Issues & Campaigns
NA4J In the News
The Barbershop Show (Vocalo): "The Crisis at Astor House" August 30, 2013
DNAInfo: "Affordable Housing Demand Unmet on Far North Side: Report" April 30, 2013
Progress Illinois: "Uptown Residents Rally Against Proposed School Closures, Gentrification" April 29, 2013
DNAInfo: "Organizers Say Stewart School Closure Another Word for 'Land Grab'"
April 28, 2013
Progress Illinois: "Uptown Residents Decry Proposed $220 Million Luxury Housing Development At 46th Ward Zoning Meeting" April 23, 2013
StreetWise: "Affordable Housing Priced Out On North Side"
March 15, 2013
Save Our Schools
NA4J is a member of GEM (Grassroots Education Movement). Together we are pushing for a moratorium on school closings.
NA4J took an early stand to defend our neighborhood public schools against closure, to strengthen the quality of the education, and to build a community-based process led by parents, students, teachers, and community members to transform our neighborhood schools. After a CPS Hearing at Truman College on January 28, NA4J teamed with several other Northside groups to launch the Northside Save Our Schools (NSSOS).
Over fierce objections of thousands of parents, students, and teachers, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's hand-picked school board members barely said a word as they voted to close 50 Chicago Public Schools, including three schools in our area: Stewart (4525 N. Kenmore), Trumbull (5200 N. Ashland), and Stockton (4420 N. Beacon). Courtenay Elementary will take over the Stockton building.
On April 27, NA4J through Northside Save Our Schools and Uptown Uprising co-sponsored a stirring Stand Up for Uptown rally and march, beginning and ending at Stewart School, one of the schools in Uptown slated to close. Over 100 parents, students, teachers, and community activists listened to the Stewart School band before marching down Wilson Avenue to Stockton School to rally there before marching back. NA4J activists spoke at the rally: Pam Barton on behalf of Stockton School and Virginia Hester to explain the affordable housing link.
As part of a three-day march, 150 people rallied at Trumbull School on May 19, then marched to the mayor's house for a prayer circle before marching on to Courtenay, Stockton, and Stewart.
Young people from Stewart led the chants along the 3-mile walk, and at the end, carloads of participants went back to join the citywide march. NA4J member Marc Kaplan was among those arrested at the May 20 City Hall civil disobedience protests.
NA4J members also joined trips to Springfield to push legislators on school closings and an elected, representative school board. NA4J will continue organizing with allies to challenge closings, develop a vision for our schools, register voters, and campaign for an elected, representative school board.
Elected School Board
NA4J is pushing for an elected, representative school board. The current Board of Education is appointed by the Mayor. As part of CODE (Communities Organized for Democracy in Education), NA4J put an advisory referendum on the ballot in Uptown:
Shall each member of the Board of School District 299, known as the Chicago Board of Education, be elected by voters of the City of Chicago, State of Illinois? YES or NO
We collected more than 600 voter signatures and placed this question on the November 6, 2012, ballot in each of Uptown’s 19 precincts (roughly bordered by Montrose, Clark, Lawrence, and the lakefront). On Election Day, 87% of Uptown voters said ‘YES’ to the formation of an elected school board. Comparably, 87% of voters citywide said ‘YES’ in the 327 total precincts where the question was placed on the ballot.
Residents at the Astor House (1246 W. Pratt) who are being evicted en masse have been asking for weeks that Alderman Joe Moore bring the building’s owner to the negotiating table. But Alderman Moore’s inaction is paving the way for BJB, Joe Slezak, and other big developers to make tenants homeless – so that big business can profit from more expensive housing.
Tenants at the Astor House, 1246 W. Pratt, have been battling for a number of years, first with the Manetti's who bought and bled the building for years.
In January the building was acquired by BJB, which is trying to displace everyone out to turn it into a high-end rental building that none of the current tenants could afford. BJB recently bought several hundred units of formerly affordable units in Lakeview, Uptown and Rogers Park.
Astor House tenants formed a tenant association, have weekly meetings, and have organized demonstrations and rallies at the building. They went out to Park Ridge and canvassed Jamie Purcell's (one of the principals in BJB) neighbors and picketed the BJB offices there. They also held a community BBQ.
To hit BJB in their pocketbooks, more than 150 Loyola students have signed a pledge not to rent from BJB unless they treat tenants fairly.
Tenants in the building are represented by the Lawyers Committee for Better Housing, which is preparing to file a court motion to intervene on behalf of tenants and have a receiver appointed to manage the property.
"Conditions have been bad for a long time," said Arbie Bowman, one of the leaders of the Tenant Association. "We have been fighting to get the owners to get rid of the bedbugs, fix the elevators, give us heat in the winter, deal with the serious plumbing issues and stop evicting people for no reason. We have helped tenants get legal representation so that they don't just get moved out."
"Now BJB is doing work that are making the conditions in the building less safe and more unhealthy for the tenants. Jamie Purcell is creating a serious health hazard. I think we need to do whatever it takes to make BJB treat us decently."
Join community members on Monday, January 6 at 7pm at the 46th Ward Zoning and Development Committee Meeting at the Weiss Memorial Hospital Auditorium. We are protesting the proposed $36 million TIF subsidy to for-profit developer JDL. JDL is proposing to build over 800 units of high-income rental units with Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Funds from the Montrose-Clarendon TIF ("Maryville TIF").
TIF Funds are supposed to spur positive economic activity like affordable housing, living wage sustainable jobs and businesses, and public services and programs. Yet the TIF program has become a slush fund for private companies like JDL, companies using public subsidies to build things like luxury housing and corporate offices, at the taxpayers' expense.
Meanwhile, the TIF Program has shortchanged schools, parks, and the city and county. $454 million is sitting in the TIF Slush Fund, including $10.9 million from the 46th Ward, that should be invested back into our communities.
TAKE A STAND WITH US THIS MONDAY TO DEMAND:
1) NO TIF Funds for current JDL proposal
2) YES to TIF Funds for schools, parks, and city and county services
3) Future TIF Funds for affordable housing, living wage jobs, public services, and positive economic development
4) A Zoning & Development Committee that reflects the economic and racial diversity of the 46th Ward
5) An open and transparent decision-making process
77% OF UPTOWN VOTERS SAID 'YES' TO THESE DEMANDS IN THE 2012 PRIMARY ELECTION
We are NOT Broke! Put TIF Funds into strong public schools, parks, living wage jobs, decent affordable housing, and youth and senior programs!
On April 27, NA4J with Alliance partners New Directions for Change, AFSCME 2858, and the Legal Assistance Foundation held informational meetings in Rogers Park and Uptown on the potential threat faced by those with Illinois Medical Cards (All Kids, Family Care, and Medicaid). These allies are concerned that the "IL Medicaid Redetermination Project," run by for-profit Maximus and authorized by the "SMART Act," will wrongfully cancel thousands of people from the Medicaid program.
This privatization contract is allegedly to review Medicaid eligibility because the state won't hire the caseworkers needed to adequately serve customers. But NA4J has confirmed that the company seeks to cancel medical coverage for bogus reasons like disconnected phones or notices lost in the mail.
Very few Medicaid recipients are aware of the potential threat to their medical coverage. NA4J, LAF and other allies are doing community outreach and collecting petitions of support.