The voices of the displaced were heard throughout Logan Square on Saturday as demonstrators shouted and chanted over a bed of drums and shakers, calling on Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) to stop the gentrification of the neighborhood.
Local advocacy groups Somos Logan Square, Centro Autonomo and Grassroots Illinois Action came together for an action titled, “Our Neighborhood is Not for Sale.”
The march started outside Moreno’s office, located at 2740 W. North Ave., and eventually moved on to the nearby Twin Towers development.
Antonio Gutierrez, development coordinator of Centro Autonomo’s housing project, says such actions are necessary because the alderman refuses to establish a dialogue with advocacy groups.
“We have tried to set up meetings, as we saw today [when] we went to his office,” said Gutierrez. “They just looked out, locked the door. They didn’t invite us in. That’s what we’re seeing with Joe Moreno, a closed-door policy.”
According to Centro Autonomo, over 19,000 Latino families have been displaced in Logan Square over the past decade due to gentrification, with the Albany Park and Humboldt Park neighborhoods following their lead.
First ward resident, Alicia Avila, says gentrification has affected the ethnic landscape of her neighborhood.
“When I moved into the neighborhood about eight years ago, it was the beginning of gentrification,” said Avila. “I noticed a lot of my neighbors used to be Latino. There was some African Americans. As the years went by, I noticed they were leaving. It bothers me because I’m no longer in a mixed neighborhood.”
Avila says that illegal immigrants are often the easiest targets for developers and landlords to displace.
“I know a couple that are illegal and are afraid to be speak up about their rent [being raised] because they fear their immigration status will be held against them,” said Avila. “They just move even though they want to stay. A lot of times the language barrier will keep people quiet.”
After leaving the alderman’s office, the protesters moved on to the much-maligned Twin Towers development at 2923 N. Milwaukee Ave., accompanied by a police escort.
Outside the development, Sally Hamann, a Logan Square resident and Somos Logan Square affiliate, told Progress Illinois what she thinks of the Twin Towers project.
“I have to look at these horrible ugly buildings that the community did not want,” said Hamann. “We had two community meetings about these buildings, and the community was overwhelmingly opposed to them. The alderman went ahead and built them anyway.”
Just last month, activists demonstrated outside the Twin Towers development, even blocking traffic, to press the developers into entering a community benefits agreement that would require at least 30 percent of the units in the luxury community to be affordable. Housing activists also held a rally recently to shed light on the displacement of families who previously lived in the Chicago Housing Authority’s Lathrop Homes. The activists questioned a plan that would convert the Logan Square/Bucktown-area space into a mixed-use development that will feature some public housing units, but will lead to a net loss of 525 subsidized units.
The affordable housing advocates say Logan Square residents are often given just one month’s notice when asked to vacate their living space, even if they have lived there for many years.
“On my block, there was a beautiful old Victorian house,” said Hamann. “My neighbor Carmen had lived there for over 35 years and got a one-month eviction notice. The house was torn down, all the flowers and trees were torn out of the side yard, and two new single family homes were put up, selling for almost a million dollars.”
Hamann now fears for her own home and says no property is safe from developers.
“Anybody who dies or loses a job is in danger of having their house sold out from under them and ending in the hands of a developer,” said Hamann. “People who live there are going to be forced out with one-month eviction notices. It’s disgusting.”
Moreno recently announced plans for a LGBT-friendly affordable housing development, but Gutierrez of Centro Autonomo finds the timing of the announcement suspicious.
“I think that Joe Moreno should have let us know more about that,” said Gutierrez. “He just announced this building out of nowhere on Thursday, in kind of a response to the march we were planning. There is a lot of vague information out there.”
One of Gutierrez’s main concerns is what constitutes “affordable.” For housing to be truly affordable, Gutierrez says, it needs to be 30 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), which he estimates is $25,000 a year in Logan Square.
“[They are] saying [the new development] is 100 percent affordable and yes, that’s great,” said Gutierrez. “We support more projects like that in Logan Square, but we’re still not sure about the AMI. Is it going to be 60 percent AMI? Or will it be at 30 percent AMI? Is it gonna be actually affordable?”