Rev. Jackson seeks truce, endorses rent strike
By Chinta Strausberg
It was an emotional and teary-eyed day for several mothers, some pregnant including one who left a dead rat for two New York men representing the owner of the mice, termites, mold, roach-infested far South Side Concordia Place complex, and where Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. endorsed their call for a rent strike.
The women, like Tamara Jackson, a mother of five, said they had enough of the promises of the Capital Realty Group that manages the sprawling 297-unit complex that is in the Ninth Ward headed by Alderman Anthony Beale.
Rev. Jackson said the city’s Health Department should inspect the complex. “We’re in touch with the mayor’s office. All agencies have a role to play in this.”
Rev. Jackson wants to make Concordia Place a national model. He endorsed a rent strike called by the tenants and said the money can be placed in an escrow account.
Rev. Jackson, Bishop Tavis Grant, national field director for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and Rev. Cameron Barnes, national youth director, met with the owner’s representatives, Harry Steif and Sampson Roser. Sam Horowitz, the owner of the complex, last week told Rev. Jackson he was “embarrassed” at the tenant complaints and living conditions and vowed to right the wrongs.
That did not happen on Tuesday, March 23, in what was supposed to be the first day of inspections by the Capital Realty Group, HUD officials and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. The repairs were to follow the inspections.
Bishop Grant and Jackson were scheduled to have a 1 p.m. Zoom meeting on Thursday, March 25, with the Capital Realty Group. Explaining why Dan Burke, director of HUD’s Multifamily Midwest Region, shut the inspection project down, Grant said he met with the ownership and the tenant’s association for more than three hours.
“We had a number of agreements centered around inspection and extermination. They violated all of that overnight,” Grant said. “The ownership chose to implement things we had asked them not to do.” Given COVID-19, the agreement was to first lay out what should tenants do who may have underlying conditions and would react to the use of chemicals.
The agreement was for ownership to give directions to the tenants on what they should do during this deep cleaning. “They did none of that,” Grant said. “They said the rats should be dead in the traps for 72 hours, but they said nothing about removing the dead mice.
“What are the people supposed to do? As the temperatures go up, the smell becomes overbearing. The question is who removes the dead mice?” asked Grant.
A mother of two, Danarre Miggins, 25, who has lived there for three years, said she keeps getting 10-day eviction notices and that the property manager, Yolanda Green, told her she owed $770.00
“When I showed her my proof that I only owed $142.00 she finally agreed and gave me a $200 utility check which was a surprise. What if I had given her the $770? What would she have done with that money,” she asked.
But, it was Shaniqua Kinnard, 26, who was born in the same apartment she lives in today who said her son told her, “Ma, a rat just went in our refrigerator.” With tears streaming down her face, Kinnard asked Steif, the regional manager of Capital Realty Group, and Roser what should we do?” She placed a grey plastic bag containing a dead rat at their feet.
Miggins later told this reporter, “I don’t feel like there will be a change. I have to speak up for my children. I am thankful for a roof over me and my children’s heads. I keep my apartment clean, but the mice are out of control. She said her sons, 4 and 6 years old think the mice are “baby bunnies.”
“I was laying in my bed and I looked up and there was a mouse in my bed. I couldn’t believe it. It’s stressful. It’s terrifying. I have a full-size bunk bed. Both of my boys sleep together at the top. Sometimes I get up there because I can’t sleep well because of the mice,” she said.
“They have these workers out here, and they are getting rent from us, but we’re paying for rats. They took our dumpsters from us forcing us to put our trash in the middle of the complex. I’m on the first floor. I had so many mice in the rat traps, but all this mold, roaches, and mice are unacceptable,” Miggins said.
She wants the owner to tear down the complex because both the mold and the mice are in the walls. “They gave me a bottle of Fabuloso to clean the mold with and then came in and painted over the mold,” Miggins said. When her upstairs neighbor showers, she said the water comes down in her bathroom.
Both Steif and Roser apologized to the women for their plight, but Leoda Brown, secretary to Deborah Lewis, president of the Concordia Place Tenants Association, said, “They are going to keep doing things in a demoralizing way, and we’re not going for that.”
The mothers complained about rat feces in their dish racks and some said mice are in their beds.
Tamara Jackson, a mother of five, who lives in Apartment 2506, told Steif and Roser about the mold in her apartment, says the maintenance men paint over it, and because they have keys to the tenants’ units they also allegedly steal food.
“I have an 18-year-old son who tried to commit suicide,” Jackson said. “He doesn’t want to bring his friends to the apartment because of the mice and roach infestation. Ya’ll are going to be held accountable for the way ya’ll make us live like dogs while your kids are privileged.”
Jackson said she has a teenage daughter and one day a maintenance man walked in on her. “They have keys,” Jackson said her daughter was in her nightgown with panties on. Jackson said several times the maintenance men came in her unit when she was naked. Other women accused some of the workers of asking how much do they want for sex.
Outraged after hearing this, Grant told the Capital Realty Group representatives, “You are from New York, and there are people there saying the governor should resign for kissing a woman’s hand, looking down their blouses, and these Black women who live in a housing development are less believable?” asked Grant.
“This is unacceptable. I am very angry about this. I am beyond offended,” Grant said of the alleged sexual overtures made by Concordia workers. “They have access to their units and that is unacceptable.” He is equally offended that Capital Realty Group representatives have yet to respond to this issue.