Gale Cincotta (1929-2001) was born in Chicago’s Lawndale neighborhood, the daughter of immigrants. She and her husband, a gas station owner, and their five sons moved to the Austin neighborhood in the 1950’s, a time of white flight. Cincotta’s activism began in her sons’ school PTA but moved on to bigger issues. Organizing her Austin neighbors, she started the Organization for a Better Austin which fought for better housing policies. Gifted with the ability to build multiracial coalitions, Cincotta led West Side Chicagoans as they fought red-lining and abuses by the Federal Housing Authority. She was responsible for a successful campaign to pass the Community Reinvestment Act, which requires any bank with FDIC insurance to loan a certain percentage of its money in the neighborhood it serves.
Cincotta was well known for her creative ways to make a point. She once nailed a dead rat to the door of an alderman to protest inadequate rodent control in Austin. In 1991, she led 500 anti-red-lining protestors as they wrapped a red ribbon around the Federal Reserve Board building in Washington.
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Cincotta to the National Commission on Neighborhoods. She also served on the National Commission on Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing and as a member of Fannie Mae's Housing Impact Advisory Council. Though Cincotta was a lifelong Chicago West Side resident, her legacy extended nationwide.
Why this stop? The Blue Line Austin stop is one of the L stations serving the Austin neighborhood.
Listen to Studs Terkel interview Gale Cincotta.