Robert Taylor man takes aim at city officials in new book

Tyrone Galtney has been writing his book, "The No-Way Out Syndrome," for 10 years, but he's been living the subject of the book since he was born.

Shortly after his birth, his family moved to the Robert Taylor Homes, the former mammoth public housing project on the city's South Side.

Galtney says he was compelled to write the book after the Plan for Transformation dramatically changed the community he grew up in. In Galtney's view, the Plan for Transformation destroyed the community, and in the book he issues harsh criticism on the CHA and other Chicago officials.

"Robert Taylor was a family. We knew everybody. Kinfolks is what we call it," says Galtney. "We lost our family."

Galtney grew up living in both the Robert Taylor and Clarence Darrow Homes. He graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a degree in criminal justice and political science and also studied urban development as a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has lived in Chicago all his life and now resides in the Ashburn neighborhood.

He says his initial motivation to write the book came from his aunt, a long-time resident of Robert Taylor, who was distressed by the buildlings being closed down and razed.

"My auntie said, 'Tyrone, Are you going to let them do us like this?'" he says. "It was a disrespect to my family. It was a disrespect to my people."

The book's title is a reflection of how the tenants of Chicago's public housing have been stripped of their community ties, giving them no connection to political or community participation, says Galtney.

"The people were disenfranchised. They were put out of sight, out of mind," says Galtney.

Many former public housing residents were transferred out on a Section 8 voucher, says Galtney, sending them to communities where they didn't know anyone or have any ties to the community. That kind of isolation, says Galtney, causes severe stress on a family, especially children.

"When you don't have stability, kids get aggressive. They act out," says Galtney.

Galtney says his book relies on newspaper and magazine articles, investigative reports, documents, resident experiences as well as his own individual experience in public housing.

"The research is all here. All I did was put it together and put it in the book," says Galtney.

The book is self-published and will be released in May. Galtney is planning several book signing events in the community, including one at his alma mater, NEIU, and one at the Central Advisory Council meeting, the city-wide council of public housing leaders.

Some of those leaders are excited about the book, including Shahshak Levi, former local advisory council president at Robert Taylor. He says he's been waiting a long time for a book like this to come out, and the anticipation has been quite emotional.

"There are tears that are exhilarating because it has been long waited for," says Levi. "There are tears of sorrow because it has been long waited for."

Galtney says he expects criticism and denial from public officials, but isn't worried about it. He says he knows the truth because he experienced it firsthand.

"I lived there," says Galtney. "I was right there. I lived through it."

Officials at the Chicago Housing Authority declined to comment.

Staff Writer Megan Cottrell covers public housing for the Daily News. She can be reached at 773-362-5002, ext. 12, or megan [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.

Discuss

BEN BROEREN, 04-18-2009

Nice article. I'd like to hear more from Galtney in his book.