Comcast re-design is a form of segregation

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Patricia O'Shea

The Interfaith Housing Development Corporation of Chicago, as a partner to the Oak Park Housing Authority, has developed a proposal for the old Comcast building at Madison and Grove. The village board plans to vote in May.

The proposal includes 51 one-bedroom apartments for low-income residents with a preference for residents who live and/or work in Oak Park, along with a commercial component. Because of the financing model, if approved, the Comcast building will be a low-income building through about 2053.

I have spent countless hours over the past several months learning about this proposal. To ensure I understood the situation, I attended meetings, pored over documents, attended the Interfaith tour, and read every piece of news and online opinion I could get my hands on. I have developed an opinion based on my analysis.

First, I am opposed because I believe this development is not aligned with the values of Oak Park and that it is a form of segregation. The Oak Park Diversity Statement reads, "To achieve our goals, the Village of Oak Park must continue to support the board's fair housing philosophy that has allowed us to live side-by-side and actively seek to foster unity in our community." It bears repeating — the goal is to live side-by-side.

Does a building designed to have 51-102 individuals living in a multi-floor apartment building surrounded by a parking lot and retail to the west, a busy street to the south, and a bank to the east fit that definition? I say no. Low-income residents will not live side by side with anyone but each other. It is form of segregation.

I understand that Oak Park has an opportunity to leverage federal funding. Village officials probably don't want to walk away from that. I'm not suggesting that we should. However, I do recommend we go back to the drawing board on the resident preference. All evidence points to senior housing being the primary need here. The Oak Park Housing Authority (OPHA), as the local partner, determines the resident preference (it also must be approved by financiers). It is the OPHA which chose low-income Oak Park live/work. It seems the agency is ignoring the research it recently participated in. For example:

The Oak Park Housing Program Advisory Committee's "Report on Affordable Housing Strategies (08/18/10)" stated the first area of need in Oak Park is for senior housing.

Per Illinois Housing Providers Meeting Minutes (07/08/09), housing that is lacking in the community is assisted living for seniors, a need to replace SRO (Single Room Occupancy) units at YMCA, and apartments sufficient in size for large families.

In a letter to the village dated 10/12/09, Edward Solan, executive director of the OPHA, expressed a need for affordable assisted-living facilities for low-income seniors.

Now is the time to decide whether or not you support the proposed design for this 40-year commitment. If you share my concerns, you can make a difference by taking a moment to contact the village board. If you would like more information or want to do your own analysis, visit where you can find a history, documents, links, frequently asked questions, a list of questions for the village board, and more.

Patricia O'Shea is an Oak Park resident and working mother of two.

Reader Comments

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The Real Marco  

Posted: May 22nd, 2011 7:15 PM

Not me on thse posts, just some loser thats bored and hates himself. I thought the rapture would have taken his religious butt away. too bad.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: May 22nd, 2011 10:49 AM

To the WJ editors: The new comment policy is welcome and overdue. Judging from this thread, however, and others I have read recently, it does not appear that it is being enforced.


Posted: May 19th, 2011 3:06 PM

Gee Thanks for your response. I couldnt believe it. How could anyone be in favor of this wacked out project.

The Ghost  

Posted: May 19th, 2011 2:31 PM

Dear friend of the real Marco, The person who is pretending to be Marco has previously expressed support for the planned housing development. "OP, "O....P", "OP Resident" is the person responsible for this and unfortunately has targeted your friend for his latest abusive assualt. He is crude,ugly and disrespectful to others who post comments on the Wednesday Journal board. A number of us have dealt with him for many months and found the best way to deal with him is to simply ignore his posts.

A friend of the real Marco from Oak Park  

Posted: May 19th, 2011 1:35 PM

Please know that a disturbed individual is pretending to be Marco. I encourage the editor's to remove the harmful "Marco" posts. A dishonorable person is slandering Marco in an effort to hurt those who do not support the low-income housing development.


Posted: May 19th, 2011 9:55 AM

These people should be treated like animals. Thats what they are

OP Resident  

Posted: May 18th, 2011 6:17 PM

Marco, did you find any litter. My animals are making noise. I cant find my shoe.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: May 18th, 2011 12:06 PM

Ray, If you want to categorized 74 low income housing for the elderly and six handicapped at the Oakes as mixed housing, be my guest; but I suspect it was decision of convenience or even compassion. As a elected official, your time would be better spent by helping the public understand the issues rather than cloaking them.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 18th, 2011 9:37 AM

Marco, go pick up the litter. I am goign to go and walk the animals.


Posted: May 18th, 2011 9:27 AM

This is exactly what I fear! There will be some person in this project up all nite disturbing what is otherwise a very quiet street. This person already claimed to have lived in low income housing. Does this not make anyone else quiver.


Posted: May 18th, 2011 9:03 AM

Patricia, We have nothing to fear but fear itself-FDR

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: May 18th, 2011 8:58 AM

I'm starting to think that the strategy of the supporters of this project is to allow this inane babble to continue to rise to a fever pitch so that people will be too annoyed to read the WJ comments and will miss the thoughtful dialog.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 18th, 2011 8:46 AM

John and Patricia wish they had as nice aplace to live as this project will prove to be. THEY are so jealous.We have nothing to fear but fear itself.-FDR


Posted: May 18th, 2011 8:43 AM

Patricia, if you want to learn about something you have to have an open. STOP CLOSING YOUR MIND. NOw go pick up the litter.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: May 18th, 2011 8:38 AM

If the board makes thoughtful and prudent changes that are in line with Oak Park values and the vision for Oak Park I will. I don't speak for anyone else but me.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 18th, 2011 8:33 AM

I have a feeling that the murtagh and o'she household will be the 2 best supporters of this project by end of it.


Posted: May 18th, 2011 8:32 AM

Mr Johnson, There is a reason people need a social worker. Yes there is one for employment and education, but mostly for drug & alcohol abuse. From some of these post mental illness is a big one. It cant be good to house all these different people in one house. I'm terrified for that sweet little girl who spoke at the meeting. How can she defend herself against someone with bigger problems. Chose one or none.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: May 18th, 2011 8:25 AM

Mr. Johnson, please accept this question as a genuine one - it is. On Monday, David Pope said the board could not legally discuss this development with each other or the public. Was that just prior to Monday? Is it all open now?


Posted: May 18th, 2011 8:24 AM

Thank you Ray. THAT is exactly what I have been saying. We have nothing to fear but fear itself-FDR

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: May 18th, 2011 8:18 AM

@ Mr. Murtagh: The Oaks is not a facility for seniors alone, but includes younger individuals who are disabled as well. My point at the meeting was addressing the area of focus I hear from some opponents -- the concern about low-income individuals living together. We have lots of low-income individuals living "side by side" and don't characterize that as "segregation". The population of the Interfaith proposal includes low-wage workers, people with disabilities and seniors.


Posted: May 18th, 2011 8:04 AM

Patricia,Three things give hardy strength; sleeping on a hairy mattress,breathing cold air and eating dry food.THAT is what is important.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: May 18th, 2011 6:45 AM

I do believe that straight low income housing and seniors housing is different and in fact senior housing is the greatest need in the village per village studies. I also believe comparing free market housing to government subsidized housing is an apples to oranges comparison.


Posted: May 18th, 2011 1:50 AM

Mr murtagh in your daughters column she writes "Low-income residents will not live side by side with anyone but each other. It is form of segregation." She makes no reference to age, race, sex or abilities, just income. On those grounds they are identical. Her words not mine.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: May 18th, 2011 1:25 AM

Boy, the Oakes is getting to be a popular subject these days. Ray Johnson used the Oakes as comparison with the Madison Avenue Development on the WJ Comments this week. Of course, he failed to mention that the Mad Devel is for singles and the Oakes is for senior. Ray stated last night that he likes living next to the Oakes people, further his in-apt World View of OP. Play all you want, senior or handicapped housing is vastly different than single housing. Read Solan quotes sometime.

Oak Parker  

Posted: May 18th, 2011 12:57 AM

Affordable housing for ALL that live there is hardly segregation in the negative sense of the word. Its a slippery slope when you speak of income segregation. By your logic, we segregate residents at The Oaks, Heritage House and Mills tower. I'd bet the residents feel differently. Are you also concerned with the town home and condo units that have been built that ALL cost over $500,000 or just the ones that are for lower income folks?

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