EDGEWATER — A longtime neighbor of the former Edgewater Medical Center campus said a worker tried to hit her and take her cellphone after she questioned him as he appeared to pump water from the abandoned hospital over the weekend.
Maurine Berens said neighbors alerted her about water being pumped from the Edgewater Avenue side of the hospital into the sewer and said it was pooling on the street.
As president of the West Edgewater Area Residents Association, Berens said she felt it was her duty to inspect the situation.
"The neighborhood is on the alert right now because of what's happened in the past," Berens said.
In 2014, standing water was pumped from the hospital's parking garage into a sewer — an event that caused a "putrid" smell to envelop the immediate area and affected the water supply of several nearby residents, Berens said.
Since then, neighbors have been on alert, Berens said, keeping an eye on the normally uneventful campus to ensure its development and demolition are conducted safely and properly.
A man who was there pumping water told Berens she had to leave and wasn't allowed to be at the site and couldn't take pictures, she said.
Berens, a lawyer, said she never left the public sidewalk and told the worker she was in fact allowed to photograph the building. The man began to yell at Berens, so she began to walk down the sidewalk and he followed her, she said.
The man tried to grab Berens' cellphone and tried to hit her in the head, she said.
Neighbors who witnessed the incident waited with Berens, who called 911 and filed a police report.
"I was frightened," she said.
Police said that after an argument, Berens reported that a man tried to take her phone before taking a swing at her.
No arrest was made.
The buildings are being pumped of water in preparation for demolition. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
On Tuesday, the red hose used to pump water was still there. Some of the buildings are cleaned of asbestos in preparation for demolition.
Asbestos warning signs were set up around two of the Edgewater Avenue-facing buildings, which will be the first to be torn down since the building was granted demolition permits earlier this month, according to an email from Todd Mullens of MCZ Development. Afterward, workers will clean and demolish more buildings on Hollywood Avenue.
Last April, Mullen told community members an exterminator would be required to rid the property of rats and other rodents before the buildings come down.
Berens said she has asked MCZ about rat extermination but has not heard back.
MCZ did not respond to requests for comment from DNAinfo Chicago, but 40th Ward Ald. Patrick O'Connor on Tuesday afternoon forwarded a message from the developer to residents.
"MCZ takes the neighbors’ concerns seriously, and we are working hard to make sure everything is done to meet the requirements on us by the state and the city," the email stated.
When the buildings come down, neighbors have talked about participating in Tree House Humane Society's Cats at Work feral cats program, Berens said.
At least one "rodent" has been spotted at the former hospital lately — Scabby the Rat. Workers from Laborers' Local 225 have set up shop in front of the main hospital buildings on Ashland Avenue this week to protest MCZ's asbestos-removal contractor, a Roselle-based company that is not unionized.
Ultimately, Berens said she and other neighbors are looking forward to the redevelopment of the property and are optimistic about the future of the site.
Still, she and others, like her elderly neighbors and families with small children, want to make sure the process remains safe.
"People want it down, and we're excited," Berens said. "All of this has been really positive, and we're looking forward to the whole thing moving forward. But we also are a very together neighborhood, and we want to make sure we're safe and that things are being done properly."
Berens took this photo Sunday. [Provided/Maurine Berens]
Workers from Laborers' Local 225 protest the use of a nonunion asbestos-removal company. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
One of the first buildings slated to come down [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]