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Chicago North Side

Uptown Kids Can Go to School in Their New Apartments

The Chicago Transit Authority, as of April 26, 2013, announced an open-bid application to contractors for the Wilson Red Line stop renovations. The planned construction is set to cost 203 million.

Replacing many sections of the “badly deteriorate[ing] station” is important to the neighborhood if only for the safety of the station. It is also crucial the heavy-handed development groups interested in making Uptown a more profitable neighborhood.  Much to the chagrin of many Uptown residents, the changes are already underway.

“Increasingly around the city you see a number of places where low income, primarily black and brown people are being pushed out and/or criminalized for being poor.” said Eric Kerl, speaking of the Uptown housing development plans wherein low-income residents are at risk of being forced out.

There seem to be little reaction from the greater community outside of Uptown and its closest neighbors in Rogers Park, Andersonville, and Ravenswood.

There has yet to major news coverage of the planned developments and corresponding protests besides what is being covered by DNAinfo Chicago.

Along with the planned development projects, CPS officials have three Uptown schools on the potential closing list.

Drawing a line between the community developments and school closings is laughable. There are inherently connected, according to many of Uptown parents and residents.

Raymond Wohl has lived in the neighborhood for many years, and remembers the days of Alderman Helen Shiller fondly. He describes her efforts as balanced, focusing on making Uptown a better place to live for all socio-economic groups.

He doesn’t have to say it outright, but it is clear Alderman Cappleman is regarded as more interested in bringing money into the neighborhood than preserving its residents and community services.

At a protest two weeks ago, people held up signs directed at Cappleman’s lack of social integrity.

Cappleman has supported the closings of SRO’s (single room occupancy) in the neighborhood. SRO’s are typically used by low-income residents.

“That used to be a Salvation Army shelter. They are buying things all over the places,” said Marc Kaplan, of the NorthSide Action Network, pointing to a building right across the street from Graem Stewart Elementary school.

Graem Stewart is located at the corner of Kenmore and Broadway, across the street from a Target and the building recently purchased by Jay Michaels, who plans to turn the old shelter into the renovated “Flats of Chicago” apartments.

The school sits on what some might consider a prime piece of property – a perfect location for another condominium complex with a park.

Wohl refers to the whole thing as a “new kind of red-lining… Banks and the power that be are designing neighborhoods without schools.” said Wohl.

Wohl serves as a pension trustee for the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.

According to a school report put together by CPS, Graem Stewart falls into the category of schools that should be consolidated.

A full data-set of CPS school reports from 2011-2012 can be seen here. Graem Elementary has a CPS performance rating of “2” (1 being the best, going down to 3, NDA, and Not Enough Data).

Wohl believes closing Graem and the other Uptown schools will cause overcrowding. He thinks the board needs to be patient while schools are repaired, and more transparent about what really needs to be done and where.

Referencing why developers would want to put pressure on the school board to close Graem, Wohl said, “Why would you want kids there, they cant really spend money in the stores.”

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