CHA Goes on the Defensive about Child’s Death


The Chicago Housing Authority recently went on the defensive after a toddler was killed in the Cabrini-Green row houses in June.

Stuffed animals mark the spot where 3-year-old Curtis Cooper’s body was found after being crushed to death by a rod-iron gate at the CHA Cabrini-Green Rowhouses on June 27, 2008.
Photo by Mary C. Johns

The housing authority reacted to media reports stating that the agency was warned by federal housing inspectors about the potential threat of physical harm posed by some rod iron gates and fencing at the North Side public housing development.

On June 27, 2008, 3-year-old Curtis Cooper was crushed to death by a 7-foot tall rod-iron gate while he was playing nearby.

At the time of his untimely death, talk was that kids had been playing on the leaning gate which made it come off its “rotten” hinges. But relatives and other residents living at the public housing complex told reporters that the gate eventually fell off on its own.

While at the scene of the incident on July 10, an unidentified man who spoke to Residents’ Journal about the incident said the gate was already unstable and leaning off its hinges. He faulted the private management company for the young boy’s death.

He said their failure to do something about that gate created “an accident waiting to happen.”

“They didn’t inspect nothing,” the elderly man said angrily.

“And nobody was playing on that gate. That gate just fell on the little boy when he was playing and riding his tricycle,” he added.

On July 8, CHA suspended the management contract of Urban Property Advisors (UPA), the private management firm at the Cabrini-Green Rowhouses for the past two years, until the completion of an investigation into Cooper’s death.

UPA is run by Cullen J. Davis, a licensed attorney and real estate broker and the son of Allison Davis, a highly influential city developer.

For the present, the Cabrini-Green Rowhouses will be managed by H.J. Russell & Company, which currently manages the other areas of the 60-yr-old Cabrini-Green complex as well as other CHA properties.

In an Aug. 22 press release, the CHA stated that an earlier report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development identified metal gates and fencing at the Cabrini Rowhouses as being “damaged/failing/leaning” and graded the condition as a “Level 3.”

CHA appeared to downplay the seriousness of the situation when they stated in the same press release that areas of the fences and gates at the site were only “in need of repair,” which didn’t necessarily mean an emergency situation.

“While this designation is regarded as ‘in need of repair,’ the report clearly states that the damaged gates are considered ‘Non-Life Threatening.’ Therefore, any conclusion that HUD’s designation of ‘Level 3’ indicates the highest level of emergency would be inaccurate and misleading,” the CHA stated.

“Because the incident is the subject of litigation,” the CHA stated that they were not “at liberty to discuss specific details regarding the inspection reports, nor discuss CHA/property management firm responses to those reports.”

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