In 2010, when the last families were moving out of Cabrini-Green and the last tower was being prepared for demolition, Ben Austen, a magazine writer and South Side native, began researching this end of an era for a Harper’s article. In a recent interview with the Weekly, Austen reflected that the more he dug in, he realized that this was “not just an important Chicago story but one of the most important Chicago stories…the whole history of the city exists within it.” Seven years and hundreds of interviews later, Austen would document that history in a deeper way with High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing.
Deep in the recesses of a basement at a former meatpacking facility in Back of the Yards, opposite large hydroponic tanks and industrial storage lockers, lives an unlikely success story. Tiny shoots of pea, radish, and peppercress bask under hanging lights, housed on several racks six feet tall and eight feet long. Twice a week, they are harvested and delivered to restaurants throughout the city, where they introduce surprisingly strong flavors into salads and sandwiches. Meanwhile, the leftover soil is composted, and a new set of trays, filled with germinated seeds, is brought out from underneath and into the light. The cycle continues and the demand for microgreens grows.
On Friday, May 12, the unionized editorial staff of the Chicago Reader unanimously voted to authorize a strike. Their decision was, in some ways, an act of desperation. Twenty-eight months after forming a union, they had not yet reached a contract with the owner, Wrapports, LLC. Last year, in response to a contract proposal calling for better salaries and a retirement plan, the company countered with “no salary increase and a severance package to consist of one day’s pay for every year worked,” according to a blog post by Ben Joravsky, a veteran political writer at the Reader.