Altgeld Gardens, Chicago
2009 photograph of Altgeld Gardens housing project.
|Location||Bounded by 130th and 134th Streets and S. Doty and St. Lawrence Avenues
|Chicago Housing Authority|
Altgeld Gardens is a Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) public housing project located on the far south side of Chicago, Illinois, USA. The residents are 97% African American according to the 2000 US Census. Built in 1945 with 1,498 units, the development consists primarily of two-story row houses spread over 190 acres (0.77 km2).
It was built by the federal government (Department of Housing and Urban Development) to satisfy the need for improved housing for African American veterans returning from World War II. In 1956, the project was transferred to the Chicago Housing Authority in 1956. Located in an industrial area on Chicago’s far South side, Altgeld was named after John Peter Altgeld, an Illinois governor of the 1890s. As one of the first public housing developments ever built in the United States, it has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.
In the early 21st century , 3,400 residents live in the Altgeld / Murray complex. This complex includes public schools within its borders, and the Housing Authority has maintenance staff, on-site social services, and medical facilities to serve the residents. Altgeld Gardens' boundaries are 130th Street on the north and 138th Street on the south, from the Bishop Ford Freeway on the east and the Calumet River on the west. Altgeld Gardens is located near numerous manufacturing plants, former steel mills, waste dumps and landfills.
The residents have a growing concern about the number of deaths annually from cancer and other diseases that may be related to environmental hazards of their industrial neighborhood. In addition, Altgeld Gardens was constructed at a time when asbestos was widely used in construction materials such as insulation, tile and other products. It has been found to be hazardous and in 1980, residents organized a grassroots campaign in the project to advocate for its removal from the complex flats.
US President Barack Obama, then a local community organizer, participated in this campaign. He wrote about it at length in his book Dreams From My Father. Altgeld Gardens is located in one of the most dense concentrations of potentially hazardous pollution sources in North America. Many of the landfills that surround the project are unregulated, and some are still active. Since most of these landfills as well as many industrial plants are located along the waterways surrounding the area, 11 miles (18 km) of the 18 miles (29 km) of rivers and lakes surrounding Altgeld Gardens have been assessed as having water quality unfit for human consumption and recreation. Many local residents continue to fish in these waters, increasing their exposure to hazards by eating local fish.
Over the years, Altgeld Gardens has had various gang problems but the community is not considered to have the extreme sort of bloody rivalries endemic to the North Side's Cabrini–Green community nor to the Robert Taylor Homes, near the historic Bronzeville neighborhood.
- Images of the project
- AltgeldGardens.com - a website for present and former Altgeld residents
- Chicago Housing Authority: Altgeld Gardens and Phillip Murray Homes