Ickes: Back To Square One

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When and wherever we residents of Harold L. Ickes Homes start to realize any improvements, it takes just a little time to figure out that soon and very soon you’re back at square one.

Adding to the list of many good and very visible new developments that began to take place after the first of the year is the front entry doorway. From open steel gates and slit windowed doors, residents now have full doors and glass bricks to beautify and protect from Chicago’s cold harsh winds that circulated through the first floor lobby as one waited for the elevator.

Even though it is a slow process, when all of the buildings receive the new look, the residents can feel better treated. The new doorways come on the heels of newly painted hallways, stairwells and floor lobbies and much-needed new lighting fixtures in the stairwells, hallways and lobby area.

Nevertheless, back to square one seems to be the never-ending story. As welcome and beneficial all the new trappings are, we still have the very unwelcome presence of the vandal. The “I don’t care” acts of vandalism range from fresh graffiti to broken glass bricks in the newly constructed front door wall.

Brand new door handles of brand new doors are broken off even before the whole development can be outfitted with the new building fronts. The new door stops at the top of the doors were broken and hanging loose two days after installment. Where is the caring?

Square one is full of the description of what wasn’t expected to happen as a result of improvement. Yes, our hallways and stairways and lobbies are very well lit, but it also makes it easier and less threatening to strangers to pace up and down the stairwells and congregate in well-lit floor lobbies, all day and half the night.

Where do we go from here? What is our security? Who knows? The city police cruise throughout the area but to them, we all look alike. Legal and law-abiding residents have been stopped, searched and humiliated. One resident who prefers to be anonymous was stopped upon entry to the rear door leading from the back area where he had parked his car, and was searched and then allowed to pass on.

RJ: “Was it a plain-clothed officer?”

Anonymous Resident: “I don’t know”

RJ: “Didn’t they show any identification?”

Anon.: “No.”

RJ: “Why did you let them search you?”

Anon.: “I dared not let them search me. I had no money and of course no contraband so they let me go. I am an old man. What could I do? It was late night and all.”

So our “security” is of the essence and note of a concrete thing. Back to square one.

While seated at a monthly LAC meeting, we residents in attendance were encouraged to hear Deborah Mallory, head of our new management team, outline plans to upgrade services for the residents by making plans to connect with a major medical center to establish an on-site clinic within Ickes.

Mallory also told us that she was seeking reasons why the laundry rooms were not available and how and where they could be made to function. Mallory made it clear the laundry issue was a priority. The residents were gratified that something was in the work for the issue of laundry room access.

Many residents feel the absence of regular town meetings. We rarely know when something new is going to be done to the buildings. We have no guidelines for reacting to so many strangers in the area. Squatters still inhabit so-called vacant apartments and often allow their personal business to overflow into the hallways. There is no way for residents to know whether or not families who move into vacant apartments are legal or not. Can you still welcome your new neighbor? Management has not addressed these issues. In the fall of 1999, we were unceremoniously lumped from spacious parking close to home and left to figure out how to park within the laws of the city. Once you find a spot that is safe, close to your building, it rains. When you go to your car in the morning, you either wade in the water or trudge in the mud. This issue is unaddressed.

The new school, the Cermak Teachers Teaching Academy, is going up right on schedule. The foundation, the steel beams, part of the three-story area is concrete and bricked in. The skyline has changed forever. This reporter still has concerns about the student population that will occupy the class in this grand building. Are the children of the families that were displaced from their old school truly going to attend classes here? Are the parents of these children being kept abreast of the progress being made on the completion of this school? Do they have a dateline to apply and transfer in?

I wish I knew the answers to these questions so I could feel secure about the promise made.

Time will tell.

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