Long Goodbye For Infamous Public Housing Complex Chicago's Cabrini-Green was the scene of several incidents of violence over decades that earned it a reputation as one of the nation's worst public housing complexes. But the city is tearing down the high rises at Cabrini, and the two families who remain could be out as soon as Tuesday.
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Long Goodbye For Infamous Public Housing Complex

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Long Goodbye For Infamous Public Housing Complex

Long Goodbye For Infamous Public Housing Complex

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

NPR's David Schaper reports on their future.

DAVID SCHAPER: Fifty-four-year-old Annie Ricks stands in the icy parking lot outside of 1230 North Burling, the last high-rise still standing in the long- troubled Cabrini-Green public housing development. Ricks' family is one of just two still living here. A federal judge is giving them until Friday to move out. She points to her apartment on the 11th floor of the 15-story building behind the fenced-in exterior corridor that gives the building that prison look, while a few floors below janitorial staff in white protective suits clean out the apartments of her neighbors, and she thinks back to when she moved her family into Cabrini's high rises 21 years ago.

ANNIE RICKS: Well, at first it wasn't, you know, no place like where I wanted to come. Like I'm saying there was like shooting over here and everything and I was even over here when Dantrell, you know, got shot, and I wasn't used to like the neighborhood and stuff like, because I never had to live like in the projects, as they always say.

SCHAPER: At one time the dozens of white block and red brick high and mid-rise buildings of Cabrini Green were home to close to 15,000 people. And Ricks, who moved into Cabrini in the late '80s, says despite her initial reservations, things got a lot better here, and now she doesn't want to leave.

RICKS: It's good to me.

SCHAPER: Kris Warren is the CHA's chief operating officer.

KRIS WARREN: We know that the lifestyle of our families who have been able to move out of Cabrini-Green and our other high rises is 100 percent better. We stay in touch with those families; they are happy when we talk to them about their moves. They actually wish sometimes that they had done this sooner.

BRADFORD HUNT: This is a radical transformation.

SCHAPER: D. Bradford Hunt is a public housing expert at Chicago's Roosevelt University. He says while high rises had to come down, he says it's not yet clear if all the residents being moved out are better off.

HUNT: I would say that some residents are better off. They've moved into these new mixed income communities. We know that they feel safer. We know that their housing conditions are better.

SCHAPER: But Hunt says some Chicago public housing residents are in new communities, just as high crime and high poverty as the one they left, and without the friends, family and community network of support they had in Cabrini.

KENNETH HAMMOND: I love Cabrini. You know, we was like, we were like one big family.

SCHAPER: Kenneth Hammond has lived all of his 41 years here in Cabrini-Green, working for Chicago Park District for the last 16 years in two of Cabrini's parks. He moved out of 1230 North Burling last week and into a rehabbed row- house nearby. But he says it hurts to watch the buildings he grew up around come down.

HAMMOND: From the people that we lost in the buildings, in the community, you know, the people that have just left the community, yes, it's really a hurting feeling that you can kind of hear it in my throat...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HAMMOND: ...that it's a hurting feeling among us as the residents.

SCHAPER: David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.

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