By Chinta Strausberg
In keeping his word to hundreds of mothers living in the infested Ninth Ward Concordia Place Apartments managed by the New York-based Capital Realty Group, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and his national field staff will join HUD inspection teams today, Monday, March 22nd, which is the first step before a major rehab project begins.
Harry Steif, a representative from the Capital Realty Group who a week ago ducked a meeting with Rev. Jackson after spotting a media crew in front of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, will accompany Rev. Jackson during a Monday morning inspection tour of the units.
Ever since Rev. Jackson was discharged from rehab after a successful surgery, he has been focused on conditions at the Concordia Place Apartments located at 130thand Daniel Drive in the Ninth Ward.
After his first public hearing held last week, Rev. Jackson and his national field team negotiated several concessions from the Capital Realty Group, which had been denied by the Concordia Place property manager, Yolanda Green, according to scores of residents.
Bishop Grant ticked off several victories PUSH has made including the Laundromat will now be open on the weekends, which had been banned by Green. “There is no longer one way in and one way out. Both the front and back entrances will be open,” Grant told the mothers who applauded.
Also, during the snowstorm those residents who had their cars towed will each be reimbursed $220. The playground will now be opened. It was kept closed by Green, according to residents.
“Because of your list of demands, there is a 100 percent mandatory inspection conducted by Capital Realty Group that is managed by HUD. “You will be entitled to a 48-hour notice of these inspections,” Grant explained.
“If you choose not to let them in your apartment, you have that right, but you also suffer the consequences of not having your apartment inspected. That is your decision. You want the rats gone, the roaches, and bedbugs gone. We want the appliances inspected, toilets, tubs inspected,” Bishop Grant said. The tenants were asked to fill out a list of demands provided by HUD.
Rev. Jackson promised scores of mothers last Saturday during a follow-up hearing with the residents that, “We’re going to fix this.” The residents want the complex gutted or torn down due to mice, roach, and bedbug’s infestation in their apartments and in the walls.
They also complained about rotten wooden stairs, cars towed by management and their families forbidden to visit them because they can’t get visitor passes which they say Green has banned. However, Green denied their allegations telling the Rainbow PUSH Coalition officials, “They have to learn the rules.”
Attending Saturday’s, March 21st hearing, were Deborah Lewis, president of the Concordia Place Tenant Association, and her secretary, Leoda Brown who thanked Rev. Jackson for his help saying “because without you all, we wouldn’t be this far…. Now we do not have to be afraid….”
During Saturday’s hearing, Jackson, who was accompanied by National Field Director Bishop Tavis Grant, National Youth Director, Rev. Cameron Barnes, and Omar Shareef, founder and president of the African American Contractor’s Association, listened to a series of “painful” testimonies from the mothers including one who said complex maintenance use their keys to enter their apartments when they are naked and allegedly offer to buy sex and how the mice are literally driving some tenants to sleep in their cars at night to avoid the rodents.
It was Tamara Jackson, a mother of five, who lives in Apartment 2506, who said a maintenance man recently came into her apartment while she was naked and her daughter, who has a brain tumor, was in her nightgown. “They came with a paint brush and a towel to cover up my G…. mold…” To efforts being made to rehab the apartments, Jackson said, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Bishop Grant said Jackson’s apartment will be the first unit to be inspected on Monday, March 22nd and that what happened to her “is unacceptable. It should not happen to anybody, and it won’t happen again.”
Grant said Shareef is “the best in Black construction in Chicago. “We raised the issue on the quality of work and what is the HUD led and standards so you won’t be getting a rag and a paintbrush and bleach.
“Nothing is going to be repaired until the inspections are made.” When Jackson said inspections are no longer being made, Grant said, “This time around something will be done about your apartments.”
Grant said the Concordia Place “is the first place” Rev. Jackson has visited since he was discharged from rehab after a successful surgery. Grant said a lot is on the line, which is why Rev. Jackson reached out to Rep. Robin Kelly and Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth who fired off a letter to Capital Realty Group demanding that all repairs be made. Rev. Jackson is threatening to bring in Mayor Lightfoot as well and the health department
Joining Rev. Jackson Saturday, March 21st, were HUD officials Dan Burke, director, Multifamily Midwest Region, and James (Jim) A. Cunningham, deputy regional administrator.
Also invited by PUSH was Malinda K. Matlock, a property manager for Capital Realty Group from Ohio, who listened to dozens of mothers who told about maintenance men coming into their apartments without permission sometimes when they are naked.
Rev. Jackson, who has threatened to sue Capital Realty Group, is furious over the complaints and has already gotten some victories for the mothers, but he said he wouldn’t stop until all of their demands are met.
“Trust me,” Rev. Jackson said putting his hand over his heart as he stood looking at the mothers some of them in near tears. “We’re going to fix this. We’ll have the mayor come out here, the health department….”
HUD representative Cunningham told the mothers his office is tracking the complaints they made last week so that they “could live with dignity and respect…. We’re going to work with Reverend (Jackson), the Bishop (Grant), Lewis, Capital (Realty Group), the mothers and ‘will stand with you.”
Bishop said after talking to the National Housing and Compliance, which processes their grievances. “They made an agreement to meet with us this week to look at how they can better serve me” in resolving these issues. They will be meeting with Grant this Tuesday. “We want to do what we can to fix the system that it works for you and not against you,” Grant said.
Because of the many complaints of alleged retaliation by the Capital Realty Group property manager, Burke made it clear, “If anybody is or fears retaliation in any manner, which I don’t expect based upon the dramatic change in relationship with Rev. Jackson and Bishop Grant have created in a very short time, I think it will be a positive relationship.” However, Burke said if the residents fear retaliation from management, “We will be there for you.”
Referring to the inspections, which begin Monday, March 22nd, Burke held up a form saying the inspectors have to follow the HUD standards. “These inspections are designed to get this property where it needs to be.”
“If the work is so intense that might cause the unit to be unsafe…,” Burke said, “We are required to make an offer of a voucher to stay at a nearby extended stay at a hotel if you wish that,” he told the cheering audience.
Burke also announced if during work on their apartments and their kitchens are not available, HUD has asked Capital Realty to offer meals for that day. “Our goal as far as working with Rev. Jackson, Bishop Grant and residents is for you to have a safe and healthy place to live. That is our goal….”
Burke also announced HUD is going to conduct a Zoom workshop on the rules tenants should pay which will include what can and what can’t be asked during the certifying process.
“If you experience a reduction of income, you have an immediate right to recertify. If you have an income increase, you do not have to report that if it’s not more than $200 a month. You need to know the exact rules” so they can be in compliance.
Burke said those affected by a medical emergency can apply for hardship and have their rents reduced, and he made it clear that any stimulus funds cannot be taken into account in determining their rent. He made these comments after learning from some residents that Green inquired about their stimulus checks.
Burke’s and Cunningham’s remarks come on the heels of a letter signed by Rep. Robin Kelly and Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth telling the Capital Realty Group to make all repairs. They had seen Rev. Jackson’s press conference about the deplorable conditions at the Concordia Place Apartments as told by the residents.
Precious Christensen has lived in Apartment 1905 for more than four years. “I have so many problems. My sink is stopped up. Black stuff is coming up. I have no heat in my apartment. I have a four-year-old child and the paint is chipping. That’s lead poisoning.
“I have mold around my tub. They came in and tried to caulk it back up, but they did not clean the mold up and now the caulk is peeling and the mold is back,” Christensen said.
“There are mice behind my toilet,” said Sarena Jones, who lives in Apartment 2413. “I came to the office and told them about it, but they told me that it wasn’t an emergency. I had to get my father to come out and patch it up. Since then I haven’t had any mice in my apartment, but if he had not come, they would still be running around.
“But the management keeps contacting my job collecting all my information about my pay stubs,” Jones said. “They won’t paint or take the carpet up,” said Jones.
Bishop Grant announced that the Capital Realty Group has brought on to exterminate the housing development.
Having just started working on a new job, Gloria Walker, who lives in the Concordia Place Apartments at 130th and Daniels Streets where residents live with mice, termites, roaches, mold, water that smells like feces, Saturday testified at a hearing that two people had been apprehended one day. One of them ran in an apartment near her unit, the other ran away.
Walker said the property manager, Yolanda Green, “ordered my door to be kicked in. I asked them why did they have to kick my door in when they have keys to my unit.” She fired off emails to Green to no avail.
“I have a whole heater that has to supply this whole unit and they said don’t turn your heater on. I’m anemic. I don’t have time to get cold,” she told Rev. Jackson, Sr. and his national staff.
“I only had cold water coming into my apartment. They told me my thermostat controlled the heat in all of the units. How is that possible?” asked Walker.
Bishop Grant said the owner of Concordia Place Apartments, Sam Horowitz, who last week apologized for the living conditions at the complex saying he was “embarrassed,” would soon visit the site.
Rev. Jackson and his staff also passed out 2500 diapers and 2100 wipes to the mothers. Clutching an armful of diapers, Rhonda Round, said, “This is tremendous. This is a blessing to this community. We never had anything like this before, and we thank you.”