WIN: City of Chicago Files Lawsuit to Block Illegal Construction in Humboldt Park

“The city is suing the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture and the Chicago Park District, accusing museum leaders of trying to illegally expand the facility in Humboldt Park’s namesake park.

“Last year, museum leaders began building an 1,500-square-foot archives and storage facility next to the museum, housed inside the landmarked receptory and stables building at 3015 W. Division St. Designated a Chicago landmark in 2008, the building also housed the office of renowned landscape architect and then-Park Superintendent Jens Jensen.

“City officials ordered the museum to stop construction in September after they discovered the project got underway without proper city permits and approvals.

“The museum is run by Billy Ocasio, who served as Humboldt Park’s alderman from 1993 to 2009. The lawsuit, filed last month in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges Ocasio and other museum leaders violated city code in building the storage and archives facility without necessary permits. The half-built cinder block structure doesn’t meet the city’s building standards and should be torn down, the lawsuit states.

“The city is also calling for the museum to be fined $1,000 each day the project was in violation and a receiver to be appointed to oversee the property if the museum and the Park District don’t rectify the situation, according to the complaint.

“Neighbors and preservationists raised the alarm about the facility nearly a year ago, questioning how it was allowed to go up with no public review and little regard for the museum’s architectural history. They’ve since pushed the city to tear down the structure and move it away from the receptory and stables.

“Mary Lu Seidel, director of community engagement with Preservation Chicago, issued a damning 16-page report earlier this year detailing how Ocasio repeatedly misrepresented the scope of the project to local officials.

“Seidel reviewed hundreds of documents and records tied to the construction and found that museum leaders hid key details, changed plans ‘with little or no input’ from officials and neighbors, and even lied on a city permit application.

“Documents show Ocasio didn’t file for a city building permit until after construction had already started and provided conflicting information to city and state agencies involved in that approvals process, the report said.

“For example, the former alderman checked ‘no’ on a box that asked if the project was being built on public land and funded with public dollars.

“That is false. The project is on public parkland and was being funded with a $750,000 state grant. (Bloom, Block Club Chicago, 8/16/23)

Read the full story at Block Club Chicago


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