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Uptown's Melting Pot

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Dear editor:

Thank you for Mr. Ted Kleine's "Down on Uptown" [Our Town, April 3]. The Organization of the NorthEast is a community organization proud to serve all of Uptown. Indeed, many of our members have experienced the displacement Mr. Kleine refers to in his article.

The Organization of the NorthEast (ONE) was founded in the early 1970s by a coalition of churches, social service agencies, and residents of Uptown and Edgewater who were determined, despite the split into "two" communities, to retain a sense of community along the lakefront between Irving Park and Devon. ONE's mission is to maintain and support a mixed-income, multiethnic community. Uptown/

Edgewater is one of the most diverse communities in the nation. We have always been a port-of-entry community, ready to welcome newcomers from the rural south, refugees from the war in southeast Asia and the African famines, those seeking asylum from persecution and pogroms in the former USSR, and victims of the war in eastern Europe, as well as Latinos from many nations. Most people who come here are looking for a place to begin a new life and a way to live in peace and health with their families and neighbors. We are ready to welcome our latest batch of new neighbors--new owners and young professionals--if only they would let us!

Our community is on the brink of being torn to pieces by newcomers who decide after they move in that an SRO or a homeless shelter or a church that houses after-school programs for teenagers or a HUD-subsidized property or a large Cambodian family are not desirable neighbors. Perhaps we need a truth-in-advertising law for real estate ads--if people knew they were moving into Uptown from the start, they would have no reason to complain later. Uptown/Edgewater has been a successful mixed-income community for more than 20 years, and we want it to stay that way.

I find it ironic that the same city administration that trumpets the creation of "mixed-income communities" in the former Cabrini-Green and Robert Taylor Homes areas seems bent on destroying the one mixed-income community in the city that works. City policy encouraging the type of displacement experienced by Mr. Kleine and actively discouraging the construction of more affordable housing in the area is a case in point.

The Organization of the NorthEast encourages all the residents of the community to come together in tolerance and compassion so that together we can maintain our diversity. The wealthy, the working family, the immigrant, the homeless, and the middle class have always lived cheek to jowl in Uptown, and we see no reason why we cannot continue to do so.

Margaret Haywood

Board President

Organization of the NorthEast

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