Rainey, Chicago alderman lead residents to hearing on vacant property


(Daily file photo by Katie Pach)

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) speaks at a city meeting. On Monday, Rainey and Chicago Ald. Joe Moore (49th) led 20 residents from both cities to a vacant property court hearing.

Rishika Dugyala, City Editor

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) and Chicago Ald. Joe Moore (49th) led residents from both of their cities to a vacant property court hearing Monday morning, where they argued the building has led to significant community concerns.

The Cook County hearing was held in light of Chicago’s building department inspectors uncovering several violations at the property — located at 2317 W. Howard St. — this summer. Twenty residents joined the aldermen in demanding to see more regular maintenance and cleanup, Rainey said.

Because Rainey’s ward is directly across the street from the building in question, her constituents are invested in what happens to it, she said.

“We’re the ones who look at the property,” Rainey said. “The 49th Ward doesn’t look at it. We’re the ones who face it.”

In a Friday news release, Moore said the current property owner, Vincent Rizzo, won community support in 2011 for his proposal to open a Penske Truck Rental franchise on the site, which formerly hosted a Burger King until 2007. After securing a required zoning change, Rizzo purchased the property.

However, Moore said, Rizzo never opened the franchise and neglected the property, rarely cutting the grass or picking up trash accumulating nearby. Moore also said Rizzo rejected numerous offers to purchase the parcel, backing out “at the last minute” from a recent deal with a fast food franchise. Eventually, in 2012, the Chicago alderman changed the zoning back to its original designation.

“My ward superintendent, Dan Murphy, cleans the property on a regular basis and has issued Mr. Rizzo thousands of dollars in tickets,” Moore said. “Apparently Mr. Rizzo would rather pay the tickets than live up to his responsibilities as a good neighbor.”

Rizzo, who opened a bar and restaurant on Clark Street in Wrigleyville this month, could not be reached for comment.

At Rainey’s request, Evanston staff provided free bus transportation — a city-owned vehicle and a city staff member as a driver — for Chicago and Evanston residents to the Cook County court, city manager Wally Bobkiewicz said.

“Ann Rainey has been very vigilant in these issues before and she keeps residents apprised of these issues,” Bobkiewicz said. “There has been detrimental impact on both sides of the street.”

Rainey has requested transportation help from the city before, Bobkiewicz said. Evanston staff has worked with the City of Chicago to bus residents from both cities to hearings when violent crime was a more regular concern in the 8th Ward, Bobkiewicz said.

Rainey told The Daily in a May 2015 interview that in the late 90s, she gathered residents to go to court hearings in Skokie, and “had landlords thrown out of town” and “buildings vacated.”

On Monday, after the hearing, Rainey said the group they led on Monday made a “huge impression” on the court. The next step is to have a hearing where Rizzo attends and is represented by a lawyer, she said.

“We were singled out, and we were really quite impressive with our crowd,” Rainey said. “So things are going to really move along.”

Kristina Karisch contributed reporting.

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