Residents of a leafy block in Lincoln Park are complaining that a dilapidated-appearing garage poses a danger to their community, and asking why it is taking so long for the City of Chicago to correct the issue.
"There have been notices regarding the garage for I would say the last two or three years," says Anjana Dalal, whose home is directly behind the property in question, in the 1900 block of North Dayton. "Every day I come out of my garage and I open my door and wonder, has the garage come down yet or not!"
The neighbors complained that the homeowner was rarely seen at the property, that they believed she spends most of her time out of state, and that their calls to City Hall were taking too long for action.
"It's scary, at any point I wouldn't be surprised if the garage collapses," says neighbor John Maki. "It could collapse on our house---you know, there are children that play in that alley!"
When NBC5 visited the address last week, a cedar deck covering the garage hung perilously toward the adjoining property, pushing against utility lines. Overgrown plants sprouted from a planter above, and a notice posted March 18 by the Department of Buildings declared the garage "a public safety threat, presenting an actual and imminent danger to the public."
The notice declared that the Commissioner of the Department of Buildings was prepared to take action to eliminate the hazard, noting "this action includes demolition of this garage."
A check of city records shows that the entire property had been the subject of inspection complaints by the city dating back to 2019. At one point, it had even been destined for demolition court, although a spokesman for the Department of Buildings said that had been rectified through discussions with the homeowner last summer, where she agreed to certain remedial actions.
"They had said 'this is awful, it's a danger,'" said Maki. "And then nothing's happened. And how long ago was that?"
43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith agreed that the residents had been facing a drawn-out process, but she suggested such matters are often delayed by the very procedures designed to rectify them.
"A demolition like this has to be ordered by the courts, and once you're in court, you're generally there one month at a time unless it's a demonstrated emergency," Smith said. "And even though this garage is in terrible shape, an inspector hasn't said this is an emergency."
Quite the contrary, in fact. On Monday, a city inspector took another look, and the Department of Buildings removed the sticker, suggesting progress was being made in correcting the problems. The Department emphasized they make every effort to work with owners to rectify issues.
"The inspector determined the garage has a failed roof deck which is affecting the overall stability of the structure," the department said in a statement. "DOB is currently working with the building owner to determine the next steps for the garage, keeping in mind the safety of surrounding properties and neighbors."
The homeowner, who asked not to be identified, insisted she does still occupy the property, and said she considers it a positive development that the City of Chicago works with a senior citizen to correct any issues.
"The story you wish to tell is not fair to the City or the homeowner," she said. "The story you wish to tell is not factually accurate."
The woman said the story about her property was being based upon "conclusions, made by neighbors, reached without any knowledge of the facts or actions that have transpired between the interested parties--the homeowner and the City."
"Any issue regarding the property is between the homeowner and the appropriate City department," she said in an email. "I have worked with the City. I will continue to work with the City. The City has worked with me, I have nothing but respect for how the City has interacted with me."