Monday, July 28, 2008

Hyde Park Herald Gets Uppity Over Promontory Point Swimming Ban

posted by Elizabeth Fama

Rogue swimmer, scofflaw, repeat offender

The Herald's fiery, retro-anti-establishment editorial was, to quote the very frank C-Pop, "A doozy." The editor's tirade over the City of Chicago enforcing the no-swimming ban at the Point is laughable, given that the Herald was instrumental in rejecting the Compromise Plan, which included sanctioned deep-water swimming. As the mouthpiece for the Save the Point group, the Herald has helped to stall the re-building of the Point for seven years. I'm sorry, but it was the original (2001) Task Force for Promontory Point that won swimming rights in the Compromise Plan, not the Holy Point Savers, who have been heard to say they'd sacrifice swimming for aesthetics if the Preservation Gods required it.

And don't get me started on Crystal Fencke's Page One story about Fabio Grego's ticket from the police. She didn't learn a thing from HPP's blow-by-blow dismantling of her previous, inaccurate Point article: she's still dutifully calling the Compromise Plan a "demolition," "concrete-and-steel" plan, even though it reuses all of the existing limestone blocks, and even though any plan will require the revetment to be completely dismantled before it's re-built. But given that her own editor is misleading his readers by pointing to the "monstrosity" between 51st and 54th Street as the design the Point Savers are fighting against, I shouldn't be surprised.

Now on to the Letters-to-the-Editor section, and the strange notion prevalent there that "We've always swum here" somehow means the City shouldn't enforce the law. If only these folks would campaign instead for the Compromise Plan. If people who are passionate about swimming at the Point had been involved all along, we might even have been able to modify the Compromise Plan to include sanctioned swimming on both the north and the south side (currently it's only slated for the south side, although both sides will have the same water-access design).

Finally, I have to just say it outright: the Point has become dangerous. Most of you know I love the place with every cell in my body. But I totally understand the City's quandary: it needs to give out a few tickets every year, just so that when someone is killed or seriously injured, Mara Georges, the City's top lawyer, can say, "Whoa! We've never allowed swimming there! Look at these tickets!"

In that sense, Mr. Grego can consider himself to be the most recent sacrifice to the Point Savers' Gods of Preservation.


chicago pop said...

re: photo above-- that had to hurt.

Peter Rossi said...

I've never seen a "point saver" swimming at the Point.

At the first community meeting that I went to in January 2001, a number of us talked about the need for water access and sanctioned swimming.

the ridiculous "preservation" agenda has brushed these aside. Users of the Point are not important -- it is only the process that counts!

Zig and Lou said...

Elizabeth you are right on the money. The "Point" is significantly overdue for a not-so-shocking 'I can't believe the City let this happen' swimming incident as it is hard to call anything that happens there moving forward an 'accident'.

Raymond said...

C-pop is right.

Did that guy in the picture get rushed to the hospital with a laceration to the skull?

Elizabeth Fama said...

"No humans were harmed in the photography for this post."

Stephen said...

I spoke with an impassioned supporter of the "Save the Point" campaign the other day. Unfortunately, this person was so poorly informed, it was embarrassing. This person believed the fight was against a concrete structure exactly like that at the tip of the Point today. This person also asked me why I'd be against the Task Force when it looked like preservation was finally going to win the battle, and salvation was imminent (quoting the recent Herald article).

The fact is, I realized many Save The Point fanatics are fanatical over a position they know nothing or very little about. The Hyde Park Herald poorly serves these residents by being a propaganda rag purporting to be the voice of the neighborhood.

Also, is Ms. Hairston under the impression her only voting constituents are those reading and adopting as truth the Herald propaganda?

Finally, didn't the Herald say something about the limestone being harmonious with nature, land meeting the water? Uh, isn't the Point landfill? It's pretty, don't get me wrong, but it's not natural. In fact, I've never seen a naturally occurring limestone seawall. I hope I get to some day.

Stephen said...

Oh, and someone should forward this to CPD and the litigation department. Someone would have a heart-attack over this photo.

Peter Rossi said...

shallow racing dive. Not too dangerous if performed well.

the Point is about as close to salvation as Josef Mengele is to heaven

EdJ said...

I have been to the Point once in eight years. I would not go there again because I believe it is a safety hazard. As a result, I have absolutely no love in the fiber of my being for it. It can fall into the lake, for all I care. And the Point Savers seem intent on that happening.

What is mind boggling about the entire situation is that these people who claim to love Hyde Park so much that they are willing to let the Point and te neighborhood deteriorate to the point where newer residents never acquire that connection that they claim makes Hyde Park so special. Then they can tell the Weekly Standard that the neighborhood is full of people who are disconnected and transient.

So I guess it comes down to their belief that the Point (and the neighborhood) must be destroyed in order to save it.

chicago pop said...

People want to believe a certain story, one that suits their subjective view of the world, and so it becomes very easy to whip up a tasty broth to feed them, which the Herald and those who whisper to it are happy to do. Never mind if the resulting stew is not that healthy.

The Herald's take on the Point, whether that laid out in its editorials on the subject, or implicit in its "reporting", is a simple fiction for the distracted, or the truly simple-minded. It doesn't hold up to critical examination, which is why it's never examined.

To me this explains why the Herald is so propagandistic on this issue. Though its Manager and editors claim the paper "reflects" the community, they ignore the existence of neighborhood dissent on the Point. This is because the Herald, its GM, editors, and owner, have so far lost every recent battle to define a monochromatic and oppositional vision of the HP "community" for which it may claim to speak. If they recognized dissent, they're opening the door to their own irrelevance.

This is why they are driving so hard on the Point. The Establishment has lost its other pillars of legitimacy one by one. The Co-Op is now a bingo club for nostalgic baby-boomers. Harper Court's mission is dead, and has been for a while. The Neighborhood Club is clearly not a catalyst of a revitalized activism. Major new developments at Solstice and Village Center are on the horizon.

The Point Saving campaign is the last real rallying cry for the aging Establishment. It employs all the old tropes, arouses all the old emotions, and makes all the assumptions so familiar to a generation used to thinking that it was saving Hyde Park from the world, although now we need to be saved from them.

The Point Saving campaign -- as fallacious and distorted and deceptive as it is -- provides this cohort with its last great claim to legitimacy. After this, we'll only be arguing about height restrictions on new buildings.

Take away the Point as an issue, and the Establishment might have to admit that their World-View won't outlive them, and that in fact it may have died before they do.

Erin said...

re: photo...I saw someone do that yesterday and it made me cringe and hope I didn't have a floater on my hands....

but, great article. I actually didn't know you COULDN'T swim at the point. I love swimming there and if re-doing it with the limestone and concrete blocks makes that possible, it think its a benefit to everyone...I'll take swimming over preservation...even though that might not be a popular view point.

chicago pop said...

Erin, I don't think that it's "either" preservation or swimming. My co-bloggers can correct me if I'm wrong here, but I'm pretty sure this is a false opposition.

The original revetment was not intended to provide swimming access.

This only became possible as the limestone revetment began to decay and the blocks began sliding into the lake, making it easier to access the water.

A true "preservation" of the revetment (basically rebuilding it exactly as it was originally) would thus make it difficult to swim. Aside from being a waste of money (inadequate reinforcements) and illegal (out of compliance with the ADA).

The Compromise Plan both updates the physical structure of the Point to modern standards while reusing the old limestone (the old structure has failed to prevent erosion of the landfill) AND allows modern, safe, swimming access.

Famac said...

This is all easily solved with some dynamite and a midnight raid of the Point. Blow the thing up and let the City rebuild it.

And yes, the Point is landfill. If you go to the Windemere, they have a pamphlet they give out for free. Inside are photos of the lakefront before the creation of the Point.

It was rumored the Point housed missle silos from the Cold War.

Anyone know if that's true?

Stephen said...

Yes, that is true -

It has been rumored these missiles are now pointed at any Aldermanic Office daring to rebuild the Point, tear down Doctor's Hospital, or otherwise try to develop Hyde Park.

David Farley said...

Famac: Yes and no about the Nike missiles. The Point housed a radar installation, the missiles were stowed away south of the MSI.

Read all about it here:

Ken Thomas said...

Those of us who remember the early warmth of the Hyde Park community and the efforts of us all to develop, enrich and support the progressive movement of Hyde Park know how hard we worked for the Nike site rallys, the urban housing initiatives and the diversity projects of the 60's and 70's. I, as many long time Hyde Park residents appreciate what is being done to try and take care of the historic community but the caveat is that well meaning initiatives and programs often dilute if not erase the very cultural adages that are trying to be preserved.

I would caution all who are presenting ideas to take into account what it means to initiate progress at the cost of removing what made the plan attractive and viable in the first place. Swimming off of The Point was almost a test of manhood, a rite of passage for many youth (Sometimes a shoe or two was lost). I personally would fight to allow it to continue if for no other reason than to let our sons and daughters know that we, their parents "Get it." Been there/ done that - so to speak. Traditions DO have validity and need to be continued.

I would draw your attention to the efforts some years ago to, "Clean up" and revitalize the historic "Old Town" district on the north side of Chgo. The renovations, gentrification and modernization of the area completely removed the quaint charm that drew people - and businesses - to Wells street in the first place. It now is a faint shadow of what I remember it to be in the 60's.

We don't want Hyde Park to be a footnote in the Historical Society's annals but a vibrant, energetic community with all of the vitality that warms peoples hearts.

Kenneth Thomas
Kenwood '71

chicago pop said...

I, as many long time Hyde Park residents appreciate what is being done to try and take care of the historic community but the caveat is that well meaning initiatives and programs often dilute if not erase the very cultural adages that are trying to be preserved.

What does this mean?

I find Hyde Park currently very charming, and I have no memory of the NIKE rallies from 40 years ago. The neighborhood should not be held hostage to someone else's nostalgia, which won't necessarily be that of the next generation.

You had your fun back in the day, now step aside and let others have theirs.

Elizabeth Fama said...

I'm also confused, because two viewpoints seem to be presented in this comment. One is the idea that historic preservation sometimes backfires, and the other is that swimming off a decrepit Point is a valuable test of manhood. Regarding #1: the "preservationists" in this case are the ones who are trying to prevent any work from being done on the Point. Regarding #2: the Point has deteriorated substantially since you were in high school, Kenneth, so it's more than a test of manhood now, it's a safety hazard that prevents everyone but a handful of people (athletic and experienced with the set-up) from using it (and even they are at risk). Do you really want to shut out the young and the old from experiencing the same joy you had at the Point in your youth? I want this neighborhood to serve as many people as possible -- so they can form their own great memories, as I have for 40 years. The warmth you refer to of the Hyde Park community would go up several degrees as a result.

chicago pop said...

I personally would fight to allow it to continue if for no other reason than to let our sons and daughters know that we, their parents "Get it." Been there/ done that - so to speak. Traditions DO have validity and need to be continued.

That's too bad, because I would hope that "our sons and daughters" can discriminate between a parents' desire for approval, and the merits of an issue revolving around engineering, geophysics, and preservation.

I would also assume that anyone from the 60s would be wary of the "had to destroy it to save it" line of thinking.

Keeping the Point "as it is" for whoever the "we" is that appreciates its decay, means letting it erode. This type of saving is destroying.