“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)
- City Sues Puerto Rican Museum, Park District Over Unsanctioned Expansion In Humboldt Park; The city stopped construction on the unauthorized cinder block building in September. Now, officials want it torn down and the museum fined $1,000 for each day the project violated city law, Mina Bloom, Block Club Chicago, 8/16/23
- Illegal Building Still Standing in Humboldt Park. Community Meeting Scheduled To Discuss Its Future; Patty Wetli, WTTW Chicago, 9/26/23
- Humboldt Park Stables Statement of Facts and FOIA Documents published on Preservation Chicago website
- Puerto Rican Museum Project Led By Former Alderman Blasted In New Report: ‘Every Process Was Ignored, Violated Or Skirted’; The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture, led by former Humboldt Park Ald. Billy Ocasio, misrepresented the scope of its work and lied on a permit application, the report found. Mina Bloom, Block Club Chicago, 2/23/23
- Paper Trail Shows Illegal Museum Construction in Humboldt Park Violated Rules at Every Turn, Patty Wetli, WTTW Chicago, 2/17/23
- Go back to square one on Humboldt Park building that was under construction without approval, No work should resume on the structure until all stakeholders have had a chance to examine construction plans, Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 2/14/23
- No walk in the park; What to do about a half-built intrusion on a landmark? Deanna Isaacs, Chicago Reader, 1/11/23
- Humboldt Parkers Want City To Tear Down Unauthorized Building Next To Landmarked Museum; Neighbors say the partially built National Puerto Rican Museum of Arts & Culture project blocks views of one of the area’s oldest-surviving buildings, Mina Bloom, Block Club Chicago, 11/11/22
- Petition to Stop Unpermitted Construction in Humboldt Park
- City Halts Work On Puerto Rican Museum Project Next To Humboldt Park Landmark; Neighbors and preservationists questioned how the museum was allowed to build a rectangular, cinder-block structure next to the historical receptory and stables, Mina Bloom, Block Club Chicago, 10/12/22
- Humboldt Park Receptory Building and Stable Chicago Landmark Designation Report, 6/7/07