Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s recent remarks intended to praise Pilsen for its resurgence came off as “insulting” to newly elected Aldermen Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th).
She made the remarks Thursday during a Q&A at the Innovation Summit as she spoke about creating “vibrant, healthy and safe neighborhoods” as a way to tackle gun violence, the Sun-Times reported.
“Pilsen 10 years ago was a neighborhood we all would have been a little bit concerned about being in after dark,” Lightfoot said. “Pilsen now is a vibrant, thriving neighborhood. What’s the difference? The difference is economic development.”
Sigcho-Lopez called the remarks “insulting” and indicative of how “disconnected” Lightfoot is from the effects of gentrification that has “eroded” the neighborhood’s Mexican-American cultural identity, according to the Sun-Times.
“To say this community is just thriving without acknowledging that we have many challenges ahead of us … shows an administration disconnected from the reality of our community,” Sigcho-Lopez said. “Thriving for whom? We still see the most vulnerable being left out. The marginalized being left out of the conversation.”
“We’re still waiting for a true partnership that stands up to the big developers. That stands up to the corporate interests that continues to try and buy their way into the community,” he said.
The mayor’s office declined to respond to Sigcho-Lopez’s comments.
On Thursday, Lightfoot also said “intentional economic development” is what made River North go from a bypass to a bustling business district and she wants to duplicate “that kind of intentionality” in struggling areas on the South and West Sides.
The alderman has opposed a number of private real estate developments in the community. Most notably, he has tangled with New York-based developer Kevin Maloney, whose firm Property Markets Group is suing the city over a development at the former “ParkWorks” site. PMG initially pitched a 500-united mixed-use residential and commercial development, then scaled it tdown to 465 apartments and then 434 units.
Sigcho-Lopez, meanwhile, has promised to raise the benchmark for affordable housing in Pilsen from 21 percent to 30 percent in new apartment buildings.
[Sun-Times] — Brianna Kelly