Cabrini-Green's last day


Today, the last remaining family moved out of the last remaining Cabrini-Green high rise.

I’ve avoided going down there in the last week or two. Not because I didn’t care, but because there were so many media outlets covering it that it didn’t really make sense. In my short career in Chicago journalism, I’ve often been the only person covering stories in public housing, so it seemed silly to try to push my way through a crowd when suddenly everyone was interested.

Today felt more like a wake. There wasn’t much to do or see, but you had to go anyway. I needed to go and see it, at least, to be witness to it. I waited in the cold for the trucks to pull in and watched as TV cameras crowded around any resident willing to talk.

Several were asked, “What does this mean for Cabrini-Green?”

One woman, Latasha Ricks, a daughter of the last resident moving out, said it wasn’t the end.

“Cabrini will always be around. It will always be a part of everyone who lived here,” she said.

But her brother didn’t agree.

“Cabrini’s dead,” he told the camera. “It’s dead.”

I stayed for a bit to watch boxes being loaded. I heard familiar thoughts about change and whether it’s good or bad. But at some point, I just couldn’t push past hungry camera men and shout another question. It seemed garish, vulture-like. Of course, everyone was there just doing their job, but I didn’t feel like I could stand there and do mine.

Annie Ricks and her children will move out of a high-rise at 1230 N. Burling St. today, the last standing Cabrini-Green high-rise. Although the Cabrini rowhouses still stand a few blocks away, they face an uncertain future. What’s more certain is the continued rise of condos and town homes that cover a landscape once dominated by massive residential towers. In just a few months, 1230 N. Burling St. building will be demolished. And perhaps a few years later, cheery-looking brick units will stand at the corner of Halsted and Division streets with no trace of what used to be.

Everyone has their opinion of what’s happening today. It’s sad. It’s wonderful. Cabrini’s dead. Cabrini lives on.

After three years of reporting on public housing, all I can say for certain is this: Cabrini-Green as we have known it is over. Despite the protests of residents and the prolonging of legal proceedings, time has trudged forward and left Cabrini in the dust.

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  • The third image (with the camera crew and reporter) is great.

    This country initiated a massive experiment in the late 40s with public housing. The experiment was (in most ways) a failure but we seem determined to learn nothing from it. Rather than examining the reasons housing projects failed we tear them down, cover all traces (with gleaming condo towers) and shunt more people out to the margins. This a wealthy country that could provide decent housing to all citizens, even provide a system that would ensure decent housing while moving people to their own private housing. We choose to look to locations for the next Trump Tower.

  • And thank God. Yes the experiment failed and part if rectifying it is making sure Cabrini is no more. People deserve better.

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