Pioneering environmental justice group mustn’t be evicted from its Altgeld Gardens home

Mayor’s office promises to intervene. We hope that’s the case.

SHARE Pioneering environmental justice group mustn’t be evicted from its Altgeld Gardens home
People for Community Recovery Executive Director Cheryl Johnson seated in her Altgeld Gardens office.

People for Community Recovery Executive Director Cheryl Johnson seated in her Altgeld Gardens office.

Anthony Vazquez | Sun-Times

People for Community Recovery has been a fixture in the Altgeld Gardens area since 1979, fighting in favor of environmental justice for a region of the city that’s been polluted by industry for more than a century.

It’s hard work, but over the decades the group has managed to curb polluters, close down toxic dumps and rally against the metal scrapping industry when it sought to expand in the Deering community on the Southeast Side.

With a successful track record like that, we were more than a bit alarmed that Manage Chicago, the private property manager at Altgeld, handed the organization an eviction notice, as reported last week by the Sun-Times’ Brett Chase.

People for Community Recovery Executive Director Cheryl Johnson said neither Manage Chicago nor the Chicago Housing Authority, which owns Altgeld, have given a reason for the eviction, beyond saying the group’s office could be used for housing.

Editorials bug

Editorials

The CHA on Tuesday said the 1,971-unit Altgeld is 98% occupied, so admittedly things are tight. But that still leaves about 40 apartments open — room enough for families and People for Community Recovery.

The organization, which was founded by her late mother, environmental activist Hazel Johnson, has had an office in the unit since 2012. Something needs to be worked out.

Hazel Johnson — known as the “mother of environmental justice” — was nationally recognized for identifying the toxic dumps surrounding Altgeld Gardens, which was itself built on polluted land.

The group’s current work includes being among a trio of South Side organizations that filed a federal environmental civil rights complaint against the city that resulted in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development concluding the city had long been engaged in discriminatory planning and land-use practices when it came to locating potentially toxic industries.

“Never in my wildest dreams would I think I’d go through something like this,” Cheryl Johnson told the Sun-Times after receiving the eviction notice.

But the good news is that after the Sun-Times report, City Hall promised to work to keep the organization in its Altgeld home and said it will examine Manage Chicago’s actions.

Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration “has asked the Chicago Housing Authority to review the allegations made against the management company and take any necessary action based on its investigation,” a statement from City Hall said.

We hope that’s the case. People for Community Recovery is too critical to Altgeld and the city to be unceremoniously uprooted.

The Sun-Times welcomes letters to the editor and op-eds. See our guidelines.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

The Latest
“Guys have stepped up, but we’re not playing our best baseball,” reliever Hayden Wesneski said.
Schauffele closed with a 6-under 65 to beat Bryson DeChambeau, entertaining to the very end with a 10-foot birdie on the 18th hole for a 64.
Imanaga makes success look so simple, it’s easy to forget to ask him how he’s handling life alone in a huge new city halfway around the world from home.
A boy, 15, was in an alley near the 3800 block of West Lawrence Avenue at 3 p.m. when someone in a black sedan drove by and shot at him, hitting him in the left leg, police said.
Sox starter Chris Flexen lasted four innings, giving up seven hits, including homers to Jon Berti, his first, and Aaron Judge, his 13th.