Menu

Apartment house fire debacle

Opinion: Editorials

November 12th, 2019 2:28 PM

By Editorial

The good news? The derelict owners of The Linden House, a 60-unit, mostly low-income senior apartment building on Desplaines Avenue, are planning to sell the building and have a potential buyer. 

And that is the end of the good news on what is really a miserable story of neglect of elders in the one year since a fire in the building displaced residents of 18 units.

Under pressure from the potential buyer to complete repairs and relocate residents back into their apartments from owner-paid lodging in an Oak Brook hotel, the Sellas family ownership did less fixing up than they did attempting to force their tenants back into these seriously uninhabitable units. This charade went so far as having movers arrive in Oak Brook a week ago to pack up tenants' belongings and haul them back to Forest Park. That chapter ended, according to tenants, when a phone call put a stop to it.

Perhaps that call came from Steve Glinke, Forest Park's director of public health and safety. A day earlier, Lawrence Gamble, a Linden House tenant, called Mayor Rory Hoskins and described the situation. Hoskins contacted Village Administrator Tim Gillian and Glinke. Glinke arrived on the site and confirmed that Gamble's assessment was accurate.

Give Glinke points for candor. He told the Review, "Gamble's complaints are completely accurate. The units cannot be reoccupied in this condition. It's disgusting." Glinke provided the Review with pictures showing food rotting in long-unplugged refrigerators and water-damaged drywall that has never been fixed.

To his credit Glinke also accepted a share of responsibility for this dire circumstance. He expressed regret that he hadn't been tougher on the owners, more hands-on in following up.

That is well and good. But not enough. It is not often that a major apartment house has a fire that displaces residents from 18 units. (Although, reinforcing suspicions, the same building had a fire in 2014 in which 60 residents were temporarily left without homes.) Village government should have been much more responsive over 12 months. Why it wasn't needs to be documented and discussed. 

Now we wait. The federal department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides most of the housing subsidies in the building, will be at Linden House on Nov. 13 to reinspect the building with the current owners. In January of this year, a HUD inspection gave this building 24 points out of a possible 100.

Glinke says the owners have 30 days to get this right or he will impose daily fines. Clearly that vigilance was needed six months back but will be welcomed now.  

The ultimate good news will be when new owners complete their purchase, make new investments in the building and the Linden House community is back under one roof.

  • Love the Review?

    Become our partner in independent community journalism

    Thanks for turning to Forest Park Review and ForestParkReview.com. We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

    On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

    No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

    Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

    Donate Now