CHINATOWN — It's three days before Memorial Day, and the Chinese American Veterans Memorial near Archer and Princeton avenues is in disrepair.
Weeds have all but consumed landscaping that once featured green shrubs. And the bulbs of the five floodlights dotting the patio around the black granite memorial were either burned-out or smashed — until Friday morning.
Around 8 a.m., workers from the city's Bureau of Electricity visited the memorial and replaced the broken bulbs of the floodlights with new ones. The memorial will now be illuminated for Memorial Day.
The overgrown weeds covering the landscaping remain.
From the window of her third-floor condo across the street, 72-year-old Rosalind "Lucy" Toy can see the floodlights and weeds surrounding the memorial. She thinks it's about time the city sent workers to take care of the mess.
"It's an eyesore," said Toy, who moved to Chinatown 54 years ago and watched builders construct the memorial in 2005. "I'm very disappointed; I wanted it to be nice for Memorial Day."
City officials say they're aware of blighted memorial.
In a statement to DNAinfo Chicago, Ald. Danny Solis said the city is working to fix and clean up the memorial this weekend.
"The Chicago Department of Transportation received our request earlier this week and are working on the situation to get it resolved before Memorial Day," the statement said. "We want to personally thank the resident that brought this to our attention. We must do everything we can to honor the sacrifice and service of our fallen heroes."
Plans for the memorial began to take shape the early 2000s, when the Chinese American Veterans Memorial Committee and Chinatown American Legion Post 1003 spearheaded a campaign to build a tribute to Chinatown residents who fought in foreign wars.
Their efforts paid off on June 12, 2005, when Madame Anna Chennault, widow of Gen. Claire Chennault — commander of the famed U.S. "Flying Tigers" in China during World War II — attended a dedication ceremony and officially opened the memorial to the public.
But since the memorial went up in 2005, no one has regularly maintained the grounds, Toy said. Most of the lights burned out — and remained dark — only two years after the city erected the memorial.
During the past two summers, Toy has tried to help clear the weeds, pulling them up with her bare hands and filling garbage bags, but it has become too much to handle alone, she said.
Waiting at the Archer bus stop in front of the memorial, she'll often lean over to pull a few handfuls of weeds before she goes on her way.
Toy reached out to city officials last month, hoping to give maintenance workers enough time to spruce up the memorial before Memorial Day.
In an email dated April 23, Toy wrote this request to Solis:
"Can you tell me who to contact for: Replacing floodlights on Chinese Veteran's Memorial and having landscape work done. (Last summer I handpicked the weeds growing in front)"
In an email response dated the same day, Solis wrote, "I will let the bureau of electricity know ..."
The memorial has remained untouched since Toy's exchange with the Solis. Toy's emails to the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce also have gone unanswered.
"It should be maintained on a regular basis, and it's not," Toy said. "Nobody wants to go through the trouble.
"Maybe I'll get a group of my friends together one day and we'll have a weed party. I'll give everyone a pair of scissors and a big bag, and we'll do it ourselves."
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