Cabrini-Green Set For Demolition

CHICAGO (STMW) – After 58 years, the once-sprawling Cabrini-Green housing complex finally closes its last high-rise today after the last tenant moved out today.

The last family moved out of the final high-rise in the Cabrini-Green public housing development Thursday morning.

The high-rises of Cabrini-Green came to represent some of the chronic problems with public housing. But for many thousands of people over the years, they were home.

The Chicago Housing Authority had planned to close the high-rise at 1230 N. Burling St. on Nov. 30. Most of the remaining families moved out on that date, but one family refused to leave.

But a court order told them they had to go. So just before 11 a.m. Thursday, Annie Ricks, the matriarch of the last holdout family, walked out the door of the building at 1230 N. Burling St. They were forcibly moved from the high-rise, after a court order told them they had to go.

The last resident of the last high-rise building, Annie Ricks, raised seven children there. She’ll move today, to an apartment on the South Side.

The 134-unit building is slated for demolition early next year.

In its heyday, Cabrini-Green had 23 high-rises, and 15,000 low-income tenants. The TV show “Good Times” was based on it; but it was also known for some violent gang wars that left dozens of people dead.

A federal government takeover of Cabrini in 1994 set the stage for the high-rises to be torn down, one by one.

For the last Cabrini-Green high-rise standing, the count-down to the end of an era began Oct. 15, when 27 families received 90-day notices.

But for Annie Ricks, 54, it began 10 days ago, when the Chicago Housing Authority showed up with trucks to move out the remaining families, saying the 1230 Burling building’s occupancy had now gotten too low for safety.

On Wednesday, the last tenant in the remaining high-rise feverishly packed up her 21 years at Cabrini, in preparation for this morning, when the last moving truck will come to the high-rise.

“I don’t feel good. They’re forcing me to move somewhere I don’t know anything about,” says Ricks, a mother of six who lives in a five-bedroom unit with three sons, a daughter, and her grandson.

Still heavily guarded, the 1230 Burling was completely empty Wednesday except for Apartment 1108.

Antoine Pitford, the second to last tenant, was shepherded out by the CHA the day before.

Ricks and her family are being moved to Wentworth Gardens, the rehabbed, low-rise development just south of the White Sox stadium — “to a food desert,” Ricks says, echoing many former residents of Near North Side Cabrini, in describing areas they were relocated to on the South and West sides.

As she and her children packed, the apartment began bursting with boxes and bags, emptied closets and cabinets and a tired family breaking for a cigarette and sprawling before the TV.

“I moved to Cabrini in March of 1990,” Ricks said softly, caressing some of her children’s athletic trophies that line an entire wall unit.

She dragged boxes of stuff destined for disposal into the open-air gallery, where water still pools after a vandal broke into the nearby apartment Sunday and ripped out the plumbing. Water in the elevator shafts had resulted in them being turned off, so for three days, she and Pitford braved dank stairwells.

The day before this final move, the elevators were working again.

Ricks broke to stare out from the steel-fenced gallery over acreages that were home to the eight high-rises of the William Green Homes and 15 mid- and high-rises of the Cabrini Extensions.

The 1230 Burling building’s dwindling tenants had gotten their 60-day notices on Nov. 5, still promising they had until Jan. 4 to relocate.

But as they were encouraged to leave, the residents’ numbers fell to what CHA deemed a dangerous level, ordering the building closed. The majority were moved on Nov. 30th. Pitford and Ricks refused, and CHA took them to court Dec. 1.

“They’d first wanted to move me to 408 W. 57th Place, but couldn’t even tell me where that was, then to 875 Cambridge in the row houses, a drug house closed in September and still boarded up with broken windows,” Ricks said. “Then they said Lawndale Gardens, and I’m not moving to the West Side. They offered Wentworth Gardens Tuesday, and said, ‘Pack up, ‘cause this building’s closing Friday.’ ”

She had a lot to get done, including a last meeting at the row house offices of Cabrini’s Local Advisory Council representing tenants. She moved quickly. Time was running out.

Then a tired Ricks returned home to spend her last night at Cabrini.

The lucky ones, she says, are tenants who got to move into Cabrini’s replacement mixed-income developments, Parkside of Old Town or North Town Village, or even the rehabbed row houses.

“I tried so hard to stay in the area. This is my home. We were promised we’d at least spend one last Christmas here,” she said wistfully. “CHA just comes and says, ‘Things have changed. You gotta go now, and you gotta choose a new home in days.’ That’s the real story of the last days at 1230 Burling. And you can tell the world that.”

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

  • Jeff N

    I have no sympathy for this woman. She was given subsidized (if not free) housing for 20 years and yet wasn’t able to figure out how to get her own housing (not paid for by the City) in this time? And now she’s complaining of the accommodations presented to her?

    • cookster

      I agree 100%. The entitlement cycle has to stop!!

  • B

    I also agree. She had a 5 bedroom apartment for what I’m sure was rented for less than $100 a month and had 6 children while living there for 21 years. She didn’t prioritize.

  • curto

    and took a break for a cigarette? with the prices of cigarettes these days, this woman could have paid her own rent!!!

  • doc m

    There’s no real reason for her to have stayed this long other than the reason folks tend to live in the projects is that they can’t pay higher rents elsewhere. If you offer public housing folks will take it. Her problem is that there is no honor or sympathy for being the last resident in that sad situation.

    It’s not the CHA was offering her BETTER options. It sounds like they were just reading a list to her and she did her research and found that those were bad options.

    I’m mostly surprised that she says she’s being moved to a food desert. She’s been living in Cabrini Green for Pete’s sake. There is a Jewel-Osco a mile away and a bunch of smaller grocery stores all over the area.

    I’ll agree that she surely choose to protest as opposed to just prioritizing finding a new place for her family to live.

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