Wednesday, August 15, 2007

NIMBY's Corner #5

This week, once again, we have a solid vintage of NIMBYism -- not perhaps the finest harvest of recent weeks, from lesser terroirs and uncommon varietals, but recognizable nonetheless as belonging to the Hyde Park appelation.

What's distinctive about this week's pressing is a certain bouquet of incoherence, with peppery notes that finish with an aftertaste of contradiction. Such
unpredictabilities, tho', are part of the joy of NIMBYism. Heretofore, we haven't devoted much time to a noisy little row among the neighbors of Bar Louie, one that has catapulted Sharonjoy A. Jackson to neighborhood fame and has taken up fully half of this week's Op-Ed page. Her arrival as an Establishment figure was this week Heralded when she was interviewed as a "source" in the conflict over Boisterousness and Parking near the controversial restaurant.

It will be remembered that Ms. Jackson, one of the first guests to
NIMBYs corner, is East Hyde Park's promoter of Bucolic lakeside living, full of Tranquility not known in the commercial districts to the north. This week, her plaint is directed mostly to other people not taking her seriously, and though not therefore really related to NIMBYism, she does finish this week's letter with the following:

The only other chain that has entered the Hyde Park community is Borders, which, as predicted, is not doing well. Let us keep and nurture the small businesses, which are assets to our community, rather than those large, commercial entities that add nothing positive to our community -- and which show little, if any, interest in our community, our needs, and our uniqueness. And, yes, this is a community.

Editorial Fact Check: Quite a number of chains are alive and doing well in Hyde Park. I shop at most of them. A few of them are: Starbucks (3 locations that I know of); Potbelly Sandwich Works; Edwardo's Pizza; Jimmy John's; FedEx-Kinkos; Pepe's; Ace Hardware; Office Depot; Harold's Chicken; Leona's; McDonald's; Dunkin' Donuts; Baskin Robbins; Wok-N-Roll; The Great Frame Up; CVS; Walgreens; Boston Market; UPS Store; Radio Shack; Binny's; Domino's Pizza; Edible Arrangements, and Hollywood Video. I've probably missed a few. Borders wants to move out of two other custom-built stores (at Broadway and Lawrence in Uptown, and Clyborn and North in Lincoln Park), so the Hyde Park situation is not unusual, and most likely is related to the same trend to internet commerce that has doomed Dr. Wax.

Upshot: much of Hyde Park commerce ALREADY consists of chain stores, and no one is complaining. We need a lot of what they offer because we can't get it anywhere else. Painting Bar Louie with the brush of failed chain stores in Hyde Park therefore doesn't convince.

A much more curious piece of
NIMBAGE is authored by one William F. Zieske, who actually introduces the term NIMBY into his letter. We only hope he's been reading NIMBY's Corner! But we can't quite figure out what he thinks: is he a NIMBY, or not? At first glance, he seems to be with us in denouncing NIMBYism everywhere:

Hyde Park-Kenwood is an affluent neighborhood, and is blessed with more parkland than ANY other neighborhood in the entire city. Look at a city map -- we are surrounded by vast green spaces and the blue of our beautiful lake. We have the right resources, transportation facilities, a location just minutes from the Loop, and already have the community vitality and prominence to make Hyde Park an attractive destination for Olympic athletes and fans world-wide.

Are we the ones who should be making [a] NIMBY argument, selfishly refusing to share a small fraction of our pristine parks, and
hoving the burdens of hte Olympics on other neighborhoods?

Editorial Comment: All well and good so far, and full of good common sense. But here comes the CAVE to Establishment Orthodoxy.

We in Hyde Park-Kenwood should gladly give up some of our over-abundance of green grass for venues that would attract the world to visit Chicago in 2016, and to spend money here that can help build the much-needed parks, hospitals, and community centers -- not a stadium --in the communities that need them.
Mr. Zieske is therefore on board for doing everything we need to in order to host the Olympics, with the exception of being able to host the Olympics. So use the parkland, bring the people and the cash, but don't build a stadium. Just pass out folding chairs and pretend it's Ravinia. Alas, this letter came a hair's breadth from our Hyde Park Heroes column; instead, it landed in NIMBY's Corner for failing to perceive the anti-stadium argument as textbook NIMBYism.

Lastly is another itemization of complaints against the proposed
Marriott, this one slightly different from that of Hans More-bucks and notably lacking the delightful category of "fa├žadism". Mr. Allan Rechtschaffen notes with almost Victorian disapprobation that the Marriott plan is driven by "the profit motive." This variety of NIMBYism has distinct top-notes of know-it-all-ness given structure by solid anti-capitalism.

Many have questioned why we need a 380 room hotel. Surely it is more than we need for university and community purposes. The answer again was that this size favored profitability.
Editorial Comment: Surely it is more than we need? What neighborhood coffee-clatch did the market study to back this one up?

It is ultimately a matter of taste, but most people I have spoken to think the design is not what we want at the gateway of the university community...My understanding is that it is not Marriott's top-of-the-line model. Costs and profits again!
Editorial Comment: We've already highlighted the high aesthetic bar set by the proposed hotel's neighbor, the Vista Homes. But here it is inferred that what is called for is Marriott top-of-the-line hotel (fully unionized of course). But could low-paid academics and frugal Hyde Parkers really afford Marriott's top-of-the-line model? We need a hotel for conventions, conferences, and private events, but it's unlikely that anyone's tab is going to be underwritten by J. Walter Thompson, Citadel Group, or Aon Corporation. A little more familiarity with "the profit motive" and how it works might help the writer understand what it takes for an academic neighborhood to get a 5-Star, "top-of-the-line" hotel in its backyard.


Peter Rossi said...

let us not forget that there is a conspicuous element of racism in the Bar Louie controversy. Virtually all of the patrons of Bar Louie are black. This is what various establishment types mean when they say "outsiders." This is a code word for rowdy black folks.

Elizabeth Fama said...

I know Allan Rechtschaffen. He didn't mention it in his letter to the Herald, but he lives in the Brick Zebra.

Bill Zieske said...

I just discovered your blog, and am impressed and excited to see such a vital community of non-NIMBYites.

I believe you have extracted my Herald letter to death, following the Herald's editing of it, and entirely misinterpreted it.

The letter was in response to Mr. Staples' earlier letter, suggesting that instead of destroying "our" green grass in Washington Park (and presumably Jackson Park) with Olympic venues, these venues should be placed in post-industrial areas of the city.

My theme was that those areas are actually neighborhoods, or surrounded by neighborhoods, that lack the basic needs of a community: schools, community centers, hospitals, etc.; and that we are not only an affluent neighborhood where these needs are already served, but also have more green space than any other neighborhood in Chicago. Therefore, we have no right to cry "NIMBY" and ask that the burden of the Olympics be placed on the more politically marginalized poor neighborhoods (which is always the effect of NIMBY: those with the most powerful voices win, and the poor and disinfranchized lose).

Instead, I proposed that our green space be used for the Olympic venues -- which it is well-suited for -- which will bring in (hopefully) a great amount of money from visitors, creating increased tax revenue that could be used to build what is really needed in those "post-industrial" neighborhoods: schools, centers and hospitals, etc.

Anyone who argues that placing the venues in a poor and blighted neighborhood will help that neighborhood need only be shown the area around United Center. People come in, park in side the fence, see a game, and leave as fast as they can get to the highway without stopping. The neighborhood is viewed only as an unfortunate background for an otherwise nice day. Olympic venues will not help those neighborhoods; the funds from the Olympics might. Hyde Parkers, traditionally progressive, should be willing to "give" of their neighborhood toward this goal by hosting the venues, and at the same time advocate for such a use of increased city tax funds brought in as a result of the Olympics. I hope this clarifies my point. It certainly wasn't about "the money" - it is about using our neighborhood's strengths to help other neighborhoods that need.

Keep up the good work, and the good words.

Bill Zieske

chicago pop said...

Ah, the perils of Herald editing. A risk we all take whenever we send them a letter. In any case, thank you to Mr. Zieske for the clarification of his well-thought out case for greater Hyde Park hospitality towards a potential Olympics, or, indeed, anything else that might benefit the South Side.