Gentrification? Bring It On! 

I'm trying to figure out exactly what aspect of the old Lincoln Park Carlos Flores is nostalgic about ("Puerto Rican Days," July 12). A place with peeling paint, boarded-up windows, For Rent signs, and garbage in the streets? A place where "a shove, a step on a sneaker, or a sideways look could provoke a fight"? With illegal drag racing and apartments with rickety, dangerous back porches and walls defaced with graffiti? A place where the author was lucky to survive past his early 20s, to hear him tell his story?

Compare that to Armitage today. You can walk along that street from Clark to the el tracks and beyond without fear. Beautiful rehabbed vintage buildings. Smooth sidewalks, smooth streets, litter picked up. Plenty of retail. Rising property values (and property taxes too, but at least they're getting a return on those taxes with bountiful city services). Now, it's a place anyone would want to live. And to visit.

And Flores's fellow gang members, back in the day? What trees and grass did they plant? What buildings did they rehab? What litter did they pick up? Were they interested in making Lincoln Park a clean, safe, quiet Puerto Rican neighborhood when they were killing people, beating up students, slapping nuns around, doing drugs, and generally lolling on the sidewalk? Or were they just letting off a little "testosterone," just as their descendants in Humboldt Park do now?

What of Flores himself? His parents must have been ecstatic when they sold their Lincoln Park home for almost 17 times what they paid for it 38 years earlier (the closing price and sale date are public information and available on the Web). He certainly shouldn't be complaining. He can live off the income from his present Wicker Park building because he can demand and get the kind of rents people will pay to live in an up-and-coming neighborhood. It'll be quite a few years before any landlord can ask for those kinds of rents in Humboldt Park.

Mr. Flores's words speak of a neighborhood that was paradise on earth. His photos speak much louder, and they speak of a fading, sagging place where "outsiders" would have been wise to drive through quickly, with the windows up. Funny thing. His mother's memories of the old Lincoln Park match almost exactly what his pictures show.

Let's see now. Whom should I believe?

Ken Smith

The waiting-to-be-gentrified south side

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