I’ve been reading Blueprint for Disaster: The Unraveling of Chicago Public Housing (Historical Studies of Urban America) by D. Bradford Hunt. What prompted me to read this book? Well, not only do I really enjoy non-fiction, but I was walking down Halsted the other day after a fabulous crepe at Iguana Cafe (seriously, their crepes are to die for), when I encountered one of the remaining Cabrini Green towers at the corner of Division and Hasted. For some crazy idea I had been under the impression that all of the towers had been vacated. Apparently not. I found solid proof that people are still living in Cabrini Green towers. These aren’t squatters either. How do I know this?
Satellite dishes. I didn’t stop to specifically count how many, but there were at least five hanging outside of various units on the side of the building facing Halsted. I opted not to wander around to the other side of the building to count satellite dishes over there. I couldn’t read whether the dishes were from Dish or DirectTV, but I have to admit that I was baffled. Why are there satellite dishes outside of public housing units, and who is paying for them? I don’t want to begrudge anyone their constitutional right to watch television, but I find something extremely troubling about a person living off the taxpayer’s dime, yet paying the (not cheap at all) fees to have satellite television. It’s not difficult to imagine a large flatscreen television inside the units.
I’ll admit to having no idea how much it costs a person to live in Cabrini Green, but I can’t imagine the cost is very high. At what point does a person living in the projects on the taxpayer’s dime have to begin giving up certainly luxuries, such as satellite dishes? Should they be allowed to buy the luxuries in life while living in public housing? And what about cars? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a person in front of me in line at the grocery store or the drug store pay for their purchases with a foodstamp card, only to load up all of their items into a brand new Cadillac in the parking lot. Maybe I’m just jealous because I never attempted to scam the system, or because I didn’t get a satellite dish until six months ago.
At any rate, the book is interesting. I’m only about a hundred pages into it, but it’s pretty fascinating to find out why the projects (not only Cabrini Green, but Robert Taylor Homes, Altgeld Gardens, and others) were located where they are and all of the racial tensions involved in their construction.