Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Lawrence House Scaffolding Back Up, By Housing Court Order
The judge ordered that the scaffolding be put back up to protect the building (which has already started), and we hope that there are strict measures being taken, such as better security, to keep away the drug dealing that accompanied the dark sidewalks under the scaffolding last time it was in place. EZRA Multi-Cultural Center and O.N.E. are taking the lead on guiding this through the court system and tenants and former tenants were also in attendance.
One account from a person who was there (edited at the writer's request):
"The tenants association has dwindled since it first started; the building is so bad that people are just bailing out. The water pouring from the light socket on the first floor has spread, and now the library is usually unusable and sometimes the room in front of the library.
It was a lot of legalese, but basically the judge took note that the owners [restaurant and club owners Sam and Don Menetti] are doing the bare minimum to comply with the ever-increasing violations. Alderman Cappleman showed up and the Menettis' lawyer objected to his presence and tried to keep him from standing in front of the judge with the inspector, etc.
The fire alarms on several floors are so old that there are no longer parts being made for them, so they can't be repaired. The residents keep destroying the garbage chute springs and creating a fire hazard (if there were a fire, it could spread through the garbage chute system instead of being contained; those chutes would be open and flames could jump out).
The judge more or less lambasted them, it seemed to be because they keep stalling for time and making excuses. They were held in contempt on one charge (I didn't hear which) but the motion was stayed until the end of June, if I heard correctly. $100 a day fine. We were told the scaffolding was going back up. The next court appearance is June 30th."
You can see the history of UU stories on Lawrence House here. But the reality of Lawrence House's decline seems clearest in this article from the Tribune more than a year ago:
Both pastors have seen the building deteriorate since the Menettis bought it 10 years ago. They hear that apartments have become infested with roaches and rodents and bedbugs. The library where residents should be able to congregate smells like sewage and mildew, they say, with books warped by water that has seeped through the ceiling.
The makeup of residents has changed considerably in recent years. Those who have died or moved have been replaced with mentally ill clients placed by social service agencies that have contracts with the Menettis. The agencies include Heartland Alliance, Catholic Charities, Thresholds, and Community Counseling Centers of Chicago.
Building administrator David Quinn said many of the residents need more assistance than Lawrence House is capable of providing. As a result, neighbors suffer.