be a shouting match.

"Such an action may make for good theater, but I fail to see how it does anything to advance the ball down the field," he said.

Moore asked the tenants to write down their individual grievances — providing proof in some cases — and submit them to his office. He said if there are substantiated concerns, he'd take them up with Purcell and BJB.

"It's delay tactics," said one of the organizers after the hourlong meeting.

"Were going to keep on fighting," said tenant Arbie Bowman. "It's a shame what we have to do to keep affordable housing."

Bowman, 45, said she's suffered through rodent and bed bug infestations since moving to the Astor House nearly three years ago.

The infestation was so bad at one time that her daughter was forced to sleep on top of a coffee table to avoid being bitten throughout the night, she said.

Bowman and the other tenants want BJB to help pay for them to relocate to other housing. But for residents used to paying $550 a month, comparable rent is hard to come by on the North Side.

Robert Rohdenburg, 53, said he lived at the Chateau before his was evicted and is now staying with a friend in Rogers Park while he hunts for an apartment.

"I would like to move back [to the Uptown area]," he said. "But it's going to be hard to find affordable housing for me."

Yet Moore said he's heard that some residents haven't paid rent for months and are making unreasonable demands.

"I'm more than willing to advocate on behalf of any tenant who has a legitimate complaint," he said.
"However, I refuse to be used as a tool to justify some tenant organizer's salary."