CHA Development News


Harold Ickes News

Harold Ickes is an eternally active mosaic of changing conditions. For the past nine months, we longtime residents have shared stairwells, hallways, by-ways and parking (already scarce) with strangers who look at you with surprise as they continue to claim their place in what you thought was your space.

Where the rent paying residents have no say so as to who frequents the common areas, neither do they have the authority to stop the heavy human traffic in the stairwells where our small children and seniors have to go up and down. The elevators in some buildings stop on a floor, the doors opens a peak, slams shut and the elevator continues on its way, leaving one to get off above or below their floor with or without heavy bags or other packages. Where is management?

Another standard question is, “What are they going to do with Ickes,” besides relocate people who bring to the area different moves and attitudes. Not bad attitudes, just different, so it takes time to develop the neighborliness one has been accustomed to.

The police continued to cross the area, sometimes stopping long time residents and questioning them extensively. It’s not rare, though, to see a stranger being stopped and questioned, especially if he is of another ethnic background. All different nationalities of people come into Ickes regularly, meeting at the same time each day. During the school year, even some of the children can recognize those who leave via the “el” until the next day.

The children know about the excessive human traffic but they’re learning from the powers that be that it’s alright. But it’s not. Where is the outcry from the people? Where is the power of the people?

New Construction
While life goes on as usual within the Ickes boundaries, progress has been made to upgrade and revitalize a huge vacant space across South State Street.

One organization in particular has already held a stunning ground breaking ceremony, complete with a delicious continental buffet and souvenir hard hat. The company is “Link Unlimited,” and they will build a headquarters for it on the site. Link Unlimited is a 39-year-old scholarship and mentoring organization serving economically disadvantaged African American high school youth of Chicago.

After looking in their 2004 Annual Report and seeing the pictures of some of the students who have been served by their organization, I realized that they all attended Catholic or private high schools. So I called Jeryl Levin, who, when she returned my call, answered all my questions with such a positive attitude, I feel certain they will truly be an asset to the community.

Residents’ Journal – How will you explain to the youth who live across from your new facility who mainly attend public high school, yet are economically and (culturally) or ethnically qualified, that your organization cannot service them.

Jeryl Levin – Not true. We serve any child who would be interested in going to a private high school and through college but you have to not be able to afford to go. Any 8th grade student with B or better grades can be apply for our services.

R.J. – Just how will your presence in the community help to revitalize it and how will the residents living closest to the headquarters be able to participate in what you do?

J.L. – I think there are some plans to put up some tutoring programs. However, they are not fully established yet.

R.J. – Will there be an opportunity for employment for any of the residents of Harold Ickes?

J.L. – Well, we are really small-staffed – about seven people – and we are all specialists at what we do. Of course, we’re always looking for volunteers.

R.J .- Being a small non profit group, how long have you had permission to use public property for private endeavors?

J.L. – It took about 3 to 4 years to make application through the city council and we had to be an asset to the community.

R.J. – Tell me something about your parent involvement.

J.L. – Throughout the whole process, the parents have to be closely involved or the students will get fined.

I sincerely hope that the parents here in Ickes will get involved in their children’s grade school education so that they can qualify for the extraordinary opportunity the Link Unlimited organization brings to this community.

Ickes Hot Summer Activity
Another one of the most exciting times for children in the Ickes in summer is the Annual Low End Productions Basketball League which has four divisions. The newest one, being the best all-around division, is named the Popcorn League.

This group is newly formed and was spawned from the deletion of another league of older individuals who behaved in an unacceptable fashion by ending games in some sort of dispute that soured the sportsmanship and friendships at each game and divided the spectators into uneasy sides.

The age range of the Popcorn league is 8 and under. It is coed and a more enjoyable and exciting game has never been played. Girls playing just as fast as boys, just as athletic, twisting, turning and just as skilled at “getting the basket.” Makes you feel proud.

The league also features, father and child, meaning sons or daughters can play together. Recently, on the Popcorn League day for play, a girl made the winning basket for her team. Hooray!

The Low End Productions managers, Aaron Lefty Boyd and Monty Thomas, have produced these good times for the past 10 years. The games ran for six full weeks. The culmination games and ceremonies were on August 27.

Part of this hot ticket item is the participation of the male parent in more than one way. Two fathers are coaches, while others are players. They are the best kind of role model for the community of children.

Another Hot Ticket Item
The annual Sunday Night Steppers Set in the spring and summer are a cultural bonus for the adults who would partake of the music and dancing in our still well kept basketball pre-school play area. A long time resident known as Old School D.J. Roy still spins oldies and the latest in R & B to the delight of comers. Many former residents of Ickes and residents of some other developments come to enjoy. No you don’t have to be a resident and yes, it’s open to the peaceful public.

With the success of the steppers sets, special events are held on some nights where the steppers wear certain clothing and adhere to a common theme. One evening’s All White Night was incredibly peaceful. It was in the air. The word had gotten out to former residents who came back in groups to experience this new steppers groove. It became an actual reunion of families and friends. Between 175 and 200 steppers filled the outdoor basketball arena with white outfits to match Hollywood’s red carpet on Oscar Night.

Things got even better when the August special set was dressing for the ’70s. It was a true blast! Platforms, wigs, minis, huge naturals and funky phrases were the life of the evening.

On another evening, the focus was on our troops still fighting in Iraq. Everyone wore service camouflage gear. We all signed and sent letters to the service men to show our patriotism and care for their circumstances. It was a joint effort with the Local Advisory Council and President Gloria Williams. It is a good cause. And was it ever. At least 1,000 people filled the basketball arena and playground dressed to the nines in armed services fatigue outfits. Every style, every color, all sizes and all ages came ready to celebrate the U.S. armed forces men and women.

A huge American flag spanned an available wall to make a background for pictures to be sent to the service personal or take home. Preprinted greetings were signed to send to the war zone.

God bless our service men and women.

Altgeld Gardens News
Generational residents are caught in the middle of tradition, crack down on tradition, rumors of theft of traditional family washer and dryer machines, CHA plans for transformation, LAC apathy, CHA Board of Commissioners’ decisions and the final call for “no more washer-dryer machines in individual homes.” All for an extended few inches of kitchen side board that takes up the space where washers and dryers used to fit comfortably.

Plans for the “transformation” of Chicago Housing Authority’s Altgeld Gardens sent some families into a desperate scramble to keep their indoor washer and dryer systems hooked up and continue the routine of regular washing and drying without extra cost delays and traveling a distance which for some may be an additional expense.

Cheryl Johnson, Executive Director of People for Community Recovery, puts it plainly: “I grew up with a washer and dryer in my kitchen. I don’t even know how to go to a laundrymat.”

If you multiply this serious doubt of ability to do a simple chore in the future by 800 to 900 residents who may still have their washer-dryer hook ups, you have an army of unhappy residents. The resistance to this particular change seems respectable, according to Johnson, when I asked her:

R.J. – About how many years have washer-dryer hookups been a part of all households?

Cheryl Johnson – About 30 to 40 years.

R.J. – By having this convenience for those many years, have there been problems with flooding and structural damage from water?

C.J. – No, not in Altgeld Gardens;however, over in another section of housing called Murray [Homes], which was built 10 years after Altgeld, some residents had to put their hoses out of windows, whereas in Altgeld, all these years, you could get a work order to have holes put in the walls for dryer exhaust.

R.J. – What is the date of your first knowledge of plans to eliminate unit washer-dryer hook-ups?

C.J. – In December of 2004. There were no questions asked about if we wanted to keep the [hook-ups].

I wanted to clear up the rumor about East Lake Management, the management company for Altgeld-Murray, taking washer-dryer machines that were left by families, storing them, only to sell off later. So I called East Lake management and spoke to Gertie Smith.

R.J. – Can you tell me if it is true that East Lake Management is taking the washer and dryers from apartments vacated for rehabilitation, declaring them abandoned and selling them?

Gertie Smith – No. It is not true. We here at East Lake only manage the development and have not removed to sell any appliances. I refute this statement. We have nothing to do with that part of the redevelopment process; only CHA does. You should talk to Jacky Malone who is in change of the whole operator.

This reporter has tried five times to get to talk to Malone. I have left messages. To no avail. So the real news may have to come out in the ‘wash’ at a later date.

To make sure I had enough information from the right sources, I phoned the CHA communications department and spoke to Derek Hill. Hill, like Williams, expressed disinterest in the subject. He said, “It is an ‘old’ issue.”

R.J. – Well, what do you mean by that? The residents are still seriously concerned about the situation.

Derek Hill – first of all…, the washer-dryers were used in the apartments illegally. No one really knows how it got started or why it was allowed to continue. CHA has a budget to work with for all of the developments that are to be rehabilitated or rebuilt. It would cost $7 million to $9 million more than the budget to provide hookups for washer-dryers in Altgeld Gardens.

R.J. – What is the planned solution for the individual families.

D.H. – The plan is to build state-of-the-art facilities with new equipment replaced every 4-5 years, in multiple locations in close proximity to all housing blocks. This way the budget will remain stable and the need will be filled.

Only time will tell the final chapter on the quality of life for the family wash cycle in the Altgeld-Murray development. Hopefully, the new laundry facilities will “wash” away the stress of change and clear the way for more harmonic relationships between residents and the institutional powers that be.

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