By Rodrigo Hernandez
The community group Bridgeport Alliance held its quarterly meeting virtually on April 29, discussing a variety of topics.
Participants learned that Greater Bridgeport Mutual Aid, which provides support and relief to people in Bridgeport, Armour Square, Chinatown, and Canaryville, has shut down its hotline. The organization’s website at gbmachicago.org remains up, however, and lists resources for emergency food and shelter and family and legal assistance.
The group also discussed creating a Civilian Police Accountability Council and the City’s recent passage of an Additional Dwelling Units (ADU) Ordinance allowing ADUs in attics, basements, and accessory buildings, such as coach houses and backyard houses.
Sometimes called in-law apartments, ADUs remain popular with affordable housing advocates. Anne Jacobs, an alliance member and local resident, expressed concerns about rising property values.
“I’m really worried that it could change the nature of the community, and I would hate to see some people priced out,” said Jacobs. “So, I really hope we can get a handle on the affordable housing issue here in the neighborhood.”
She believes the area’s older buildings should be preserved and hopes “we can find a way to support one another and not have beautiful historic buildings bought out or torn down by developers.”
The meeting occurred the same day the Federal government indicted Ald. Patrick D. Thompson of the 11th Ward for allegedly filing false tax returns and providing false information about bank loans.
Thompson maintains his innocence and, although thanking Gazette Chicago for the opportunity, declined to speak to the publicationabout the matter on advice of legal counsel.
Bridgeport Alliance members discussed the indictment, which “was really pressing everybody’s mind,” Jacobs noted.
Some expressed concerns over the indictment’s effect on the ward, including public perceptions of the neighborhood and possible impact on City services. Martin Gleason worried Thompson may be too distracted by his case “to really focus” on what the neighborhood needs.
Gleason felt no one at the meeting was too rough or too easy on the alderman. “We stuck with our time frame, discussed more than just his indictment, and laid the ground work to keep working on the other issues we care about,” said Gleason.
Those issues include the proposed Prologis industrial facility at 2500 S. Corbett St., which will increase neighborhood traffic.
Traffic problems and safety concerns related to the Starbucks and AT&T facilities at 31st and Halsted Streets also came up, situations that have prompted the group to become “engaged in the struggle to get more community control over developments that come into the area,” Jacobs said.
In addition, Gleason said members have voiced concerns about industry polluting the local branch of the Chicago River, adding that Bridgeport Alliance is following up with governmental organizations.
“We’re trying to meet with the IPA [Illinois Power Agency] and EPA [Federal Environmental Protection Agency] because the folks in this part of the city deserve to have a clean river, too,” he said.
Meeting participants also discussed We Will Chicago, a City initiative that encourages neighborhood growth, and the organization’s long-term anti-racism project. Bridgeport Alliance held an event May 3 that explored links between racism and capitalism.
According to Gleason, Bridgeport Alliance seeks a less tense public safety view “that doesn’t necessarily have to result in calling 911 or just using C.A.P.S. meetings to complain about neighbors.”
Besides extending community outreach and expanding the organization’s community presence, Jacobs noted creating an organization newsletter ranks high on the group’s agenda. Also, she anticipates members meeting in person more and having some social gatherings. She believes people meeting socially is an important part of Bridgeport Alliance.
The organization’s social group is planning a socially distanced in-person event in June and a game night preceding it; no date has been set.
Jacobs said she always feels energized by the meetings because “I think everybody who’s there is really motivated to try to make Bridgeport the best community it can be.
“We really don’t shy away from any topics, not as a matter of politics but just as a matter of what’s going to improve and enrich the lives of community members,” added Jacobs. She noted working with local government officials and including the community in decision making remain at the forefront of Bridgeport Alliance’s mission.
Gleason said Bridgeport Alliance meetings focus on getting projects done and updating members on what is happening in the neighborhood because many members are looking to connect with neighbors and have discussions regarding the future of their neighborhood.
“There are a lot of competing voices and needs through our ward,” said Gleason. “And I think there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure those needs are met and that lines of communication stay open.”
To contact Bridgeport Alliance, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: William S. Bike also contributed to this article.