Cabrini Green residents: Property’s gates not inspected each wee

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Residents of the Chicago Housing Authority’s Cabrini Green Rowhouses refute the claim by its property managers that the iron gates on the complex’s grounds have been inspected weekly. The claim comes in the wake of 3-year-old Curtis Cooper’s June 27 death

The gates, which residents said children often swung on, were put up for security reasons. Some gates were off the hinges and some had makeshift hinges–a chain. The day after the incident, the complex’s management company, Urban Property Advisors, had the faulty gates removed and said it would look into whether or not the gates are even still needed. Delphine Jasper, a regional property manager for Urban Property, said it was an unfortunate accident that “shouldn’t have happened.”

“This is an old property, and all of this stuff was here before we came here,” Jasper told reporters the day of the accident at the scene. Urban Property took over management duties of the 60-year-old public housing complex two years ago and said weekly inspections have taken place since renovations on the complex began over a year ago. Alicia, a 25-year-old long-time resident of the rowhouses, said weekly checks are not done.

“It can’t be that they check once a week. The refrigerator and toilet has been running water for six months now, and this is after we relocated to the other side of the complex because of the rehabbing being done,” she said. A mother and daughter who also live in the complex said a letter regarding maintenance inquiries from the management company goes out frequently, but no one is physically out weekly to inspect the homes.

“If you need something, you call and tell them, like the letter states. But they don’t have the staff to come out like they said they do,” said a senior resident who preferred to remain anonymous. As far as feeling “secure” with the gates, that’s a misnomer, the senior resident’s daughter said. Due to the crime spike in the area, the gates were put up, but they do not lock.

Last year a lock was put on the gate, but the locking mechanism on the opposite gate was never installed, she said. “There’s a hole on the other gate. It can’t lock, and we were never given any keys or a buzzer. It’s just there for show. If we close the gate, anyone riding past will think it’s locked. But people who live here know the real deal. It’s just for appearance sake,” the woman said. Calls from the Defender to Urban Property Advisors about the nonlocking gates were not returned. Cooper had little chance for survival once the 7-foot tall gate came down. His body was too small to sustain the heavy fence. Residents rushed to lift the nearly 300 pound gate off the boy.

“I tried to pick the fence up, but I couldn’t lift it,” resident Joyce Woods said. Another resident, Jimmy Chandler, was able to get it off the 3-year-old. “I don’t know how I did it, but I got the gate up,” a devastated Chandler said. The city’s building department has instructed CHA to have each fence at the complex inspected by structural engineers.

Kathy Chaney can be reached via email at kchaney@chicagodefender.com Defender contributing writer Jakina Hill contributed to this report.

______ Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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