Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Caught In The Crossfire

By Dimitrios Kalantzis, photo by Frank Pinc
Contributing Reporter, News-Star

The room is uncomfortably warm, almost humid, and two bunk beds and a mattress on the floor take up most of it. As they talk about losing their apartment and becoming homeless, Anthony Hernandez, 25, and his wife, Judy Espinosa, 27, walk around their temporary home in Uptown, a 10-by-13-foot room in the Sylvia Center, picking up their four children's errant toys and clothing.

On the dresser, overflowing with the things Hernandez couldn't afford to put into storage, a television plays on mute for 3-year-old Anthony Gabriel, who occasionally wanders out of the room and into the hallway, only to be hauled back in by his mom.

Two blocks away, on Broadway Street and Sunnyside Avenue, a major housing development is underway, which will offer more than 80 rental units below market rates for families like the Hernandez'. Holsten Development Corporation broke ground last month on the Wilson Yard site, although criticism of the years-old project continues, with one local group threatening litigation against the city in an effort to stop the project altogether. Continue Reading


  1. Does anyone have data/link to a breakdown of the following:

    1. Where low-income/concentrations of low-income housing are located in the city?
    2. Crime stats-for those areas?

    I think someone has stated before that the petitions for residency in the WY buildings are going to be arranged so that tenants from the other city projects will have first dibs. If that is true, this article completely misses the fact that this family didn't have a chance a WY to begin with.

    I don't think this can be fixed now. Not sure the lawsuit can do anything at this point now that they've broken ground.

  2. The next time a reporter tries to pick a sympathetic family, work a little harder.

    Both parents waste money on cigarettes, yet its my job to cough up money for their rent? Seriously? Is there no accountability in this country? And how bout they spend some of that cigarette money on some condoms. They've got some sweet Irish triplets there.

  3. *For the buyers, Pride said, "apartments were an investment. For us, they were homes."*

    Not to sound like a jerk, but
    This is the dumbest, most uneducated statement I ever heard.

    Ugh. I love beating liberals and tree huggers with dead baby seal!!!!!

    This is nothing but a whiny article making it look like people who own property are trying to pick on the poor.

    Maybe the article should have dug into what the real issues are and not pit the haves v. the have nots.

    Sorry, I know I sound like a jerk, but this type of "journalism" really ticks me off.

  4. Also, there are easily 178 units in Uptown that are in some state of foreclosure that the government could buy and GIVE to people if they want. It would be 10 times cheaper and would scatter the poverty a little.

  5. Just to add to my last posts, I also can't stand far right 'journalism' either. They are both psycho and agenda driven.

  6. I'm truly sorry they lost their home, but I'm sure if I did I wouldn't get "my choice" of neighborhoods to live in. Sure, I'd like to stay in Chicago but realistically I'd have to move out of the city and find somewhere cheaper to live.

    I don't get how some people think they are "indigenous" to Uptown. Get real - no one is.

  7. Peter Holsten must be working for free these days. Ditto for Walsh Construction. Target Corporation? Them too.

    Surely they are doing this right now.

    WindyCityEagle: How do you know the couple smokes?

  8. It is in the article. They exchange smoke breaks.

  9. Wow this is the best article I have ever read on the dangers of irresponsible breading. I hope all you kids out there are paying close attention.

    4 kids at 25??? Way to go Anthony!

    "In a "good week," Hernandez said he might earn $400 painting houses"

    So let me get this sraight, you make $400 dollars in a good week yet 15 months ago you felt it right to get your wife pregnate for the third time?

    Memo to Dimitrios Kalantzis: Times are tough for all right now. Life is not fair. Go pick on a neighborhood that doesn't share it's load.

  10. "irresponsible breading"

    That makes me hungry..... ;-)I am hoping to do a lot of irresponsible breading tomorrow when making Turkey.)

    What does that mean, on a good week?

    Like if he can get the work? Is he semi-unemployed? Did he get fired? This family is surely getting massive public aid in addittion to his $400.00 per week.

    I am not going to comment on the kids other to say you can't blame them.

    This family has free room and board, free food, free health care. Not a bad gig.

    The average painter in Chicago makes 32,000.00 per year. My friend is a painter and seems to do just fine.

  11. The Hernandez family is another example of the education and service gap in our country. Alot of people end up with kids due to not having adequate family planning skills and access to birth control. The knowledge many of us take for granted (and often think of as common sense) isn't as prevalent as we think it is. Remember, this is a country where nearly 50% of young Americans can't find NY on a map. Although many blame others for being lazy and ignorant, ignorance spans race, education, and income. BTW, you could use this same argument for those who fail to acknowledge to concentrated public housing has historically never worked.

  12. Did I mention free education for the kids?

  13. Larry Pride is mentioned in this story and is a long-time Shiller and Mark Kaplan housing activist associate. He even participated way back in the early 1990’s in getting Shiller’s political D-2 signatures and in the past 7 years in demonstrating against Wilson Yard as a low income housing advocate.

    Funny this guy just can’t be budged into a job and out of subsidized housing despite 15-25 years of preferential housing and benefit treatment by our alderman.

    Here is a quote of Larry's from a 2001 Inside Online article:
    “Low-income housing advocates at the march were disturbed by the flyers, which they said seemed to scapegoat the poor. A few even dismissed crime in the area as relatively inconsequential. The real problem, said Uptown low-income housing resident and advocate Larry Pride, is the “gentrifiers”—the developers building new condominiums and the upscale, mostly white buyers.”

    Read the whole article here.

  14. "Larry Pride is mentioned in this story and is a long-time Shiller and Mark Kaplan housing activist associate."

    I could have sworn he was either a fireman or a teacher. In addition to saying that Wilson Yard was for teachers and firemen, Ald. Shiller also said this was not a low income development. What part of "staying at the Sylvia Center" doesn't Shiller understand?

  15. Personal responsibility, what that is?

  16. Larry Pride coincidentally is quoted for this story. This is real?

    How does Larry Pride get quoted in this story? Is this all just a PR lackey(Marilyn Katz) orchestrating the news?

    Does a reporter just wander over to Eastwood Tower and ask around for sources?

  17. The BP station was advertising a special of $7.40 a pack. Even if each smokes just a pack a day that's $14-15 a day.

    "Not having adequate family planning skills" So we all have to pay the bills for stupidity? Give me a break!!

  18. Freddie you asked
    Does anyone have data/link to a breakdown of the following:
    1. Where low-income/concentrations of low-income housing are located in the city?
    2. Crime stats-for those areas?

    Some of this was covered on this blog under
    Violence and Where it Happens in Chicago. May 25, 2008

  19. This is an ideal family to be served by the Wilson Yard project. I hope they have an opportunity to live there.

  20. Sean,
    From what I've read, their chances won't be good. I guess we'll see in a couple of years.

  21. Sean,

    So you agree that it is a good thing to concentrate poverty in one area?

    So you think it is okay for taxpayers like me and you to pay over $350,000.00 per unit of new construction when brand new empty construction is in foreclosure all over Uptown? 2br 2ba beautiful condos are available that have never been lived in that can be bought for $250,000.00. Nice 1br 1ba for $85,000.00?

    Alderman Shiller's plan makes no sense. I would support her 100% if she had a viable plan to provide housing to those in need. I might even advocate GIVING these foreclosures to these people under the right circumstances. It would not only help these people but clear out housing inventory that already exists. Anybody that advocates building more housing in this market is one of the following:

    1) Insane,
    2) Doesn't care,
    3) Is uneducated and or out of touch with reality
    4) Corrupt.

    Additionaly, if the government bought these Foreclosures or REOs in bulk, there would be even a bigger discount on the housing. If she did that then that would be great, and this family would have a nicer place than me, it would help the economy, and solve affordable housing issues. We also would not have a concetration of poverty on one corner.

    Sean, here is a little life advice. Don't take what is spoon fed to you. Shiller has you right where she wants you.

    I know you won't respond, because you have no position or idea what you are talking about.

    I don't mean to sound like a jerk, but think about solutions to problems on your own.

    Sorry about the type-os.

    Wilson Yard is a bad idea. There are better and cheaper ways to fix the problem. Don't believe the lies.

  22. But hey what the hell do I know, I am just an evil condo owner.

  23. "This is an ideal family to be served by the Wilson Yard project."

    Do you honestly think the Black P Stones are going to give up their turf (and it is their turf) to the "Hernandez" family?

    How well off will the "Hernandez" kids be walking through the Black P Stones stronghold on the way to Stockton School?

    This should be interesting.

  24. falco_esq ,

    Good idea about the foreclosures. Can you persuade the Uptown Chicago Commission, FIxWilsonYards, et. al to push that. There is an organization called NACA that provides assistance in buying a home and NOT going into foreclosure, but rather building good financial habits.

    All UCC has to do is host the meeting, and publicize...and NACA can do the more intensive part.



    Larry has had some serious health issues over the years (cue wild speculation/accusations). SO you might want to find out some more on that before you judge him.


    The Soul of Murray Humphries,

    As others have mentioned, Larry is a longtime Uptown activist. The News Start, having a long history of covering the neighborhood, has cultivated a list of community contacts. No doubt James Cappleman and other Uptown Chicago COmmission leaders are also on the top of that list.

  25. Sean,
    Everyone's ganging up on you (and what I think are good intentions), but I wanted to put what I believe is happening here. I'll preface this all by saying that I am renting, would love to own my own place someday so that I don't have to deal with a landlord. Anyway, here goes:

    WY, like Cabrini Green, starts off as well intentioned idea for the community. With the exception of a very, very, very small minority - everyone on this site agrees that the poor need a place to live. No one wants to force anyone out of anywhere.

    WY was initially proposed by the developer (Holsten) and the alderman (a strong sponsor) as a MIXED income building, with retail. Social studies show us that these types of developments are usually very successful - mixed meaning low to middle income types, with subsidies for whoever needs them.

    This has changed many times, with no explanation to the community. Having lived here for a while myself (8 years), the alderman is frequently absent/unavailable to talk to her constituents, and employs a rude staff to deal with those who question her actions.

    WY has gone from mixed to now all low income housing. Historically, proven over and over again, is that the concentration of low income housing is a breeding ground for crime and gang activity. A great book on gang culture ( Gang Leader for a Day gives a harrowing look at how the gangs recruit - the number one cause for a young person to join a gang or engage in gang activities is poverty. Low income housing, grouped together in mass amounts, means lots of gang activity. Per the links Judy posted, the correlation to the violence and drug dealing is clear. The more low income housing, the more crime and gang activity.

    The drug activity also leads to larger numbers of people who lose control of their lives and become addicts. Uptown has a large concentration of well meaning services who try to help, but as James has pointed out better in other posts, they often fail and the addicted stay addicted and homeless.

    Sean, ultimately what a majority of us want is a safe place to live, for ALL OF US. What we are protesting against is a FAILED MODEL that the alderman and the developer are shoving down our throats, using our own tax money to fund.

    So I ask you - is that hateful? Or is it people trying to change the way Chicago politicians do business? I think its the latter. I do see a lot of anger manifesting itself - call them evil condo owners or whatever - but they've staked a huge financial risk in buying a mortgage here. Those property taxes, which as a renter I don't have to worry about, pays for the schools, the police...and for WY.

    Ultimately, I want a mixed income housing unit at WY. I also want mixed income housing spread all over the city. We have a politician who has made a deal with the mayor to have a huge portion concentrated here. It will not work, if history repeats itself. Its that old saying...


    The above link will lead you to the Hernandez's new home.

    This is a foreclosure, an an example of the many available units that our tax money could pay for to give these people a home. Wow. I just saved the tax payers about $150,000! Falco for alderman! And hey, it would be mixed income and one more foreclosure off the market. If I put in another half hour of work I can give you 50 more. There is another 2br 1ba for $167,000.00 on Leland. Not as nice as this, but it beats the 10x13 room, and I will even throw in a free carton of smokes.

  27. So what do you think now Sean? Am I anti affordable housing? You are pretty quiet now.

  28. The Hernandez family doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of getting into Wilson Yard housing (even if, God forbid, it actually gets built).

    See here.

  29. Wow. Just, I guess I should not be surprised, but the venom being directed at this family is pretty boggling. I understand if people still don't agree with the housing, but I see no need to rip these people apart. There clearly were some life choices made that I and some of you may not have made, but to me that's not the issue. They are being presented as a working poor family who might benefit from the housing being constructed at WY--low wage workers with families who just want a safe place to live.

    Falco Esq, you said: "So you think it is okay for taxpayers like me and you to pay over $350,000.00 per unit of new construction when brand new empty construction is in foreclosure all over Uptown? 2br 2ba beautiful condos are available that have never been lived in that can be bought for $250,000.00. Nice 1br 1ba for $85,000.00?"

    I'm not trying to be snarky, Falco, but I am curious: would that not still be subsidized housing? You're proposing that the government purchase condos built by private developers who over speculated and then give them to poor people. What about the attendant property tax and assessment issues? WHo would pick up the tab for that? Again, not trying to be sarcastic--in theory that sounds intriguing, but wouldn't such a plan create other issues? How about condo owners in these undersold developments who resent the poor being "given" expensive housing? And if there are concentrated areas of foreclosures and undersold developments--including in Uptown--wouldn't that once again raise the "concentration of poverty" spectre that is perpetually echoed on this board? Plus, I am not certain the government is in a position to do this sort of massive real estate transaction plan. It's not recyclable--meaning, the property now belongs to that family whereas with the apartments, families can live and move on if they choose when the housing is no longer needed. Or in your proposal, would these properties remain owned by the government and they waive property taxes? But they can't force a waiver of private assessments, which means someone still has to pick up those cost (which I'm sure vary depending on the condo development). Just playing around with your idea, those are the kinds of questions that pop into my head, leading me to think that the kind of plan that you propose would create a lot more issues and difficulty in the long run even if in the short run it appears cheaper.

    Also, once the economy is stronger, hopefully, if your plan were pursued, those condos and homes that could have been purchased by market rate consumers are now out of play and off the market--and then you have to consider, do the developers and banks want to take that risk?

  30. falco_esq: Terrific idea. Let me take it one step further because the problem with government is always going to be that they far to idealistic with generosity and far to unrealistic with regard to long term fiscal matters.

    These available units aren't purchased by the city. They're purchased by the part of the city citizenry that wishes to contribute a portion of their own personal wealth into a trust. The trust then purchases actual units in mixed income developments. The trust establishes its own commission to manage the units, screen applicants, and collect whatever rents they can from the tenants.

    Advocates for to assist people in poverty usually have great intentions, but unreal expectations. The public will never support the concentration of the elderly in one area, a concentration of the working poor in one area, and a concentration of crime in one area if their tax dollars are fostering these trends. The public knows the concentration of these ideals is poor planning and recipe for disruption in the trust between the public and private sector that will bleed the private sector dry. They inevitably revolt and seek tax shelter wherever they can find it. For millions of former Chicagoans, that tax shelter is the collar counties and they are stocked full of efficient, low tax, well run, peaceful governments.

    We can have that in Chicago. It has to start with more market solutions and less government solutions.

  31. The idea that condo buildings would have a foreclosed unit become a subsidized unit wouldn't work in my building. We don't allow rentals and for good reason.

    Neighborlady, is it really making the best use of tax dollars to spend close to a half million dollars for one subsidized unit? My 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo unit couldn't fetch $320,000. Something is a little off here, don't ya think?

    Is the reporter saying that it's not enough for Uptown to have 18% of its housing stock as subsidized? I guess the thing I never understood is why should the threshold for the percentage of subsidized units in Uptown be 4 times higher than other neighborhoods? What is it about Uptown that it's required to help the disproportionate of Chicago's poor? The reporter, Helen, O.N.E., the non-Catholic Workers, and COURAJ have all elected Uptown to take this on. Who gave them this authority to go beyond what the rest of the city is doing?

  32. Hmm, he's a painter. Construction work is getting scarce. I used to be a carpenter 20 years ago. Even though the money was good and work was plentiful at the time, I left for other pastures. I saw the influx of immigrant polish and mexican workers (qute a few of them illegal.)start to dilute the wage base. Twenty years later with the exception of high end work, and whats left of union work (mostly bigger commercial projects),you won't find too many crews of decently paid english speaking workers. This is a travesty, because as the wages dilluted, the cost of the finished product kept climbing. Blame greedy developers and greedy politicians. The buildout of housing that should have taken several decades to slowly roll out, and train a new generation of citizens as craftsmen was steamrolled out over several years with an army of cheap immigrant help who are now here and soon to add to the the unemployed and our taxes as we will have to support them via public aid. Oh and please for those who talk about what great craftsmen these polish (I'm not being racist here, I am second generation polish/german)workers are, haha. So many of you who have bought these rehabbed or new buildings are going to find out that the quality is subpar. I cringe when I see a lot of this stuff.

  33. neighborlady,

    I am not against subsidized housing.

    You raise questions that can be answered, but not here. (Too complex)

    Wilson Yard is just a bad idea.