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Residents’ Journal’s Newly Accessible Online Archives

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Click on the image to view the eighth episode of this season’s “RJ TV,” on August 29, 2011.

Watch Residents’ Journal’s reporter Quintana Woodridge discussing We the People Media’s newly accessible online archives of the news publication for low-income people, with intern Hilary Sharp.

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Mayor Continues Search for New CHA Head

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Tenants from the Julia C. Lathrop Homes public housing complex on the North Side object to CHA's plans for their development during a recent CHA Board meeting in March. The new CHA CEO will have to decide Lathrop Homes' future. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is still searching for the right person to head the Chicago Housing Authority.

Previous CHA CEO Lewis Jordan resigned his position two months ago after questions were raised about his and other CHA employees’ use of government-issued credit cards.

Former CHA board member Carlos Ponce is serving as interim CEO and overseeing the controversial effort to demolish or rehab all of its family and senior housing stock that officially began in January 2000.

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An Afternoon of Good Times

by Jacqueline Thompson 

The second annual National Public Housing Museum fundraiser, billed “An Afternoon of Good Times,” was attended by a sold-out crowd of cheering guests, eager to applaud the hard-working hosts and their choice of honorees, former public housing resident luminaries and their achievements. The welcome address by Chicago Housing Authority officials Joyce Chou and Scott Ammaral was a smooth take-off into an illuminating program.

Next, Ald. Walter Burnett (21) graciously introduced Bern Nadette Stanis aka “Thelma” from the popular 1970s television sit-com “Good Times,” which brought Chicago’s own Cabrini Green public housing development into focus nationwide. She is the national spokesperson for the museum and was the mistress of ceremonies for the event. Stanis’ background includes a past of actually living in the Brownsville Housing Development in Brooklyn, N.Y.

CHA tenant leader Francine Washington (right) is joined with actress Bern Nadette Stanis, also known as "Thelma" on the "Good Times" television sitcom, and Keith McGee, director of the National Public Housing Museum, after receiving an award from the museum during their "An Afternoon of Good Times" event at the Chicago Cultural Center on April 10, 2011. Photo by Jacqueline Thompson

As a part of the afternoon’s theme honoring former residents through the “Telling Our Stories” Award, she shared with the audience the important message from her father that gave her the confidence to grow naturally, by understanding that, “What’s around you does not have to be in you.” The sound inspiration coming from within her home life gave her strength and courage “to do better than what ‘they’ said my future could only be. Thank you.”

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Where are CHA’s Residents?

by Mary C. Piemonte 

On April 14, Chicago Housing Authority CEO Lewis Jordan announced the results of an “exhaustive tracking process and data analysis” that looked at where its former residents are and how they are doing.

In releasing the information, Jordan said he was aiming to correct misimpressions of agency’s progress on its 12-year-old Plan for Transformation.

Chicago Housing Authority CEO Lewis Jordan talking to reporters about his knowledge of where relocated tenants are, during his press conference resident relocations under the Plan for Transformation, at CHA downtown headquarters on April 14, 2011. Photo by Mary C. Johns

“There’s a myth out there that we don’t know where our families are,” Jordan said. “We do know where these families are.”

When the CHA’s Plan for Transformation was launched in 1999, the agency pledged to demolish its high-rises, re-build mixed-income communities where the developments once stood, and allow former residents to move back. To ensure former tenants could return, CHA also pledged to keep track of them. There were approximately 25,000 residents in the family developments, scattered site housing, and senior buildings when the Plan for Transformation began, according to the CHA.

But if Jordan’s press conference was intended to dispel the notion that CHA doesn’t know where its former families are, his own numbers didn’t quite back him up. On page 3 of CHA’ report, it states that “(2,202) have not responded to CHA outreach and thus their location is unknown.”

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Cabrini-Green Residents Say Goodbye

by Quintana Woodridge 

Young people in the Cabrini Connections Marching Band. Photo by Quintana Woodridge

Demolition started today, March 30, 2011 on the last high-rise building standing in the Cabrini-Green public housing development.

Former residents gathered to say their goodbyes to the last visual proof that life and memories were created on the grounds of the building at 1230 N. Burling Ave. Former and present residents gathered in the vacant lot adjacent to the building sharing memories and their thoughts on the art project that was created to commemorate the high-rises – LED lights were placed in the Burling building’s 134 apartments by Jan Tichy, a professor at the Art Institute of Chicago. Many of those gathered in front of the building talked about the proposed Target Store that may be built on the property where the building currently stands.

There were various views on the store potentially replacing the high-rise. Reginald Grant, a former resident of Cabrini-Green who founded the mentoring organization 100 Men Standing, came back to guide young men and women in the Near North community.

“I see the lights blinking,” Grant said. “It’s a good change from the lights we use to see. It was thunder behind the lights we used to see blinking.”

He went on to say that the building’s demolition is progress. “It’s a lot of sad memories over here and sometimes people want to forget those memories. I could never forget the community because the community is the people,” Grant said.

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CHA Board Meeting Crashed with Concerns

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Tenants and their advocates from the historic Julia C. Lathrop Homes, along with residents of the Cabrini-Green Rowhouses and some ex-offenders demanding better hiring practices from contractors, crashed the Chicago Housing Authority’s public board meeting March 15at the Seward Park Fieldhouse, 900 N. Hudson Ave.

In the jam-packed gym, the tenants and their advocates stood along the walls holding signs and shouting slogans against the CHA’s plans to demolish the Lathrop Homes public housing site. Other protestors aligned themselves on the opposite side of the room with video equipment to tape the meeting.

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Cabrini Rowhouses Update

by Mary C. Piemonte 

The Chicago Housing Authority said last month they have not made a final decision about the fate of 300 public housing row houses at the Cabrini Green public housing complex.

A police patrol car strolls past many vacant row-houses, located on Cambridge Street, at the Cabrini-Green public housing complex in June 2010. The row-houses were still awaiting the Chicago Housing Authority's decision to continue to rehabilitate them or not. Photo by Mary C. Johns

“There currently aren’t any definite plans for the remaining, non-rehabbed row houses. At this time, there is a working group in place to analyze and make a recommendation on the future of the remaining row houses,” states an e-mail from CHA spokesperson Matt Aguillar.

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Cabrini rowhouses’ fate in jeopardy

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Tjuanne Pitchford, 36, one of the last of the two remaining families at the historical Cabrini–Green public housing site, packed his and his brother’s belongings and moved out of the last high rise building on December 7, 2010.

He is temporarily moving into the Francis Cabrini Rowhouses nearby, waiting for his Section 8 Housing Voucher to come through.

Cabrini-Green resident, Tjuanne Pitchford, one of the two last families living at the 1230 N. Burling St. CHA high-rise building, was in the process of moving out to temporarily live in the Cabrini Rowhouses on December 7, 2010. Photo by Mary C. Johns

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A Third Generation’s Take on Relocation from Last Cabrini Building

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Drawing closer to the end of an era, only one occupied high-rise building remains at the former Cabrini-Green public housing complex, located on the North Side of the city.

This past September, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) closed the last of the two Cabrini mid-rises, known as the Cabrini Extensions, and relocated all the remaining families.

CHA has promised that the departing families can have an option to return once the property is redeveloped under their massive Transformation Plan.

Few people remained in this last standing Chicago Housing Authority Cabrini-Green building at 1230 N. Burling St., on November 5, 2010. Photo by Mary C. Johns

That same month, the 39 families living at the remaining 1230 N. Burling Street high-building—which, at its peak, held 134 families­­— had received their notices of CHA’s intention to close the high-rise as the end of Cabrini-Green draws closer.

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Residents Blame CHA for School Closures

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Attendance is low in our community because redevelopment is slow,” declared William Fleming, a resident of the Cabrini-Green pubic housing complex, to members of the Chicago Board of Education on Feb. 25. Fleming’s daughter attends Schiller Elementary School, 640 W. Scott St. Next school year, Schiller will be consolidated because of low enrollment. It will cease to exist and students will be re-enrolled into Jenner Elementary, 1119 N. Cleveland Ave.

William Fleming, a resident fo the Cabrini-Green public housing complex, testifying at the Chicago Board of Education hearings on school closures in February 2009. Fleming expressed concerns about the possibility of overcrowding that could result from relocating Schiller Elementary School students into a nearby school.
Photo by Mary C. Johns

Fleming was among many voices addressing school officials over the changes to the school system. He and other public housing residents blamed the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) Plan for Transformation for the closings, turnarounds, consolidations and phase outs of 16 public schools in predominantly African American and Latino low-income neighborhoods. “In Cabrini-Green, we have a right to return, a federal right to return,” Fleming said. “Over 600 [public housing] units will be built within the next 18 months with the minimal bedroom size being three for Chicago school children between K and eighth [grade],” he added.
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