The author is the PSL candidate for Illinois State Representative in the 40th District, which encompasses some of Albany Park, a predominantly working-class, immigrant neighborhood. Click here to read more about her campaign. Click here to read more about other PSL candidates running in local and national elections.


On Saturday, Sept. 13, Chicago was hit by over six inches of rain, and then again by more than one-and-a-half inches the following day. After the Sept. 13 downpour, the Chicago river swelled two feet despite the fact that three floodgates were opened to allow water to flow into Lake Michigan.


In Albany Park, a neighborhood on the city’s northwest side, the storm destroyed homes and appliances of residents who live along the Chicago River. Over 1.2 billion gallons of water filled the streets. More than 1,900 homes and apartments were flooded. Over 340 people were forced from their homes. Dozens were evacuated by boat.


Albany Park is a working-class neighborhood, predominantly made up of immigrants. It has the largest foreign-born population of any neighborhood in the city of Chicago. Over 46 percent of residents are Latino and nearly 18 percent are Asian.


Residents reported that they received no assistance from the city in preventing the disaster until the river had already flooded the streets and alleys, and had begun to flood their homes. One Albany Park resident who lives in the 5100 block of Springfield Ave. said that workers did not start sandbagging her block until the morning after the storm hit.


Another resident who evacuated his house as water levels reached four feet on the first floor, explained: “When you think about buying a house here, you think, ‘What’s the worst thing that could happen? A flood?’ But I didn’t think I’d lose the whole house and have no insurance.”


Many people living alongside of the river were denied flood insurance outright. Banks claimed that Albany Park was not in a flood plain.


No flood prevention for the working class


But flooding had happened in this neighborhood before. In 1986 and again in 1987, the Chicago River flooded the Albany Park neighborhood after periods of heavy rainfall, leaving residents stranded and homes damaged. Residents responded by requesting that the city build a retaining wall by the river’s banks. No retaining wall was ever built.


Even with this history of flooding in the area, the government has refused to expend the necessary resources to prevent further devastation. Both local politicians and Sen. Richard Durbin claimed that nothing more could have been done to minimize the flood damage in the area.


Members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation joined the relief efforts and helped sandbag. In Albany Park, volunteers were turned away. Outrageously, the city ran out of sandbags. In fact, no real efforts were made to prevent flooding in Albany Park, one of the poorest areas along the river.


The PSL also sent a team of volunteers to talk with residents in the days that followed the flooding. Residents were helping each haul ruined appliances, furniture, and family mementos out to the street. They are angry about the city’s negligence and are organizing meetings.


Chicago has more than enough resources to prepare for flooding along its rivers. Nearly 300 of the Fortune 500 companies have industrial centers in the region. Much of Albany Park was left under water not for lack of resources, but because both local and national government prioritize the profits of corporations over the safety and security of residents.


The PSL campaign stands in solidarity with the residents of Albany Park and all communities affected by the recent flooding to demands full assistance in rebuilding our homes. Only through mass struggle will people be able to use the great wealth of society to protect our communities when we need it most. Under socialist planning, resources are allocated on the basis of human need, and not on the basis of corporate profit. Our campaign demands that our tax money be spent on people’s needs, such as disaster preparedness. Safe and decent housing is a human right!