On May 2nd, For The People – Chicago and its mass organ, the Albany Park – Organizing Committee, held their first people’s forum to discuss the current advancements of gentrification in the neighborhood and publicly initiate the Hands Off Albany Park campaign.
FTP and AP-OC members and volunteers canvassed throughout the neighborhood for the People’s Forum and invitations were sent out to supporters. Attendees gathered at the intersection of Lawrence and Christiana, just east of Kimball and Lawrence (the heart of the neighborhood), and held signs and banners toward traffic. An AP-OC supporter kicked off the event by introducing the People’s Forum as an organ of people’s democracy to identify struggles and make decisions on how to address them. The speaker then prompted the theme of gentrification and how during the pandemic, luxury housing developers are taking advantage of the worsening conditions and moving in to buy up the neighborhood.
“Right now, the developer Platinum Homes, is buying up properties in Albany Park to build luxury condos, apartments, and single family homes for the rich.” Platinum Homes is one of the newest gentrifiers in the neighborhood. Having constructed condos in other gentrifying neighborhoods across the north/northwest side, they have only recently purchased properties in AP off Montrose, Lawrence, and on side streets in the neighborhood. One development pinpointed by the organizers is a development on 3030 W Lawrence, seeking to build a 50-unit luxury apartment building. The reason for this particular focus is the need for zoning change from a commercial to a residential permit.
The location of all these developments matches a trend of gentrification in the neighborhood coming from the East looking to expand the wealthy populations that inhabit Revenswood Manor and Lincoln Square. The owners of Platinum Homes, Gerard and Alan Coyle, are a father-son duo looking to make a profit off of flipping the neighborhood and displacing its working class residents. FTP and AP-OC supporters demanded Platinum Homes leave the community and relinquish the properties for the community to decide what they should be used for. Attendees spoke in support of these demands, adding that the presence of new luxury housing would inevitably raise the cost of living in the neighborhood. “Our rents are already out of control,” a speaker voiced. “More developments and condos will only push out the people who are here now and have been here for decades.”
Attendees spoke to the reality of displacement in Albany Park and other neighborhoods in the city like Logan Square, Pilsen, and Humboldt Park, where thousands of working class people have been displaced from their homes over the last two decades, and a need to build a movement to fight back and let the developers know they are not welcome and will be resisted by the people. Others spoke on the reality of gentrification and the increased pig violence against poor and colonized people. “The rich have no respect for us!”, said one supporter, “We need to show them the people will not just be kicked around!”. Another supporter voiced some uses for the properties, such as emergency shelter for unhoused people, public housing, job training and childcare centers.
Slogans such as “Platinum Homes Fuera!/Platinum Homes Out!” and “El barrio no se vende, Albany Park se Defiende!” (The neighborhood is not for sale, Albany Park will be defended!) were chanted throughout the forum. As discussion began to wrap up, organizers gathered contact information and announced a call to action, to build up the campaign and attend the next organizing meeting on Sunday at the AP-OC office just down Lawrence.
The forum successfully gathered advanced sections of the masses in AP to discuss gentrification, displacement, and their ramifications, identifying the enemies of the people, and publicly initiating the campaign to fight back.