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Alderman, residents upset over plan to house migrants in Chicago park field house


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    CHICAGO (WBBM) — An uproar has erupted in the West Side’s Galewood neighborhood, as residents prepare for migrants to move in.

A total of 10 more buses full of migrants were set to arrive in Chicago on Tuesday. The city reports there are now 9,827 migrants living in Chicago shelters, and 3,012 awaiting placement.

Some could end up in the Galewood shelter – and some residents do not like it at all.

As CBS 2’s Shardaa Gray reported, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) held a meeting Tuesday night to address the news he says he himself only recently learned about.

The alderman is upset, and some Galewood residents are livid, about the plan to use the fieldhouse at Amundsen Park, 6200 W. Bloomingdale Ave., as a migrant shelter.

Taliaferro said the Mayor’s office told him four days ago this was happening, whether he and his constituents liked it or not.

“I told them right away that I objected to it, because there had been no community engagement,” Taliaferro said, “and the response given to me was, ‘You’re getting it.'”

The Chicago Park District building was used for senior programs and sports events. He said the Mayor’s office said all park programs would be canceled.

“They said this is happening whether you object to it or not, and this is happening whether your community objects to it or not,” said Ald. Taliaferro. “We have a migrant crisis. We’re all aware of that. We know that.”

He said a representative from the Mayor’s office told him Friday that 125 migrants would be housed inside the Amundsen field house.

Taliaferro said he spoke with the office of Mayor Brandon Johnson again Tuesday morning, and was told this time that a total of 276 migrants would be moving in.

“We have to make sure that we look out for their wellbeing, their housing, their safety – but still, we have to make sure that our residents are engaged and involved,” Taliaferro said.

The plan to use the field house as a migrant shelter has also sparked outrage from residents who have lived in the neighborhood for decades.

“We’re taxpayers. They’re not paying taxes,” said Mona Collins. “It’s not fair to us.”

“We’re not anti-migrants,” said Donald Glover, a member of the Amundsen Park Advisory Council. “But we shouldn’t have to suffer.”

Indeed, there was plenty of frustration from Galewood residents – some who have lived in the neighborhood for decades.

“I’ve been in my house 37 years, and I don’t understand why we’re being affected like this,” said Charlette Johnson.

Glover said they the advisory council has put a lot of money into the field house.

“Every air conditioner in this whole building, we bought them,” he said. “Refrigerator, stove, microwave – we bought it.”

The neighbors have also asked for the showers to be fixed – and now with migrants coming, they work.

“Now they can fix up the showers in there today,” Johnson said. “She’s been asking for work, plumbing, and everything else for how long?”

Johnson said the migrants are being prioritized while residents of the neighborhood who use the park were not.

“We’ve got to make all kinds of different preparations because we don’t count,” Johnson said. “Now they’re fixing it all up to beautify it, for what? How come we didn’t have that service?”

The residents may not have a say in what’s happening, but they told us they will have a say about the mayor, and others, in the voting booth.

“Vote them out,” said Collins. “We’re going to vote them out of office.”

Once the packed meeting got under way, the atmosphere grew even more heated as residents booed and chanted at city leaders. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder as they lashed out.

Representatives from the Mayor’s office, the Park District, and the Chicago Police Department were all there.

“We’re not anti-migrants, but it should not be on our backs,” one resident said. “For them to just sit up here with this crap, and we’re supposed to listen to it!”

Residents changed, “What about the kids!”

“Our tax bills are paid into the Park District,” said Camille Harris. “Nobody asked us for permission. Nobody asked us how we felt about it before making these decisions.”

As CBS 2’s Jermont Terry reported, Taliaferro reiterated that the community was not consulted.

“These decisions need to be brought to the community,” he said at the meeting.

“If we lose this, you know how far our kids got to go to do activities?” said Thomas Simmons.

Simmons, a longtime resident, is baffled that the city will shut down a booming park – sending children and seniors to other facilities.

“We got the seniors who sew,” he said. “What are they going to do?”

But the decision is done, and now, those in Galewood wait to see how the shelter will impact their neighborhood and property values.

“It angers me tremendously to put our community at risk,” Harris said.

City leaders tried explaining the decision, but the crowd did not want to hear much of what they were saying. When Beatriz Ponce De León, Deputy Mayor of Immigrant, Migrant and Refugee Rights, introducer herself, she was booed.

“You work for us!” they chanted at Ponce De León.

It was rowdy outside too, as many people weren’t allowed in because they reached capacity.

The underlying issue, as articulated before the meeting and in particular by the alderman, was that the community was blindsided by migrants moving in. Critics say it is an ongoing theme for the Johnson administration.

The alderman said he is the park programs closing will lead to a repeat of a teen takeover like the one downtown in the spring. He said the migrants might move in sometime this weekend.

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