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Altgeld Gardens is a housing project located in the Riverdalemarker Community Area of Chicagomarker, Illinoismarker, USAmarker. The residents are 97% African American according to the 2000 US Census. Built in 1945 with 1,498 units, the development consists primarily of two-story row houses spread over . It was built to satisfy the need for African American veterans returning from World War II and was originally owned by the federal government, but was granted to the Chicago Housing Authority in 1956. Located in an industrial area on Chicagomarker’s far South side, Altgeld was named after John Peter Altgeld an Illinoismarker governor in the 1890s. As one of the first public housing developments ever built in the United Statesmarker, it is considered an historic landmark.

Existing conditions

There are 3,400 residents currently living in the Altgeld / Murray complex. This complex includes its own schools, maintenance staff, on-site social services and medical facilities.

Altgeld Gardens' boundaries are 130th Street on the north and 138th Street on the south, from the Bishop Ford Freeway on the east and the Calumet Rivermarker on the west. Altgeld Gardens is located near numerous manufacturing plants, former steel mills, waste dumps and landfills. The residents have a growing concern about the number of deaths annually from cancer and other diseases that may be related to their environment.

Altgeld Gardens contained a great deal of asbestos in its construction materials - asbestos that remained there until a grassroots campaign in the 1980s advocated for its removal. President Barack Obama, then a local community organizer, participated in this campaign, and wrote about it at length in his book Dreams From My Father. No new insulation was installed.

It is one of the densest concentrations of potentially hazardous pollution sources in North America. Many of the landfills that surround them are unregulated, and some of those are still being used. Since most of these landfills as well as many industrial plants are located along the waterways surrounding the area, of the of rivers and lakes surrounding Altgeld Gardens, of them are unfit for human consumption and recreation, though many residents still fish in them.

Over the years, Altgeld Gardens ( experienced various gang problems -- yet the community is not regarded as ridden with the sort of bloody rivalries endemic to the North Side's Cabrini Greenmarker community nor to the Robert Taylor Homesmarker, near the historic Bronzeville neighborhood.

Notable residents

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