Tensions over gentrification and the rising costs of living in the Logan Square area reached a boiling point recently as activists vandalized the office of 1st Ward Alderman Proco Joe Moreno. A week ago, the glass entrance to the aldermanic office at 2740 W. North Avenue was smashed in and the word “gentrifier” had been spray-painted next to the door—an act which the alderman described as “cowardly.”
However, the alderman has responded on social media with a statement from the Chicago Housing Initiative, a collective of community groups which includes the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, and the Pilsen Alliance, among several other organizations which focus on affordable housing. The lengthy statement strongly condemns the recent vandalism of Moreno’s office, and asks “leftist cool kids” to “stop venting like children and organize” for affordable housing.
Chicago Housing Initiative condemns the act of vandalism of Alderman Joe Moreno’s office this past Monday, May 1. The self-proclaimedly [sic] anti-capitalist group which took responsibility for smashing the glass of the 1st ward office’s front door on May Day claims to have committed this vandalism as an action in protest of gentrification in the Logan Square and Humboldt Park communities. They argue that they have “tried the old channels for creating change” to combat gentrification, and “know they are dead ends.”
To the group of citizens responsible for this action, we say, think bigger.
Yes, an unregulated housing market is going to wreak havoc on all communities where developers see a profit potential, and yes, profit potential in an unfettered capital system is synonymous with displacement. Communities that can be flipped are communities that can be profited from. And the inverse: Communities that are profited from are communities that are flipped, destroyed, re-made, obliterated. Yes, the plight of low-income families and especially low-income families of color is being monetized by this system. Yes, this system is violent and cruel. And yes, it needs to be transformed.
But smashing windows doesn’t transform. It doesn’t educate, it doesn’t call us together or build our capacity to make change. It just scapegoats a single public official for a broken system, very little of which he has control or influence over.
The statement acknowledges that a group has claimed responsibility for the vandalism, but it does not identify the group.
Hundreds of new apartments are currently under construction along the busy Milwaukee Avenue corridor but the high-profile developments in Moreno’s ward have been the focus of ongoing protest activity. The visible Mica development, which saw the delivery of 216 rentals in two high-rises near the California Blue Line station has been a target of criticism and has served as a catalyst to protest activity since the proposal was first unveiled three years ago.
Despite the development’s prominence and controversy, the Chicago Housing Initiative asks activists to look beyond the towers and to seek “better tools” to fight for affordable housing.
We get it: The MiCa Towers are a useful symbol of high profile development driven by private-capital in a gentrifying neighborhood. We’re angry at the private market for being what it is to [sic], but unfortunately, American democracy doesn’t subject the actions of private industry to a popular vote, or to the fiat of a single local Alderman. Alderman Moreno doesn’t have a magic wand to make capitalism and its exploitative ravages of the housing market disappear. The best tools we have available right now are inclusionary zoning tools, and he used these to their fullest extent. If we want to do something useful and true, let’s fight for better tools.