“Humboldt Park neighbors have launched a petition in hopes of demolishing an unauthorized construction project next to a landmarked museum in the neighborhood’s namesake park, saying ‘parkland is under siege.’
“Husband-and-wife neighbors Kurt Gippert and Paula Cabrera are behind the petition, which had nearly 300 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
“Neighbors and preservationists were shocked earlier this year when construction on a cinder-block building next to the National Puerto Rican Museum of Arts & Culture, 3015 W. Division St., started without any notice. The project was an unsanctioned effort to establish an archives and storage building for the museum, run by former Humboldt Park Ald. Billy Ocasio.
“The ancillary building was going up mere feet from the museum’s home inside the historical Humboldt Park receptory and stables, one of the oldest-surviving structures in the neighborhood.
“City officials stopped work on the project. But Gippert and Cabrera, who live a couple blocks from the park, said they want the partially constructed building torn down and moved away from the landmarked stables.
“‘If the public intervenes now, we may be able to get this project moved to a more suitable location,’ they wrote in the petition.
“The city’s Department of Buildings put the kibosh on the cinder-block project in September, ordering Ocasio and his team to stop work on the building because museum leaders didn’t obtain proper permits.
“Ocasio, who served as 26th Ward alderman 1993-2009, acknowledged the museum missed some steps of approval in an interview with Block Club. Ocasio is now the museum’s executive director.
“Gippert and Cabrera wrote in the petition neighbors need to demand a public review process before anything else happens with the project.
“‘We cannot trust this to work itself out and this is the time to let our voices be heard,’ they said.
“Gippert, an antiquarian book seller, said he supports a museum expansion that will bring more archival and preservation work to the institution and the neighborhood — but not at the expense of the landmarked building and the park, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“The partially-built structure blocks views of the Queen Anne-style receptory and stables building and detracts from the innate beauty of Humboldt Park, Gippert said.
“‘Corruption is pretty standard in Chicago. Most people accept it,’ he said. ‘This exceeds the corruption I can tolerate. It’s a failed relationship with all departments — local, state and federal.’ (Bloom, Block Club Chicago, 11/11/22)