Who's Impacted
Real People. Real Stories. Real Impact.

Impacted business owner:
Carl is 82 years old. He is the son of German immigrants who came to this country after the first world war, with only the clothes on their back.  He is a life-long resident of the City of Chicago and served in the US Army. He grew up working in his father's bakery business.  He went to the University of Illinois at Navy Pier and finished in Champaign, IL where he studied to become an Architect. He designed and built his property using every last penny that he and his wife of 55 years had to their name. The property is well maintained and serves thousands of people in the community. Now that he and his wife are semi-retired, they depend on the income from this property for their livelihood. The possibility of seizure of this property by Northeastern Illinois University has made Carl physically and emotionally sick. This property is his legacy in the community and the cornerstone of his financial well-being. Losing the property would be devastating to him and his family.

Impacted business owner:
Three generations of my family lived and worked in this neighborhood. My grandfather and father built and operated Tong's Tea Garden at 3411 W. Bryn Mawr from 1954 to 1984, but our roots in the neighborhood go back even earlier, to 1946. My grandfather, Tan Sum Tong, had emigrated from China in 1924, and finally earned citizenship after being drafted and serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. He took the opportunity as a U.S. citizen to arrange to have his wife (my grandmother), son (my father, Jerry) and daughter (my Aunt Yolanda), buy a business, and operate it with family members. The predecessor of Tong's Tea Garden was The Lee, a Chinese take out at 3336 W. Bryn Mawr, which Grandpa bought from the previous owner. Due to the post-war GI housing shortage, my grandfather, grandmother, and aunt lived in a GI trailer at a temporary camp set up for several years at the site where Northeastern Illinois University now stands, while my father slept in the restaurant kitchen, or on the Peterson School merry-go-round on hot summer nights. When the GI trailer camp closed, my family had to move to Chinatown. After seven long years of hard work, 12 to 14 hour days, open 363 days a year (closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas), with a daily 20 mile commute from Chinatown, Grandpa accumulated enough money to buy a vacant lot down the street and construct a larger restaurant with living quarters on the second floor in 1954 to avoid the daily commute. In 1970, Tong's Tea Garden remodeled and added a dining room. My sisters and I grew up working in the restaurant; myself, from age twelve through graduate school at Northeastern Illinois University, before my father retired in 1984. The restaurant ownership stayed within the family, and my father leased it out to a succession of Chinese tenants; the restaurant name changed to Hong Won from 1984 to 1996, and changed to its current name, Hunan Wok. The income from leasing the restaurant was the primary source of my parents' retirement income, and my disabled mother still depends on that income, especially for caregiver expenses (my mother and sister still live upstairs). It is sad and ironic that Northeastern Illinois University, where I earned my Master's Degree in Earth Science in 1988, and where I worked my first full time job as a Physical Science Technical Assistant (1984-1991), has now chosen to expand by shortchanging and bulldozing the lifetime work and achievements of my late father and grandfather, along with those of other business owners and neighborhood residents, many of whom share similar stories to mine.

More stories to come as we gather the amazing history of those families impacted by NEIU’s attempt to seize private property for the financial benefit of unscrupulous real estate developers and to cover up the mismanagement of the University by Dr. Sharon Hahs.