City Within A City – Parkway Gardens Apartments

Parkway Garden Apartments, Chicago, Ill.

By: Ms. Henry

This is a tale of a city within a city. This city suffers from neglect, apathy and contempt for its citizens.  On block after block, apartment buildings, shacks for all intent and purposes, look down upon the streets in dismay and is surrounded by broken beer bottles and broken dreams. Job and educational opportunities are limited. The inhabitants of this city have to travel for miles for decent food and the nights explode with gun shots, drunken rhetoric, and foolishness regardless of the weather. The ironic part about this city is that it is located right down the street from the University of Chicago. The name of this city is Washington Park and at its heart is an apartment complex that is a monument to racism, political maneuvering, and indifference.  The name of this complex is Parkway Gardens Apartments and this is a tale of how seemingly good intentions went awry and has left an urban blight on the landscape of Chicago.

Within a few blocks from one of the most renowned universities in the United States is a privately owned low-income housing development named Parkway Gardens Apartments.  Parkway Gardens was built on the site of the old White City Amusement Park in 1946 and were designed by Holsman, Holsman, Klekamp & Tayler. These building are located between 66th and 63rd South Martin Luther King Drive and houses approximately one thousand families.

These apartments and other housing projects were created in order to alleviate the overcrowded living conditions of African Americans who had moved to Chicago during the Great Migration.  The crème de la crème of the black community such as doctors, lawyers, and teachers resided in Parkway Gardens because practices such as redlining and restrictive covenants were used legally to prevent African Americans from securing mortgages in certain neighborhoods.  Blacks who had the means to move into better neighborhoods were not allowed to do so and were forced to settle for Parkway Gardens and other predominately black housing projects in the hopes that they could create communities of their own.

However, since then, Parkway Gardens has become a cesspool of drugs, violence and filth.  Once the laws that kept blacks in certain areas were removed, middle-class black families, who were the mainstay of Parkway, moved quickly.  What was left were older people who did not want to change their surroundings and young, broke single mothers and their trifling, shiftless, drug dealing boyfriends.

The hallways reek with the smell of urine, old garbage and human misery. Working elevators, heat and running hot water is optional depending on the time of day and the maintenance men spend their days gossiping and lollygagging with the tenants that they are supposed be serving. When walking up the stairs, one has to trip over young men brazenly selling or doing drugs and no one cares. It is totally amazing that people have been allowed to wallow in filth literally right down the street from the University of Chicago.

It is a travesty that people have been allowed to live in conditions such as these for so long and have been treated like animals because of their economic circumstances.  The powers that run the City of Chicago should be sued for negligence and crimes against humanity for allowing its citizens to live in abject poverty and filth. The City of Chicago and society at large has all but written off the plight of the poor but they are here and they are not going anywhere.  They are not nameless, faceless statistics to be trotted out for political gain.  They have the same dreams and aspirations that everyone has: a chance to be a part of the American Dream where everyone has an opportunity to succeed and make a positive contribution to society. A chance to live decently and safely and not be penalized because of economics.  Is that asking too much?

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I am a woman. I am an African-American. Belonging to two minorities has shaped my viewpoint on life in more ways than I can count. It is not easy being a woman in an inherently sexist society. Add skin color to the equation and you have me. This is my world and my viewpoint. You do not have to agree with my thoughts but in the end, you will respect me

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Very good article.. I grew up in Parkway Gardens.. from 1953 until 1973 after I graduated from college. It was indeed a special neighborhood until the mid 60’s when gangs came into the are. As Ms.Henry observed, we had doctors, lawyers, athletes and more. I grew up next door to the first lady (Michelle Robinson-Obama’s) dad.. I was at 6448, he was at 6446.
    He was a bit older but really treated me like his little brother. Didley, or Frasier Robinson-III taught me how to play baseball and football, as well as what it meant to be a gentleman. Thank God for Parkway back in the 50s and early 60s.

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