"When I took office in 2009, we only had 1 high-achieving school. Now we have 6 high-achieving grade schools and 2 high-achieving high schools in the Ward."
Ald. Roberto Maldonado is keeping the 26th Ward affordable for our neighbors and the next generation of families to come. This Ward has always been a diverse residential neighborhood for the 95% — and Roberto is using his office to keep it this way. But high-end developers are hoping to lose this diversity to expand their mini-mansion building-boom.
He has concentrated on building neighborhoods that families need to thrive. Six out of the eleven grade schools have reached a Level 1 rating, the highest available, thanks in part to the Alderman. In addition, he brought 2 high schools to the ward--the first ever in the ward's history. "The backbone of any community is good schools," explained Maldonado. "Good high schools keep students in class and graduating at high rates. They instill our children with the foundation to succeed in college and beyond. Finally, good schools also prevent petty crimes and inhibit gang recruitment."
Making the Ward Safe & Secure
Maldonado has spent over $10 Million to re-build the 26th Ward with freshly paved streets and alleys, brighter lightening and security cameras--all in an effort to prevent crime. "Blighted streets attract criminal elements," he explained. In his first day as Alderman, he declared war on graffiti, calling on all residents to report instances to 311. "We received an overwhelming response, leading to thousands of gang graffiti being removed. Still today, I carry a notepad to report graffiti as I drive through the ward daily. So do all my staff," he said.
Maldonado moved to eliminate abandoned houses in the ward by taking property owners to housing court, forcing them to repair these houses or tear them down. "Not only are abandoned homes unsafe and unsanitary, criminal gangs may hide there and sometimes stash illegal guns there, " Maldonado explained further.
The Latest from the Alderman
City Council Officially Recognizes "Puerto Rico Town"
(October 31, 2018)--The City Council today passed a resolution for a "Puerto Rico Town" designation along Division Street, between Western and Grand Avenues. The resolution calls for creating a Special Purpose District that would constitute a “Cultural Sanctuary” involving the community in the prioritization and allocation of investments in existing and new businesses, art and culture that both preserves the community’s unique identity and creates jobs and a strong economy. Special Purpose Districts are established through the Illinois State Legislature.
Alderman Maldonado, the author of the resolution, said, "Paseo Boricua has become the economic, political, and cultural Puerto Rican capital of the Midwest. For years, it's been the only officially recognized Puerto Rican neighborhood in the country. Millions of dollars are spent at three annual major festivals such as the world-renowned Puerto Rican People’s Parade, the Fiesta Boricua Festival, and the Three Kings’ Day celebration. So it's high time we recognize our unique identity as a cultural and economic driver called Puerto Rico Town."
Paseo Boricua neighborhood is home to several esteemed cultural centers including the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, the only Puerto Rican Museum in the country. The AfroCaribe Cultural Center showcases Afro-Caribbean music and Puerto Rican traditions. It will soon house the Nancy Y. Franco-Maldonado Paseo Boricua Art’s Building providing housing, business opportunities, and commercial spaces for community artists to live and work as well as the Urban Theater Company, the only Puerto Rican founded theater company in Chicago featuring award-winning productions. Paseo Boricua now features one of the largest collections of public art in the country including murals, the Paseo Boricua Walk of Fame, light poles depicting Puerto Rican iconic images, and the recently installed Las Puertas de Paseo Boricua, a collection of 16 unique doors painted by artists reminiscent of the vibrant doors found in Old San Juan. Division Street has long been featured by authors Stud Terkel, Saul Bellow and Nelson Algren and, more recently, Puerto Rican writers like Salima Rivera, David Hernandez, Johanny Vasquez, and David Delgado.
In 1995, the City installed the world’s largest piece of public art on Division Street, depicting rippling steel Puerto Rican flags as the welcoming gateways to Paseo Boricua. "Now, to Puerto Rican evacuees seeking shelter after Hurricane Maria, the 50 ton steel flags symbolize Chicago's welcoming home-away from home. The sights, sounds and smells of Paseo Boricua truly provide that momentary passage back to Puerto Rico," explained Maldonado. "With the Special Purpose District, tourists and Chicagoans alike can take this passage to Puerto Rico just by boarding the #22 Division Bus to Puerto Rico Town."
Rebuilding the Ward, Preventing Crime, Developing Bustling Retail
Since 2009, Ald. Maldonado has accelerated the rebuilding of the 26th Ward, which started when residents united to counteract the lack of city services in the Ward. He has sunk over $10 Million into the Ward, building safe streets, bringing schools near-by and good businesses that serve residents' needs.
Urban decay started in the 1950s when some Aldermen wouldn't spend neighborhood tax dollars in their wards. Instead, these tax dollars were sunk into downtown, the expressways, and O'Hare airport. This resulted in dwindling city services and crumbling streets.
This neglect continued as Puerto Ricans and African-Americans took up residence in the 26th Ward. The Machine Alderman wouldn't represent the diverse residents or the businesses located there. "Streets, alleys, and light poles only have about a 30 year lifespan," said Maldonado. "When I moved to the Ward 40 years ago, Division Street was dilapidated. The sidewalks had collapsed into pot holes that were so dangerous pedestrians walked in the street instead."
"Maldonado has spent over $10 Million to rebuild the 26th Ward with freshly paved streets and alleys, brighter lightening and security cameras--all in an effort to prevent crime. Simply put, blighted streets attract criminal elements."
Tackling Crime Head On
Ald. Maldonado has pressed to fill police shortages, pushed for "hot spot" monitoring to be standard, and pressed to ban all guns. He has shut down shady businesses that cheat customers, keep their stores unsanitary, and allow gang members to loiter.
"We need more police to restore peace and quite to the 26th Ward. Despite working with District Commanders to add officers, our districts still suffer shortages."
For the last 9 years, Alderman Maldonado has held monthly meetings withe the District Commanders from the 12th, 14th and 25th Districts to co-ordinate efforts, identify additional needs and be proactive. Maldonado said, "These meetings are essential to preventing crimes instead of just reacting to them."
Building Affordability into the 26th Ward
Ald. Maldonado has been keeping the 26th Ward affordable for our neighbors and the next generation. In the last 2 years, his support has resulted in nearly 200 new or rehabbed apartments added to the housing stock in the 26th Ward. He even added 6 single family homes for $247,000 each. Long-time residents, who rebuilt the Ward, have earned their right to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
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