Tenants Protest CHA’s Plans for Lathrop

by Mary C. Piemonte 

A protestor in the Lathrop Homes objects to all three redevelopment ideas proposed by the Chicago Housing Authority Nov. 15. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte.

Tenants and their advocates protested the Chicago Housing Authority’s redevelopment plans for the Lathrop Homes public housing site on the North Side, which is slated for demolition and replacement by a mixed-income community consisting of an array of for-sale, affordable rental and public housing apartments.
On Nov. 15, CHA held an open house inside the New Life Community Church, 2958 N. Damen Ave., to present three concepts for the Lathrop redevelopment and pose questions to Lathrop Community Partners, the development team selected to help revitalize the 32-acre public housing site that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.
But outside the church, members of the Lathrop Leadership Team – composed of tenants and their advocates – declared that developer’s plans “three dense scenarios, and one destructive idea.” Some of the protestors held signs ridiculing the three concepts; one sign featured a picture of the Three Stooges television characters, to whom the three concepts were compared.

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Pilsen Gets Environmental Justice

by Jasmine Hunt 

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen and Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation:

Dvorak Park is a very grassy, wide expanse of trees and benches, a playground for young children with an outdoor pool located in the Pilsen neighborhood, which is home to many Mexican immigrants. Rising above the park is the tall, light-colored brick smokestack of the Fisk coal power plant. Next to the smokestack is the red brick building where coal was burned to produce electricity for 109 years.
Since 1903, the plant has provided power for Chicago. And for many years, it was the number one source of pollution in the city, according to reports in the Chicago Tribune.
Jerry Mead-Lucero is a founding member and organizer of the group Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reformation Organization (PERRO). We met with Mead-Lucero in August 2012 on the day after the Fisk power plant had been closed and the Crawford coal-burning power plant a few miles away in the Little Village neighborhood was scheduled to close the next week.
There have been 55 premature deaths each year linked to the power plant, along with hundreds of asthma attacks and people hospitalized because of pollution from the plant, according to a study by a scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health in 2001. Respiratory issues are frequently caused by coal, fly ash, soot, mercury, lead (which is a neurotoxin) and other particles emitted from the coal plant, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Read more »

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Preserving History and Ecology

by Jasmine Hunt 

Eco Youth Reporters Jasmine Hunt and David Cal interview a passerby at Harry Palmisano Park. Photo by Kari Lydersen.


Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen and Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation:

The Bridgeport and Pilsen neighborhoods on Chicago’s Near South Side are heavily industrial, with factories, highways, railroad tracks and warehouses. The area used to be famous for the stockyards and slaughterhouses depicted in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Bubbly Creek, which runs through the area, got its name from the decomposing bodies of animals from the slaughterhouses.
But in the middle of all this industry there are pockets of nature where people enjoy the outdoors.
On Halsted Street in the Bridgeport neighborhood – home of Mayors Richard M. and his father Richard J. Daley – Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park is an oasis created on a former limestone quarry and landfill. To the north you can see the smokestack of the Fisk coal-burning power plant, which closed down this year. When you enter the park from Halsted, you see limestone boulders where fossils are located. There are also native plants with deep roots that hold large amounts of water in the soil. During rain storms the native plants hold the water and prevent it from flooding or contaminating other areas. A drain pipe sends storm water into a wetland in the park, where the plants clean the water as it filters through. Metal stairs align parts of the park near a pond created by part of the quarry with steep walls. Rabbits and monarchs inhabit the park. Attention-grabbing graffiti on a park wall proclaims “I Love you! Don’t you ever question that” with a big painted heart. Read more »

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Sit In Against School Closings

by Tyreshia Black 

UYIJP participant Tyreshia Black interviews Chicago teacher Cynthia Smith at a Nov. 2 sit in against school closings. Photo by Kari Lydersen.

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Urban Youth International Journalism Program, which is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation.

Teachers, students and many concerned local residents gathered at a rally at City Hall in front of the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Nov. 2 yelling out chants like, “We’re fired up, can’t take it no more” and “Na na na na, hey hey hey, stop closing schools.”
Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey, who I interviewed, proclaimed that he was putting those who are causing problems “on notice.” Sharkey meant that those who are making the choice to close schools and lay off teachers and – in his view – deny children the best education will have to face him and many others.
There has been much controversy and protest around Chicago public schools since the Chicago Board of Education, the Mayor’s office and other officials reportedly plan to close about 100 more Chicago public schools that are labeled as under-performing or under-enrolled. Already, many schools have been closed. The Board of Education was supposed to release its list of schools to close on Dec. 1, although the new schools CEO Barbara Bennett-Byrd successfully asked the state legislature for a few more months to make the decision. Meanwhile, parents, teachers and students at the protest said that no public schools should be closed at all. Read more »

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Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Anti-poverty activist and scholar Peter Edelman during a recent lecture at Northwestern University Law School sponsored by the National Public Housing Museum. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte.

It will take “a national groundswell of concern if we are going to make the progress we need on poverty,” said Georgetown Law Center Professor and author Peter Edelman during a lecture hosted by the National Public Housing Museum at Northwestern University Law School, 375 E. Chicago Ave., on October 10. Discussing the “growing chasm between America’s wealthy and poor,” Edelman said that “America has the highest poverty rate in the industrialized world,” with 46 million people living below the poverty line, a situation that could cause problems in the future. “Our democracy is in danger,” he said.
Edelman, faculty director at the Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy in Washington, D.C., is an antipoverty advocate and former legislative aide to U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy who served as Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services under the Clinton administration but resigned from his position to protest President Clinton’s support of welfare reform. The free public lecture, based on Edleman’s latest book, “So Rich, So Poor: Why it’s So Hard to End Poverty in America,” was part of the National Public Housing Museum’s “Profiles in Color: Race, Place and Identity Series” funded by the Ford Foundation and the Boeing company. Read more »

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