WBEZ | Altgeld Gardens http://www.wbez.org/tags/altgeld-gardens Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Housing group wants CHA to slow down Altgeld redevelopment http://www.wbez.org/news/housing-group-wants-cha-slow-down-altgeld-redevelopment-110503 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Altgeld_Gardens.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A social justice nonprofit long involved in desegregating Chicago public housing wants redevelopment on the far South Side to slow down.</p><p>Five hundred units are slated for rehab at Altgeld Gardens, a de-industrialized area with a population that&rsquo;s black and low income. Business and Professional People for Public Interest wants the Chicago Housing Authority to first put in more amenities, such as a community center and an upgraded library.</p><p>&ldquo;Improve the quality of life for the community, for the families that live there now. When you&rsquo;ve done that, make a determination whether it&rsquo;s the right thing or not to bring back 500 units. But CHA&rsquo;s doing it in the reverse order,&rdquo; said Julie Brown, a lawyer with BPI. Motions have been filed in federal court.</p><p>Brown said BPI hasn&rsquo;t asked Judge Marvin Aspen to rule on anything except for the parties to mediate. Aspen is the same judge from the Gautreaux case, a class-action lawsuit BPI filed against CHA to end the segregation of black families in public housing.</p><p>But CHA officials and current Altgeld residents are actually on the same page. Both parties say upgrades to facilities are in the works, and they want more families to move back to a rehabbed Altgeld.</p><p>Resident Cheryl Johnson said BPI is out of touch, and fixing up facilities shouldn&rsquo;t stop CHA from also fixing up apartments.</p><p>&ldquo;As a legal tenant holder I have the right to consultation of what&rsquo;s going to have an impact on my quality of my life. These folks have never lived in public housing,&rdquo; Johnson said.</p><p>CHA officials said work is being done to improve school, transportation and recreational facilities at Altgeld. The housing complex was originally built in 1945. Currently, more than 1,200 units are occupied and CHA is expected to present an implementation strategy to residents in the coming months.</p><p>&ldquo;While CHA cannot speak specifically about the motion, it has worked closely with residents and the larger Altgeld community with respect to the revitalization plan. The preferred design concept was the culmination of more than 25 meetings with residents, community members, sister agencies and organizations, including BPI,&rdquo; a statement read.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a>&nbsp;is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter.&nbsp;<a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a>&nbsp;Follow Natalie on<a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p></p> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 09:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/housing-group-wants-cha-slow-down-altgeld-redevelopment-110503 Restoring prairieland in Calumet's industrial corridor http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/restoring-prairieland-calumets-industrial-corridor-104751 <p><p><object height="465" width="620"><param name="flashvars" value="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632463820710%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632463820710%2F&amp;set_id=72157632463820710&amp;jump_to=" /><param name="movie" value="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=122138" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><embed allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632463820710%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2F34610267%40N05%2Fsets%2F72157632463820710%2F&amp;set_id=72157632463820710&amp;jump_to=" height="465" src="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=122138" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="620"></embed></object></p><p>Sandwiched between the Bishop Ford Expressway and the Little Calumet River and within sight (and occasionally smell) of two landfills, Beaubien Forest Preserve is an unlikely swath of wet prairies and old-growth oak trees amid the industrial patchwork of Chicago&rsquo;s far Southeast Side.</p><p>Each month Laura Milkert, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County Site Steward for Beaubien, leads volunteers on workdays to help maintain the Preserve&rsquo;s 135 acres. On Saturday they practiced a kind of eco-time travel, removing invasive species that have crowded out native species like white and burr oaks, redtop grass and rough blazing star. The goal is to restore a habitat that more closely resembles the area&rsquo;s original prairies and wetlands.</p><p>Though 209 native plant species have been identified at Beaubien, biodiversity has plummeted since invasives took root. Native species like big bluestem grass and buttonbush are not just visually appealing &mdash; they hold the soil against erosion and harbor wildlife. Biodiversity in prairie systems <a href="http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/03-5273?journalCode=ecap">can have a dramatic impact on an ecosystem&#39;s properties</a>.</p><p>In January, of course, those iconic (and exquisitely named) wildflower species would not be visible anyway, but the frozen ground afforded the volunteers a chance to clear away the invasive species that have colonized Beaubien without trampling the rest of the forest floor.</p><p>The invasives are the usual suspects for Northeast Illinois: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/news/botanic-garden-combats-buckthorn">buckthorn</a> and honeysuckle, mostly. The shrubs grow voraciously, crowding out sunlight otherwise destined for young oaks and other native plants. Volunteers sawed and hacked through the plants&rsquo; spindly branches, leaving oaks and other native species intact. They piled the brush onto a bonfire and applied herbicide selectively to the stumps of cleared invasives.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Beaubien_1938_0.jpg" title="The site of Beaubien Forest Preserve in 1938. (Raw Imagery: Illinois Natural Resources Geospatial Data Clearinghouse, Illinois State Geological Survey / Illinois Historical Aerial Photography 1937-1947. Georeferencing and image processing by Field Museum Staff.)" /></div><p><a href="http://calumetstewardship.org/news/featured-place-beaubien-woods-forest-preserve#.UOslEYnjli1">Once an important stop on the underground railroad</a>, Beaubien is situated directly east of Altgeld Gardens, the neighborhood where <a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2012-11-05/altgeld-gardens-four-years-later-103659">Barack Obama got his start as a community organizer</a>. Maintaining the forest preserve is community work, too, according to Milkert.</p><p>&ldquo;The story of Beaubien is it&rsquo;s a real collective effort,&rdquo; she said. Other volunteers with Friends of the Forest Preserves clear away cottonwoods with chainsaws, some 350 local students had hands-on ecology lessons onsite last fall through&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fieldmuseum.org/ceep">Calumet Environmental Education Programs</a>, and a group called <a href="http://www.fishin-buddies.net/">Fishin&rsquo; Buddies</a> connects local kids to nature through fishing trips to Beaubien&rsquo;s Flatfoot Lake. Students, interns and volunteers logged more than 1000 hours of work at the site in 2011, Milkert said.</p><p>Stephanie Ryan, a graduate student at Northeastern Illinois University, also named community among her reasons for spending Saturday morning in the woods. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s something we need more of these days,&rdquo; she said.</p><p><em>Follow Chris on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley">@cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 08 Jan 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/restoring-prairieland-calumets-industrial-corridor-104751 Altgeld Gardens: Four years later http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2012-11-05/altgeld-gardens-four-years-later-103659 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Joel Johnson.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="413" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/52865587?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;badge=0&amp;color=b30000" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Part II<br /><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="413" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/52865586?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;badge=0&amp;color=b30000" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Altgeld Gardens is a sprawling public housing development, as far south as you can go and still be in Chicago.&nbsp;It&rsquo;s surrounded by landfills, a sewage treatment plant and the polluted Little Calumet River.&nbsp;It&rsquo;s home to nearly 4,000 people, and the place where Barack Obama honed his chops as a community organizer.&nbsp;Four years ago today, we drove to Altgeld Gardens to talk with people at dawn--right after the election. &nbsp;Everyone wanted to talk; there was exuberance, and hope. &nbsp;We&#39;ve gone back each year since, and this year, we wanted to hear&nbsp;how people from Altgeld think the president has done, and how the country, and their community, have changed.&nbsp;</p><p>One of the first people we met back in 2008 was 29-year-old Artease Coley. He was in his car, cruising down 131st St, windows down, music blasting. &nbsp;It&#39;s the song &quot;My President&quot; by Lil&#39; Jeezy.&nbsp;</p><p>COLEY:&nbsp; Lemme play that again for you. This is my morning anthem. And it should be everybody&rsquo;s mornin&rsquo; anthem. Now listen!</p><p>Artease Coley was sipping coffee and short on sleep that morning.</p><p>Altgeld Gardens had been lit up with celebratory gun fire into the wee hours, he said. And before that, he was at&nbsp;Obama&rsquo;s victory rally in Grant Park. The crowd was so diverse, he said, it was, &ldquo;Almost like being in Martin Luther King days.&rdquo;</p><p>On that historic day, we asked Artease, how might the world change, how might this country change? His answer was matter of fact:</p><p>COLEY: &nbsp;And just because we have a black president, and a new president, doesn&rsquo;t mean anything&rsquo;s gonna change over night. I mean, not even in a few years. It&rsquo;s so much of a big mess, it&rsquo;s gonna take at least two terms for any president to fix this problem we&rsquo;re in now.</p><p>WOMAN&rsquo;S VOICE: &nbsp;Our president ! Barack Obama. He did it !!</p><p>Four years ago, Liquita Saulter was bursting with joy when we bumped into her on her way into work. She was then -- and still is today -- the laundry attendant at one of Altgeld&rsquo;s four laundromats. Residents aren&rsquo;t allowed to have washers &amp; dryers in their units, so these laundromats are well-used and double as kind of an informal neighborhood meeting spot. Liquita&rsquo;s place is brightly lit -- and sparkling clean.</p><p>SAULTER: &nbsp;Heyyy !</p><p>PAUL: &nbsp;Li-qu-ita.</p><p>SAULTER: Yeeessssss.</p><p>PAUL: Your hairstyle is different!</p><p>SAULTER: Yes, it&rsquo;s different. I changed it up a little bit. ( laughs )</p><p>Liquita tells us these days she&rsquo;s on &quot;Team Obama-Biden&quot; and has been registering her neighbors to vote. She makes regular trips downtown, carrying paperwork to the Board of Election Commissioners.</p><p>The White House will never be the same, she says, because now it&rsquo;s full of swag.</p><p>SAULTER: I see his swag as he is cool, down-to-earth, he eat collard greens. And he playin&rsquo; basketball. It&rsquo;s not just the golf course up in there, and soccer all and that. We doin&rsquo; it! (laughs )</p><p>So there&rsquo;s been change at the White House, but Saulter thinks there&rsquo;s been change at Altgeld too.</p><p>SAULTER: We got good schools out here, we got the clinic out here. We got a library out here now.&nbsp; You know what I&rsquo;m sayin&rsquo; ?&nbsp; It&rsquo;s love out here.&nbsp; It&rsquo;s nothing like, &lsquo;Oh the Gardens this, the Gardens bad.&rsquo;&nbsp; No, it&rsquo;s bad everywhere you go in America. But you don&rsquo;t see Altgeld Gardens on the news, do you?</p><p>A patron at the laundromat,&nbsp; Jerome Williams, has drifted over to join our conversation. I ask if he plans to vote?</p><p>WILLIAMS: I&rsquo;m gonna definitely vote.</p><p>PAUL: &nbsp;And who are you voting for?</p><p>WILLIAMS: &nbsp;Obama, no question.</p><p>PAUL: Was that a dumb question on my part ?</p><p>WILLIAMS: &nbsp;(laughs along with Saulter)</p><p>PAUL: I mean there might be some people here who aren&rsquo;t. Is that right?</p><p>WILLIAMS: Right. You right about that.</p><p>Actually? I wasn&rsquo;t too right about that. Later I checked the numbers. Turns out that in 2008, there were 5 precincts covering Altgeld Gardens and a little beyond. In those precincts about 19-hundred ballots were cast. And only twelve were for McCain.</p><p>JOHNSON: Good boy, good boy.</p><p>This is Obama country. Something that Cheryl Johnson knows for sure.</p><p>JOHNSON:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Come here! Come here, baby.</p><p>Johnson is head of PCR, People for Community Recovery. It&rsquo;s a 33-year old environmental justice organization that rallies residents around community issues. It could be anything from PCB&rsquo;S in the soil to the need for a new neighborhood school.</p><p>JOHNSON: He&rsquo;s sick. Look how big his stomach is.</p><p>PAUL: Really, what does that mean?</p><p>JOHNSON: Starvation.</p><p>A forlorn pit bull has been lingering outside Cheryl&rsquo;s office.&nbsp; We all start feeding him. Cheryl leans in and points out his bruises.</p><p>JOHNSON: That&rsquo;s probably fighting. He&rsquo;s scared. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Inside Cheryl&rsquo;s office we see pictures of her mother, Hazel, who&rsquo;s passed away since we visited the Gardens four years ago. In Hazel Johnson&rsquo;s day, she met with presidents &amp; governors and led politicians on &lsquo;toxic tours&rsquo; of her neighborhood.</p><p>When Rich and I talked with her in 2008, she told us about a guy who worked with her on a campaign to get rid of asbestos insulation in the attics at Altgeld. He was a young Barack Obama.</p><p>HAZEL JOHNSON:&nbsp;&nbsp; When I was working with him, I never had no idea. I knew he was an ambitious young man. He was nice, polite, very mannerable.,I know he wanted to go beyond what he was, already. But I had NO IDEA that he would go that far.</p><p>Today, Hazel&rsquo;s daughter Cheryl, has new problems to contend with. She walks us over to what&rsquo;s called &lsquo;Block 16&rsquo; -- 2 minutes from her office.</p><p>JOHNSON: You can&rsquo;t get in front of it, because it&rsquo;s all gated in. All the vacancies are gated in.</p><p>PAUL: I see. That&rsquo;s some of them right there.</p><p>JOHNSON: Right.</p><p>Cheryl is pointing to an eerie view of brick row-houses that are boarded up and abandoned. The scene is a little haunting. You can almost feel the presence of the people who used to live there. Altgeld, after all, was originally built to house African-American soldiers returning from World War II.</p><p>PAUL: And how many are we talking about?</p><p>JOHNSON: 648 units.</p><p>In 1999 when the Chicago Housing Authority launched it&rsquo;s Plan for Transformation &ndash; the goal was to rehab ALL 2000 units at Altgeld Gardens.</p><p>Eleven years later, by 2010, one thousand, three hundred and twenty three of the units had indeed been rehabbed. That&rsquo;s 66% of the original goal.</p><p>Today there about 3,700 people living in Altgeld,&nbsp;and that&#39;s where that number may stay.&nbsp;</p><p>Because in the last few years, all rehab has stopped.&nbsp;&nbsp;And now the CHA is considering demolition of all those units that are vacant and never got fixed.</p><p>I asked Cheryl Johnson what she thinks of that idea?</p><p>JOHNSON:&nbsp;&nbsp; It&rsquo;s sad because affordable houses for low income, working class, and the poor needs these units.&nbsp; They need to be back online.&nbsp;</p><p>PAUL: What is the thinking process?</p><p>JOHNSON: You know what?&nbsp; I would like to be that fly on the wall. The only rationale that I can really think of is that they really ran out of money to fix up these units.</p><p>In an email to WBEZ, CHA confirms that it&rsquo;s considering demolition of those 648 vacant units at Altgeld Gardens. In fact this proposal is mentioned as a possibility in CHA&rsquo;s annual plan that was just sent to the federal agency HUD, a few weeks ago.</p><p>CHA says it&rsquo;s considering this demolition because the agency believes the quality of life for residents can be enhanced through new kinds of development. CHA points out the need for both commercial and institutional services, which, in plain English, means additions like a grocery store and a day-care center.</p><p>In the next few weeks CHA will hold a meeting to engage residents in planning &nbsp;for&nbsp; their development. First order of business?&nbsp;To hire an urban planner to nudge the process along. One of the ideas being tossed around is to build a new town center, though it isn&rsquo;t clear what that will include.</p><p>I ask Cheryl what will happen if the CHA decides to build a new town center, build other new supports for the community, but also decides to tear down the 648 units.</p><p>JOHNSON: With the support of the community, and the external community that we have created, it&rsquo;s gonna be really hard for them to tear these units down, without a fight.</p><p>PAUL: So if it ever came to bulldozers coming out here?</p><p>JOHNSON: I&rsquo;ll be one of the first standing in front of the bulldozer. Because it&rsquo;s not gonna happen.</p><p>We stop by Cheryl Johnson&rsquo;s office to say goodbye to everyone and end up chatting with Georgia Curtis who does volunteer work at People for Community Recovery.</p><p>CURTIS : We have to hustle and get buses for our community to go here, to go there. You know, the whole 9 yards. And I have learnt so much by coming up here, you know.&nbsp; I&rsquo;ve learned so many things.&nbsp; I couldn&rsquo;t even get on the computer, on and off, couldn&rsquo;t type, any of that, answer phones --&nbsp; the whole business.</p><p>Much as Georgia embraces her volunteer job, it galls her that she can&rsquo;t find work that offers a weekly paycheck.</p><p>Outsiders don&rsquo;t much know this, but the CHA has a work requirement. Officials say the agency spends $25 million a year on social services to help adults between the ages of 18 and 54 make the transition to the working world. There are some exemptions, but residents must work or go to school or volunteer for 30 hours a week in order to remain in public housing.</p><p>Some residents tell us they&rsquo;ve seen the CHA&rsquo;s programs land people in real, paid jobs. Others, like Georgia, find it demeaning that she&rsquo;s required to work a job that doesn&rsquo;t pay.</p><p>CURTIS: You-all are paying them to ridicule me in a sense. And I end up with the short end of the stick because I don&rsquo;t have anything.&nbsp; But you go home and every Friday, or every other Friday, you draw a check down. So come on now. That&rsquo;s crazy.</p><p>The day is starting to get away from us. Rich and I say our goodbyes and start heading towards the center of Altgeld. If the CHA&rsquo;s&nbsp; gonna tear stuff down to build a new town center, we wanna see what&rsquo;s there now.</p><p>So we walk, and, of course, we get side-tracked. We talk to mothers, holding the hands of their young children, and shooing them along.</p><p>We talk to a high school girl who dreams of seeing the world.</p><p>GIRL: Ooohh, that&rsquo;s Paris!&nbsp; That&rsquo;s the best scenery ever, I guess. It&rsquo;s just, I would love to go there. That&rsquo;s my dream!</p><p>We pass middle school girls who tell us where they want to attend high school.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>MULTIPLE GIRLS:&nbsp; I&rsquo;m goin&rsquo; to Carver Military. I&rsquo;m goin&rsquo; to Julian or Carver Military. Gwendolyn Brooks. Minnesota. She ain&rsquo;t goin&rsquo;t to no Minnesota. She been sayin&rsquo; that since we was in kindergarden and she ain&rsquo;t never go . I AM goin&rsquo;.</p><p>On our walk we pass a new charter high school, a new charter elementary. And we visit the new public library.</p><p>LIBRARIAN: Though we&rsquo;re a small location, we&rsquo;re probably one of the few locations that have a plethora of computers..&nbsp;</p><p>The library, the charter schools --the community fought for those institutions. And won.</p><p>We can see the new building that has appeared since 2008.</p><p>Now we&rsquo;re approaching what&rsquo;s called Up Top, a seedier part of Altgeld. This part of the development looks the same as when we saw it in 2008. Or even worse. The long low buildings look decrepit. Many in the community consider this section of&nbsp; Altgeld an eyesore. Which could be why CHA is talking about building a new &ldquo;town center&rdquo; here.</p><p>We&rsquo;ve come to a long breezeway that adjoins a fast food joint-- and a tiny store that sells liquor, candy and chips.</p><p>But there&rsquo;s also something in this breezeway that has deep significance ..</p><p>MAN&rsquo;S VOICE: LOOK HERE. This is a wall right here that means a lot to us.</p><p>That&rsquo;s our introduction to Joel Johnson. Vietnam vet. 60 years old.</p><p>He&rsquo;s lived at the &lsquo;Gardens&rsquo; since 1958. He&rsquo;s showing Rich and me a brick wall painted yellow. Printed in bold black paint are the names are the names of many of Altgeld&rsquo;s dead.</p><p>JOHNSON: We really don&rsquo;t want this wall to be ever torn down or destroyed. Because hey! This wall means something to us. You know it&rsquo;s a lotta brothers, sistas, that died over here. My family!&nbsp; Lotta their names up here..</p><p>I ask how long the wall has been up..</p><p>JOHNSON: It&rsquo;s been up here..WOW! Since&nbsp; 1960&rsquo;s.. This right here&rsquo;s the original part, at the top..</p><p>Our conversation drifts to the election and I ask Joel Johnson- if Obama is re-elected, what advice would you give him?</p><p>JOHNSON:&nbsp; First thing, Mr. President of the United States should do, is this: You can always tell people, &lsquo;why don&rsquo;t you stop selling drugs and all that.&rsquo;&nbsp; If you don&rsquo;t have anything to do for these individuals, nothings&rsquo;s gonna come about it . You hafto have a structured situation wheres the community can have something for the young man, young ladies to do. If they don&rsquo;t have nothing to do, how can they structure themselves?</p><p>PAUL:&nbsp; Anybody wanna do an interview?</p><p>There&rsquo;s a craps game down at the other end of the breezeway. Edward Johnson, no relation to the Joel Johnson we just talked to, is watching the game but breaks away to talk with us. We&rsquo;re just getting started, when he interrupts me and calls out to the others:</p><p>PAUL: We&rsquo;ve been coming back one time every year.</p><p>JOHNSON: Mavericks, mavericks! That means the po-leece.</p><p>PAUL: I&rsquo;m sorry. What was that about the police?</p><p>JOHNSON: They comin!</p><p>PAUL: How do you know?</p><p>JOHNSON: We know the po-leece.</p><p>JOHNSON: He say &ldquo;break it up.&rdquo; Okay. Break it up then.</p><p>It&rsquo;s illegal to bet money while shooting dice, so the gaggle of men immediately begins to disperse. And so does the man I&rsquo;m interviewing -- even though he wasn&rsquo;t playing.</p><p>PAUL: Break it up? Break what up?</p><p>JOHNSON: I&rsquo;m sorry, break it up.&nbsp;</p><p>PAUL: &nbsp;Don&rsquo;t go. Oh no. Nothing&rsquo;s breakin&rsquo; up.</p><p>PAUL: Excuse me, officer?</p><p>OFFICER: Yes ma&rsquo;am.</p><p>PAUL: I&rsquo;m interviewing this gentleman. He seems to think we can&rsquo;t do an interview. &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; Why does he think that ?</p><p>OFFICER: I don&rsquo;t know. Ask him.</p><p>PAUL: Sir? He said it&rsquo;s fine!</p><p>JOHNSON:Oh! I&rsquo;m fixin&rsquo; to say!</p><p>PAUL: This is America, far as I know, last time I checked ..</p><p>MAN&rsquo;S VOICE: Yeah, it&rsquo;s America.</p><p>After the officers have gone, Johnson tells us that sometimes the gambling can escalate.&nbsp;</p><p>JOHNSON: It gets real big</p><p>PAUL: &nbsp;I feel like...</p><p>JOHNSON: Then shootin&rsquo; might start. Or fightin&rsquo; might start. Arguments. You know, they &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; don&rsquo;t want a crowd around here.</p><p>PAUL: Mmm, hhmm.</p><p>JOHNSON: You know, they hafto keep it down.</p><p>It&rsquo;s pushing on dusk. We wrap up at the breezeway and head to the home of&nbsp;Tyrone Nelson.</p><p>Four years ago when he heard that Obama had won --&nbsp; he shed some tears of joy. But he was realistic about what he thought Obama could accomplish.</p><p>NELSON: &nbsp;I think some things are gonna change, but I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s gonna be overnight. We&rsquo;d be fooling ourselves if we thought that.</p><p>When we met Tyrone back in 2008, he was living with his mother who was 94.&nbsp; Flash forward four years and he&rsquo;s still caring for her. She turns 99 next week and her blood pressure is lower than his.</p><p>NELSON: &nbsp;I took her this morning and it was 118 over 70.&nbsp;</p><p>When the conversation turns to Obama, he says he&rsquo;d give him a &ldquo;B&rdquo;</p><p>NELSON: &nbsp;I think we&rsquo;re mature enough now to know that one person can&rsquo;t do it by himself. Or even one party for that matter. We have seen that some of the programs that Obama tried to put forward was fought, you know, tooth &amp; nail in the Congress.. Some of his programs didn&rsquo;t get through.&nbsp; Because we had some people that just wanted him to be a one-term president.. They had no other reason but, they just wanted him to fail..</p><p>Some time during our conversations today, I received a text from Artease Coley. Remember him? He&rsquo;s the guy who was blasting music from his car, the morning after Obama was elected. He&rsquo;s been out of town and we didn&rsquo;t think we&rsquo;d be able to meet up with him. But he tells us to wait at the Laundromat and that his bus will arrive around 6.</p><p>It&rsquo;s fully dark now &amp; we&rsquo;re just sort of hanging out in front of Tyrone&rsquo;s place, which just happens to be across the street from the Laundromat where we need to be.</p><p>And while we&rsquo;re waiting for Artease&rsquo;s bus to arrive, the very officers we&rsquo;d seen earlier in the day, pull up alongside us to ask, where we&rsquo;re from, what we&rsquo;re doing.</p><p>So we make some introductions and it turns out these guys are with Maverick Security.. One of the officers -- JC Hill&nbsp; -- knows Altgeld very well. As a boy, he spent 15 summers out here, living with his uncle..</p><p>HILL:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; When I was assigned out here, I was only glad to come out here you know. Because I know these people. These are my people.</p><p>Hill&rsquo;s partner, Eric Davis, retired after 27 years with the Chicago Police.</p><p>DAVIS: And I come and work my community. So I&rsquo;m not just talking the talk, I&rsquo;m walking the walk.&nbsp;</p><p>Officer Davis confirms what we&rsquo;ve been told, that Altgeld is a somewhat isolated community. But in some ways, he says it&rsquo;s not so different from the North Shore.</p><p>DAVIS:&nbsp; I would guess that 80% of the folks that live here in Altgeld don&rsquo;t know anyone white. Don&rsquo;t know anyone white.&nbsp; But.. to be fair-- I bet if I went to Winnetka, maybe 70% of the white people there don&rsquo;t know anyone black. So. Is that something that&rsquo;s really crazy in America?&nbsp; Absolutely, that is crazy.&nbsp; There are people that travel the world to come to cities like Chicago and New York because they want to see our diversity. We live here and we don&rsquo;t want to see diversity.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Both these officers seem to know a lotta people around here and one lady who&rsquo;s walking by, stops to give an unsolicited testimonial:</p><p>WOMAN: These guys are as cool as hell. Because they&rsquo;re still guard enforcement officers. But they&rsquo;re respecting us in a different manner. They&rsquo;re not bo-gardin&rsquo; us.</p><p>Some time in the middle of all this, there&rsquo;s a little do-si-do.</p><p>Officer Davis leaves and Artease Coley has joined Officer Hill &amp; us. We ask how people at Altgeld make it? How do they survive in these crazy economic times?</p><p>Census Bureau numbers say that median household income at Altgeld is about 13-thousand dollars. And most everyone we&rsquo;ve talked to today has estimated that 60 to 70 % of the adult community here is unemployed.</p><p>HILL: Well, I&rsquo;m gonna say this. Blacks are really resourceful. (Laughs)</p><p>COLEY: We can make something outta nothing. See for those that was already wealthy and rich and not used to living in poverty -- it was a big deal to them. Nothing really changed to us. We been living in this and experiencing this since I was young. Since government cheese programs.</p><p>I tell them that we heard from a woman who sells some of her food stamps in order to scrape together enough rent money to keep her unit at CHA.&nbsp;</p><p>COLEY:&nbsp; I wouldn&rsquo;t incriminate myself like that. Because that&rsquo;s a crime.</p><p>There are lots of people in America on food stamps. 46 million in fact. And Artease asks?</p><p>COLEY:&nbsp; You think she&rsquo;s the only one doin&rsquo; that to get by? All race. All color. All nationality.</p><p>We stand out here on the sidewalk, talking for like an hour. We talk about Obama, the election --and these guys keep circling back to Altgeld itself.</p><p>HILL:&nbsp; You should see&rsquo; em in the summer time. It&rsquo;s beautiful. A cook-out on every block. There&rsquo;s a jumping jack thing on every block.</p><p>COLEY:&nbsp; And he actually brings them and don&rsquo;t let us hafto pay for &lsquo;em.</p><p>HILL:&nbsp; It&rsquo;s beautiful. It&rsquo;s a community thing. I&rsquo;ve worked all 4th of July&rsquo;s cause I wanna be out here.</p><p>This talk can go on &amp; on. So we make an informal pact.&nbsp; Meet up again for the next election.</p><p>CAHAN:&nbsp; Okay, four years. And we&rsquo;re gonna make a pact now that we&rsquo;re gonna do this in four years.</p><p>PAUL: So we&rsquo;re meeting up in four years, right?</p><p>Who knows? After all, we met Artease four years ago, when he rolled down 131st St., blasting Lil Jeezy&rsquo;s song, &ldquo;My President.&rdquo; Who&rsquo;s to say we may not meet here again, four years from now?</p><p><em>Audio production by Ken Davis</em></p></p> Mon, 05 Nov 2012 09:59:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2012-11-05/altgeld-gardens-four-years-later-103659 New Illinois commission to promote environmental justice http://www.wbez.org/story/new-illinois-commission-promote-environmental-justice-90681 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-May/2011-05-24/Fisk Flickr Carlyn Crispell.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois has a new environmental law that's designed to protect minorities and the poor.</p><p>The Environmental Justice Act, signed by Gov. Pat Quinn Tuesday, will create the new Commission on Environmental Justice, which will be&nbsp;composed of lawmakers, citizens, health experts, environmental advocates and businesses. The commission's charge will be to prevent economically disadvantaged communities from bearing the bulk of the effects of industrial pollution and other environmental risks.&nbsp;</p><p>Representative Will Davis, D-East Hazel Crest,&nbsp;is one of the law's principal backers. He says several communities deserve to have extra environmental scrutiny. One example Davis cites is Altgeld Gardens, a primarily African-American community on Chicago's South Side.</p><p>"It sits directly across the street from a huge landfill," Davis said. "It has been reported or alleged that there are higher incidences of cancer-related illnesses and deaths in comparison to other communities."</p><p>Davis hopes the new Commission on Environmental Justice will find all sites that pose environmental risks to Illinoisans. The commission is expected to review state environmental laws and policies, and then make recommendations to the governor and general assembly.<br> <br> <br> &nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 16 Aug 2011 23:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/new-illinois-commission-promote-environmental-justice-90681 Altgeld library back in business http://www.wbez.org/story/altgeld-gardens/altgeld-library-back-business-84967 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-April/2011-04-08/ag library.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>A library opening in any community is cause for excitement. But today's dedication of the restored community library at Altgeld Gardens was particularly joyful.</p><p>The library at Altgeld was closed for more than a year after a pipe broke in early 2009, flooding the library and rendering its collection unusable. In late December dozens of residents of the public housing complex went to City Hall to demand that the library be re-opened.</p><p>The new facility is a collaboration among Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Housing Authority and the city's library system.</p><p>To Cheryl Johnson, the new library is a portal beyond her isolated Chicago Housing Authority development. “You may live in public housing,” Johnson said, “but the library can take you internationally.”</p><p>The new library boasts 37 computer stations and free wireless internet. Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey says trained staff help people master the internet.</p><p>“Our reference librarians and cyber-navigators report sixty percent of their time is being used to help people search for jobs,” Dempsey said. Cyber-navigators teach people of all ages basic computer skills - setting up e-mail and searching the internet.</p><p>In addition to computer trainers, the Altgeld branch will have a teacher present after school to help students with their homework.</p><p>The new structure shares a building with Carver Elementary School and the Phyllis Wheatley Child Parent Center. It will be open six days a week.</p><p>There are currently 75 libraries in Chicago, with an additional four slated to open by the end of 2011.</p><p>Library Commissioner Dempsey credits MayorRichard&nbsp; Daley with being an advocate for the construction of neighborhood libraries.</p><p>“In a time when our colleagues in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, [and] Phoenix are seeing their budgets be slashed drastically, ours is improving. And in a very difficult economy to have your budget stay steady is a great victory but ours actually grew slightly this year because of the addition of the new branches.”</p></p> Fri, 08 Apr 2011 21:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/altgeld-gardens/altgeld-library-back-business-84967 Altgeld Gardens loses an environmental leader http://www.wbez.org/story/altgeld-gardens/altgeld-gardens-loses-environmental-leader <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Hazel Johnson 2.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Funeral services are scheduled for tomorrow for one of the pioneers of the national environmental justice movement. Hazel Johnson was 75 when she died last week.&nbsp; She was the founder of <a href="http://www.peopleforcommunityrecovery.org">People for Community Recovery</a>, an activist group based in Altgeld Gardens, a Chicago Housing Authority development on the&nbsp; far South Side.&nbsp; <br /><br />Johnson has often been described as the 'Mother' of the environmental justice movement. Her fight against toxins and contaminants being dumped in the backyards of poor communities and communities of color started in a humble way, when her own husband died of lung cancer at the age of 41.<br /><br />JOHNSON: And I was lookin' around and I'm hearin&nbsp; 'This person had cancer. That person had cancer. '&nbsp; I wanted to know why so many people was havin' cancer.<br /><br />Johnson had heard on the local news that the Southeast Side had more cancer than anywhere else in the city. She started to do her own research, asking state and city agencies for information and knocking on neighbors' doors, asking them to fill out complaint forms to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. She came to describe her community as a &quot;toxic donut&quot;&nbsp; because it's surrounded on all sides by&nbsp; landfills, a sewage treatment plant and a polluted river.<br />&nbsp;<br />JOHNSON: I have told people some years ago, do not go over to that river and fish. Because it's a little of everything that's in that water. That water is highly contaminated.<br /><br />Through the decades she testified before Congress and led politicians and academicians on&nbsp; &quot;toxic tours' of her neighborhood. Her work was formally recognized by the first president Bush and also by president Clinton. In addition, she met a young man who would later become the 44th president of the United States.&nbsp; Barack Obama did some of his early community organizing work at Altgeld Gardens alongside Hazel Johnson. <br /><br />JOHNSON: When I was working with him, I never had no idea. I knew he was an ambitious young man. He was nice, polite, very mannerable. I know he wanted to go beyond what he was, already. But I had NO IDEA he would go that far.<br /><br />Hazel Johnson grew up in a time when blacks had to sit at the back of the&nbsp; bus. She never thought she'd live to see a black president, let alone know someone who would become America's first black president. But in his formative years, Obama collaborated with Johnson on the campaign to rid Altgeld Gardens of asbestos insulation in the development's attics. It left a favorable impression.<br /><br />JOHNSON:&nbsp; We didn't have that many men. And to see a real young man to come out and work with a bunch of womens... I thought that was awesome.&nbsp; <br /><br />During her activist years, she fought against neighboring toxic waste dumps and a municipal garbage incinerator. And she recalled another fight with Waste Management over its nearby landfill.<br /><br />JOHNSON:&nbsp; In fact I went to jail. Me and Greenpeace groups, there was seventeen of us .. We chained ourselves and we stopped 57 trucks that day from coming in. But after the media left and everybody left, Waste Management had us arrested for tresspassin' .<br /><br />Johnson had many opportunities to leave Altgeld Gardens, but she never wanted to.<br /><br />JOHNSON: How can I fight something when I don't know what goin on? But if I'm HERE, I can fight the problem. I know what's goin' on.<br /><br />Funeral services for Hazel Johnson are set for 11 tomorrow at the St. Ailbe Catholic Church. Hazel Johnson had many accomplishments, but they weren't lucrative. In lieu of flowers her daughter has appealed for funds to help pay for tomorrow's funeral.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 21 Jan 2011 20:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/altgeld-gardens/altgeld-gardens-loses-environmental-leader Daley's legacy on Chicago public housing http://www.wbez.org/story/altgeld-gardens/daleys-legacy-chicago-public-housing <p><p><span style="color: black;">In 1999, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley masterminded the controversial, Chicago Housing Authority Plan for Transformation.</span></p> <div><span style="color: black;">The idea was to root out concentrated urban poverty and create 25,000 units of housing.</span></div> <div><span style="color: black;">The plan tore down high rises, rehabbed apartments and built new mixed-income communities.</span></div> <div><span style="color: black;">Now, Daley&rsquo;s preparing to leave office, and as he does, he leaves behind an enormous, unanswered question: can public housing actually integrate into the fabric of an economically diverse city?</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;"><br /></span></div> <div><i><span style="color: black;">ambi: Cabrini cranes</span></i></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">This is the sound of cranes knocking down a public housing high rise at Cabrini Green last year.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">It&rsquo;s also the sound of a plan in motion &ndash; an ambitious plan to remake public housing.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">Mayor Richard M. Daley on the Plan for Transformation:</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">DALEY: From San Paolo all the way to Paris &ndash; guess what they&rsquo;re talking about? High rise public housings and how many socioeconomic problems they have in these with gangs, guns and drugs; destruction of their family. So again transformation for CHA has been working and we&rsquo;re been very proud of that, which is important.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span style="color: black;">Daley&rsquo;s father &ndash; Richard J. &ndash; was on watch when many high rises went up. </span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span style="color: black;">Richard M. was responsible for the current plan to tear them down. </span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span style="color: black;">Housing expert and attorney Alex Polikoff articulates the big idea behind this Plan for Transformation.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span style="color: black;">POLIKOFF: A vast literature has told us something with great clarity now. Namely, that large, urban enclaves of exclusively poor families isn&rsquo;t a good idea either for the families over the long-term or the surrounding communities. Simply rehabbing physical shelter without paying attention to socioeconomic dynamics is unwise.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">The plan&rsquo;s physical consequences are visible.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">Take the Robert Taylor Homes and Stateway Gardens.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">Ten years ago they stood like a wall along the Dan Ryan Expressway.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">Today, they&rsquo;re gone.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">In several public housing developments, CHA has carefully-engineered a new mix of housing: one third public, one third affordable, and one third market rate.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">That plan to integrate poor people with higher-income households has been moving along &ndash; but not all that fast &hellip; and sometimes not that well because of class conflicts and people being unceremoniously moved out of their apartments.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><i><span style="color: black;">ambi: running water</span></i></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">Ora Jones makes coffee in her two-bedroom apartment.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">She lives in a part of Cabrini Green many people aren&rsquo;t aware of - not the high rises &hellip; but the&nbsp;<i>rowhouses</i>&nbsp;just a few blocks away.</span> <span style="color: black;">Most of the rowhouses are boarded up, but Jones lives in a newly refurbished one.</span> <span style="color: black;">She moved in last spring and loves the new look: grass in the backyard and community barbeque grills.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">JONES: I think they&rsquo;re wonderful because the back is beautiful. I used get up in the morning, get my coffee and go out there and sit.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">During the younger Daley&rsquo;s era, Cabrini, near Chicago&rsquo;s Gold Coast neighborhood, has been transformed into a mixed-income community.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">But it&rsquo;s not clear whether it makes sense to economically integrate Cabrini even more.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">Again, the Plan for Transformation is supposed to remake developments into thirds &ndash; market, affordable and public housing. But that one-third number has just been a guiding principle. Right now Cabrini has more market-rate units than public and affordable units &hellip; combined.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">Residents like Jones think more of Cabrini should be reserved for poor people, especially when she looks around and sees pricey condos and new businesses.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">JONES: Why should it just be a third? How many people would be left here on a third?</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">CHA has stopped rehabbing the rowhouses.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">If it transforms Cabrini too much &hellip; it&rsquo;ll have to move out some public housing residents &ndash; and they might end up in neighborhoods with fewer services and jobs.</span></div> <div><span style="color: black;">The tenant leadership worries about that prospect.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">And so do some housing experts.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">SMITH: So when we look at what we&rsquo;re trying to solve with public housing redevelopment, we know that mixed income is not the panacea. It&rsquo;s not going to solve all the problems.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">Janet Smith is a professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">SMITH: When you want to talk about mix, you want to look at it at scale. Right now if we just look at a two or three block area and say oh, there&rsquo;s concentrated poverty, we have to get rid of it, we have to realize that those folks have the ability to walk across the street and be in million-dollar homes. Literally. I mean, literally $3 million dollar homes are across the street on Chicago Avenue.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">CHA officials say there are no details yet on what will happen to Cabrini&rsquo;s row houses. It&rsquo;s rehabbed 146 of them. It still hasn&rsquo;t said what it intends to do with the 440 that are left.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">CHA CEO Lewis Jordan:</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">JORDAN: We&rsquo;re sitting down now talking again with stakeholders in the community asking as we continue the process of creating better housing where the rowhouses are &ndash; what should that product look like?</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">Daley&rsquo;s push to remake public housing is complicated by a simple fact.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">Chicago</span><span style="color: black;"> is a big place &ndash; so it&rsquo;s hard to apply one principle like &ldquo;economic integration&rdquo; across all of the developments.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">For example, Altgeld Gardens is a community of rowhouses.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">Unlike Cabrini &ndash; Altgeld&rsquo;s not in an up-and-coming neighborhood.&nbsp; </span><span style="color: black;">It&rsquo;s in a de-industrialized section on the city&rsquo;s southern edge, along the Calumet River. </span></div> <div><span style="color: black;">But the CHA is stopping rehab work on Altgeld &hellip; just like it did at the Cabrini rowhouses. </span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">Again, CHA&rsquo;s Lewis Jordan.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">JORDAN</span><span style="color: black;">: We&rsquo;re looking at the overall Altgeld Gardens community and in trying to get a broader neighborhood community perspective of what our next steps are.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">CHA didn&rsquo;t slate Atlgeld as mixed income. There&rsquo;re no high-income households nearby. Jobs are scarce. And businesses have mostly shied away, too.</span></div> <div><span style="color: black;">Redevelopment at Altgeld is tricky in a way never seen at Cabrini.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">JORDAN</span><span style="color: black;">: The fact that it&rsquo;s out so far when you look at not only the housing there but the lack of economic infrastructure. There&rsquo;s a lack of businesses &ndash; it&rsquo;s just isolated.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">WILLIAMS: The residents don&rsquo;t feel that we&rsquo;re isolated. The only thing problem that we have is &ndash; we don&rsquo;t have a grocery store.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">Bernadette Williams is president of the Atlgeld tenant council.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">Williams says there&rsquo;re some good things happening at Altgeld. There&rsquo;s a lot of open space. Urban farms are taking advantage of that.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">And, there&rsquo;s word the Chicago Transit Authority might extend the Red Line train to Altgeld. That might bring some vitality, too.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">Williams has a vision for Atlgeld that she&rsquo;s let the higher ups know. She wants to prevent it from being an island of poverty.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">WILLIAMS: We was asking them to change like the structure and the income levels so it won&rsquo;t all be low income moving back in because we don&rsquo;t want the development to resort back to what it used to be because people with no income &ndash; it seems like people with no income really don&rsquo;t care where they live.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">CHA is tightlipped about the future of Altgeld and Cabrini.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">The Plan for Transformation&rsquo;s directive to economically integrate places like Altgeld and Cabrini has attracted challenges and criticism. </span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">And it could get more &ndash; the Plan&rsquo;s got another five years to go.</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div><div><span style="color: black;">Or &hellip; that might change, if Chicago&rsquo;s new mayor feels like going back to the drawing board. </span></div></p> Fri, 21 Jan 2011 16:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/altgeld-gardens/daleys-legacy-chicago-public-housing Audio slideshow: A new garden for Altgeld http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/audio-slideshow-new-garden-altgeld <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/altgeld-farm.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Altgeld Gardens is an unlikely place to put a farm. It&rsquo;s a public housing development 130 blocks south of downtown Chicago. The community&rsquo;s also surrounded by landfills, an expressway, a sewage treatment plant and the polluted Little Calumet River.<br /><br />This is the place where a community organizer named Barack Obama got his start. Reporter Linda Paul and photographer Richard Cahan <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/altgeld-gardens-high-hopes-president-barack-obama">first started visiting Altgeld on the morning after President Obama was elected</a>.</p><p>At his old stomping grounds, they&rsquo;ve found optimism, toughness and people eager to share their lives and neighborhood.</p><p>They&rsquo;ve been going back each year since the election. This year Altgeld proved to possess both the problem of and some steps toward solving the food access issues.<br />&nbsp;</p><object height="500" width="500" id="soundslider" classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000"><param value="http://audio.wbez.org/soundslides/20101122_AltgeldGardens/soundslider.swf?size=1&amp;format=xml&amp;embed_width=500&amp;embed_height=500" name="movie" /><param value="always" name="allowScriptAccess" /><param value="high" name="quality" /><param value="true" name="allowFullScreen" /><param value="false" name="menu" /><param value="#FFFFFF" name="bgcolor" /><embed height="500" width="500" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="sameDomain" menu="false" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" quality="high" src="http://audio.wbez.org/soundslides/20101122_AltgeldGardens/soundslider.swf?size=1&amp;format=xml&amp;embed_width=500&amp;embed_height=500"></embed></object><p>Sound of train whistle and early traffic.</p><p>Well before sun-up, occasional headlights pierce the dark. People are driving to work. Others are huddled at bus stops.</p><p>On this day.. as we've done in previous years.. we just begin strolling&hellip; talking with any early risers who have the time and patience for us &hellip;Our first 'taker' this morning is JD Payton. He's 57 years old and has lived in the Gardens since he was 12.</p><p>PAYTON: I'm a longshoreman. I load barges and ships that come in. Right now we're unloading products on BP. Windmills comin' in. Refinery equipment.&nbsp; And sometimes it's very difficult.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>Payton is waiting on his ride to the Port of Indiana, since he has no car.&nbsp; He tells us there's a real appeal to the Gardens, the nature trails in Baubien woods, the fishing in the river.&nbsp; He's appreciated these things from the time he was a boy. But one thing he really doesn't like about this place?&nbsp; In a community of over 3-thousand people, there's nowhere to buy fresh food. Not a carton of eggs, not a shred of lettuce.</p><p>PAYTON:&nbsp;&nbsp; We haven't had a grocery store for 6, 7 years.. That's hard to believe in a community this size. We don't have a grocery store.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>PAUL:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; How do people EAT ?</p><p>PAYTON:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Uh, there's a Rosebud Farm about half a mile up that way and if you can't walk up there, or you don't have an ability to get on a bus to go to the store - that's it. And that's bad, cuz my mother can't even get milk &amp; cereal. They got a liquor store, though. ( rueful laugh )</p><p>PAUL:&nbsp; So let me get that right.&nbsp; Within Altgeld Gardens there's a liquor store, but there is no grocery store.PAYTON:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Correct. And it has been that way for years now. To our amazement.&nbsp; Because when it first went out, we were sure within a couple of months or two somebody would be in there. That's been like 7 years ago..In fact, Altgeld Garden Liquor is the only store in this entire development, and the only foodstuff it sells is candy and chips.</p><p>But a couple of blocks away, towards the eastern edge of the development, we stumble upon something new in the Gardens. A kind of counterpoint. It's a long, Quonset hut-shaped structure, encased in heavy white plastic.</p><p>PAUL:&nbsp; Good morning.</p><p>WOMAN: Good morning.</p><p>PAUL: We were just walking with&nbsp; some kids. They were showing us their military academy and - what is this ?</p><p>WOMAN:&nbsp; ( laughs ) Our farm site.</p><p>PAUL:&nbsp; Your farm site?</p><p>WOMAN:&nbsp; Right. Just a minute&hellip;&nbsp; DEEERRIIOONNN!!&nbsp; Derrion !</p><p>Rich and I are escorted to an unassuming 25 year old, Derrion Crawford, the manager at this site.&nbsp; PAUL:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Where are we ?&nbsp; What is this?</p><p>CRAWFORD:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Uh, this is an urban farm, developed by the residents of Altgeld.Crawford is with Growing Power, a not-for-profit out of Milwaukee. They aim to help poor communities become self-sufficient by growing organic food. Since July he's been working with about 150&nbsp; people here at Altgeld -&nbsp; some who've never held jobs before. He shows them how to build raised&nbsp; planting beds with capping clay, so contaminants from this toxic ground can't leach into their organic crops. The residents make their own rich soil through composting and--&nbsp; a new concept for me&nbsp; -- vermiculture.</p><p>CRAWFORD:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Okay, vermiculture is composting, but with worms.&nbsp; So we raise the worms, red wigglers.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>PAUL:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; You're raising red wigglers?</p><p>CRAWFORD:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Yeeeppp .&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Workers are paid ten dollars an hour, thirty to forty hours per week.&nbsp; With the cold weather setting in and some attrition, they're down now to a lean crew of 40.</p><p>In their jeans, shiny ski jackets, visors and cotton hoodies, these are farmers with a layered urban look.</p><p>Even now, on the cusp of winter, this crew is able to grow plenty of&nbsp; vegetables under a semi-permeable landscape fabric. They can water their crops, without exposing them to the cold.</p><p>CRAWFORD:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Okay, so under there we got some lettuce, some spinach, lots of different type of mustard greens, mizuna, red mizuna&hellip; purple mustards. Inside of the hoop house we have some carrots growing and some arugula.</p><p>The hoop house, the building we spotted from the road, is a greenhouse, heated by the sun, that extends the growing season.&nbsp; Several of the ladies here today --&nbsp; helped put it up.</p><p>LADY 1: We put the hoop house together.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>LADY 2: Oh yeah, we all put it up together.LADY 3: We put up plastic, new posts. Do the doors. We all pitched in and helped.</p><p>LADY 2: I think lotta things that could be put together with just poles and screws and nails and-&nbsp; basic things that you would never think that you could use to build a hoop house</p><p>LADY 1: Working with your hands. That's it.</p><p>LADY 2: Just like we built the compost bins over there. You-all haven't been over there ?</p><p>I ask these workers what they've learned since they started this farm job:</p><p>LADY 3: It was new to us.</p><p>LADY 2: We learned how to fence.&nbsp; We learned how to plant crops. We learned how to do compost bins, make compost. We learned a lotta measurements..</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>CAHAN: And is this fun?</p><p>LADY 1: Yes.</p><p>CAHAN: And is it hard?</p><p>LADY 1: No.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>MAN: It's lookin' good. It's lookin' good.</p><p>Martin Tate, one of the workers here, says at first, it was hard to get people enthused about this farm.</p><p>TATE: They was, you know, a little hostile at first. But now, you know,&nbsp; they fitting in like they supposed to, because they see something. At first, you know, it was just vacant. They didn't see anything..&nbsp; And so, you know, it's kinda hard to try to tell a person, hey! this is gonna be beautiful. They don't look at that part, ( laughs ), so FADE IT UNDER</p><p>As the farm took on a physical presence, he says, there was a change.</p><p>TATE: They could visualize it, they can see it, they can feel it. And so now, it's a great thing.</p><p>PAUL: A little pride of ownership</p><p>TATE: Oh yeah.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>The farm at Altgeld Gardens was started earlier this year by the Chicago Housing Authority, when it set the land aside and put in water and electrical lines. But the project was jump-started when it hooked up with Put Illinois To Work, a state program that has hired about 26- thousand people state-wide since last spring.</p><p>80% of its money came from President Obama's federal stimulus program, but that ran out on September 30.&nbsp; Democrats in Washington tried to extend the funding, but Republicans blocked it.</p><p>So, in a controversial move -- given all of Illinois' unpaid bills -- Governor Quinn kept the program alive with a $75 million infusion of state funding. And that money runs out November 30, about a week from now.&nbsp;</p><p>Nobody knows whether the state, or the U.S. Congress, will provide any more money, but the CHA says it's committed to keeping about ten workers on throughout the winter, even if it has to pay the salaries itself.</p><p>ALFRED: Everybody listen !&nbsp; I need everybody's attention!</p><p>After working several hours out in the cold, some of these farmers retire to an empty CHA unit that's being used for a culinary arts class.</p><p>ALFRED:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; This is a Vitamix machine. It's about a four to five hundred dollar machine. ( FADE IT UNDER)</p><p>Camilla Alfred, one of the instructors with Growing Power, is trying to convince these workers to look at food differently.</p><p>ALFRED:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Of course you know I brought our own water. So you not going to fill it up all the way. At least half way to get it started.</p><p>And what's on the lesson board for today? Smoothies.</p><p>Sound of Vitamix mixing&nbsp;</p><p>ALFRED:&nbsp; Thick as you want it. Or loose as you want it. (&nbsp; FADE IT UNDER )</p><p>She wants to introduce them to green living- to eating more fruits and vegetables. But sometimes it's a hard sell:ALFRED:&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; You wanna take me from my fries, pork chops, polish sausages ? Yeah, I am. And I'm not tryin' to turn anyone to a vegetarian. I just want you to eat healthier. We're&nbsp; basically comin' out&nbsp; teaching them&nbsp; how to grow their own food, you know sustainability. Dunno, cuz if you notice- I don't know if you've been around in the Garden.&nbsp; There's not a grocery store out here.&nbsp; We have maybe 2 clinics out here, 2 pharmacies &amp; a liquor store - so where's the food ? &nbsp;</p><p>The workers at this urban farm dearly hope that it gets a new lease on life and that their jobs are prolonged. Partly cuz they need the income. And partly for their community.</p><p>Cahan :&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; How do you think this'll change Altgeld?</p><p>LADY 2: It'll help us a lot. Cuz we only had that store up there. And you know, they chargin' us so much, that now we get the chance to grow our own crops and vegetables. And we can market and sell and give back to the community, that they took out from the community.</p><p>Last Monday a Chicago Public Library opened at Altgeld Gardens. A new charter high school opened in September.&nbsp; A planned extension of the CTA's red line could bring the new south terminal within walking distance of most residents. Meanwhile, the remodeling program continues, with more than half of the 2000 units fully rehabbed.</p><p>But there's still no bank, no post office - and as we've heard - no place within the development to buy fresh groceries. Problems made even worse by the fact that about 60% of households have no car and - last time the Census Bureau checked - about 40% of these households have incomes below 10-thousand dollars a year.Given all that, a grocery store within Altgeld Gardens seems like a reasonable expectation.</p><p>For WBEZ, with Richard Cahan&hellip;. I'm Linda Paul</p><p><em>Music Button:&nbsp; Orgone, &quot;Dramatic Times&quot;, from the CD Killion Vaults, (Ubiquity)</em></p></p> Mon, 22 Nov 2010 14:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/audio-slideshow-new-garden-altgeld