Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Save the Point = Cavity Search for Grandma

posted by chicago pop

Here's a question: what's the best way to get everyone's grandma a cavity search, courtesy of the Chicago Police Department, at Promontory Point?

Ask Jack Spicer or Don Lamb and anyone else on the poetically titled Executive Committee of the Community Task Force for Promontory Point. Because if weren't for them, everyone would have safe, legal swimming at the Point. Right now. Instead, on the Spicer/Lamb watch, the Point has become still more of a deathtrap, and the only real surprises are that no one has died yet, and that the CPD hasn't brought in more paddy wagons to cart away all the scofflaws.

The unwieldy and Kakanian title of our protecting Committee of pustchists attests to a sort of bureaucratic "short guy syndrome": the less of an argument you got, the longer you make the name of your committee. But the fact is, the Executive Committee of the Community Task Force for Promontory Point was offered everything in the Compromise Plan, and walked away back in 2005. Hyde Park's Sharm el Sheik, with its own Yassir Arafat -- in Birkenstocks instead of a keffiyeh.

In the years since this failure of leadership, the Point has become even more of an obvious safety hazard, more swimming grandmas have been ticketed, the clock is only ticking until someone dies on the broken rocks and exposed pilings, and now millions of taxpayer dollars for a "third party" study are going to be spent to essentially determine what we already know: that we need to Fix the Point. Using concrete and steel with limestone frosting.

But what the Army Corps folks who are doing the study (different Army Corps folks, guys from Buffalo, who somehow will have a different paradigm of revetment engineering) stand a chance of not concluding is what all the parties except the Executive Committee of the Community Task Force for Promontory Point were willing to accept in the Compromise Plan of 2003: reuse of all of the existing limestone, and legal, safe, ADA-compliant swimming access to the Lake.

But blowing through other people's money while you try to sort out your own problems is a classic Hyde Park tradition. We saw it up close with the Co-Op, and now we're seeing a gleeful example from representatives of the Executive Committee of the Community Task Force for Promontory Point and their hopes that a Federally funded, taxpayer subsidized study will relieve them of the need to realize how badly they screwed up.

Meanwhile, brainwashing missives worthy of the Myanmar junta, or even its elder Chinese cousin, continue to appear in the Herald, a journalistic zoo where facts roam unchecked, reminding us that the "rescue" and "preservation" of the Point are "in view," and suggesting that the Demolition-Clique, in a secret conspiracy with the exiled Concrete Cartels, had barges offshore ready to dump cement all over, and would have done so, were it not for the vigilance and stewardship of the Executives of our Community and their Committee.

If lack of legal swimming access is what the Herald and all the local grandmas are upset about, then there's clearly a local problem with recent historical memory, and the capacity to put 2 and 2 together. Certainly our local paper isn't helping. Because by now, as should be well-known, we could have had legal, safe, and ADA compliant swimming access, with all the old limestone to look nice, and all the concrete you need to keep Lake Michigan from eating the landfill. Had not the local practice of activism-as-performance-art prevailed.

Herald editors and disconcerted swimming grandmas should refresh their memories, and check to see if they ever put one of those "Save the Point" stickers on the bumper of their car.

Because, if they did, then they're getting what they asked for. Which is the latex finger of the CPD uncomfortably inserted where the sun don't shine.


Anonymous said...

My bumper sticker says "Fix The Point". :-)

I wonder if this latest study will take into account the erosion and damage that has happened over the past 3 years. It could very well be that even the original compromise plan would cost significantly more today than it would have if it was implemented as planned.

I'm all in favor of community activism, but I don't think Spicer is much of an activist. He's more like a demagogue, completely in love with the sound of his own voice and the power he has over the Maryal Stone Dales of Hyde Park. Maybe the Save The Pointers had a legitimate cause at one time, but they couldn't let it go with "good enough". So while the politicians try to appease the demagogue and his sheeple, all of our money goes down the money pit.

Those Save The Point stickers were everywhere when I moved here 5 years ago. I can't remember the last time I saw even ONE. Makes me wonder just how many people are left supporting this fiasco. How many of them have quietly removed their Save The Point stickers from their storm doors and bumpers?

Otto said...

While I am pretty much indifferent to the very "existence" of the Point at this stage in my Hyde Park tenure (and, of course, IANAL), it would seem that the action of the police in this situation would be more likely to expose the city to liability (Bucheleres v. Chicago Park Dist., 171 Ill. 2d 435), making the whole stink more or less senseless (not that I would hope for much from a Chicago ALJ if I were on the paying-out side of the revenue equation).

There's grannies, and then there's nannies.

chicago pop said...

The following piece of good sense argument told to "Good Neighbors" (courtesy of our source -- we're still listening to the Golden Rectangle crankies!) We don't know the identity of the writer, and we don't care:

It should be pointed out the Park District is not opposed to swimming in Lake Michigan at or around the Point, per se (deep water swimming is common along the lakefront, but in areas staffed with lifeguards). The objection seems to be ENTERING the lake off the Point, given the dangerous state of the seawall. Evidence of this fact is in the compromise plan to fix the Point, which included incorporating structure to provide swimming access to Lake Michigan from the Point. Provided the seawall is fixed, the Park District and the City of Chicago has sanctioned swimming, and would presumably staff the area with lifeguards.

Again, the Save The Point campaign has killed the most obvious solution to the plan. To what end? The Hyde Park Herald outlined the cost of simply continuing to TALK about the Point last week - it is an embarrassing amount of money, and is in addition to the millions of dollars already spent talking about saving the Point. Someone here lamented a potential loss of the Point - the Point isn't going anywhere, and the Save The Point campaign isn't really "saving" the Point, it's about "rebuilding" the seawall in a certain way. The seawall can and should be fixed now. We could then ALL swim off the Point for the sake of tradition, or whatever (the Herald's reporting of this incident this week is so biased and unscientific it is scarcely journalism).

Finally, the idea that swimming should be prohibited and not enforced is a peculiar position. Sodomy laws are maintained under the same premise, as were laws against interracial marriage (i.e. it was against the law, but there was an agreement not to enforce it). Instead of fashioning laws that aren't laws, we should embrace a solution to the problem. I think it is time Hyde Park reevaluated the Save The Point position and work towards a compromise that saves money. And incidentally, waivers of liability would in all likelihood NOT work if a person were injured entering the Point on the seawall. The City of Chicago can't maintain a safety hazard and ask its citizens to either avoid the hazard or waive liability - a Court would not uphold it.


Third, the city SHOULD prevent people from swimming
> off the Point. To say entering the lake off the
> Point is dangerous is an understatement. People
> allow their kids to enter the water off slippery
> rocks, that themselves are crumbling and falling
> into the lake. If the city of Chicago did not
> prohibit swimming off the Point, I would be shocked.
> If Hyde Park wants to Save The Point (there is a
> large percentage of Hyde Parkers who want to Fix The
> Point - and as full disclosure, I am in the latter
> group, if for no other reason than it is a waste of
> money to continue to fight the compromise plan),
> then Hyde Park has to accept a swimming ban until
> such a time as it is safe.

David Farley said...

Greg - I still see a couple of those "Save the Point" bumper stickers every day. Of course, they might be the same bumper stickers since I'm a creature of habit.

Why not knock down Doctors Hospital and St. Stephens, and use the rubble to patch up the Point, thus "saving" it all - a three-for-one deal!

Raymond said...

"Latex finger of the CPD"--I love it! My co-workers are worried about me because I'm laughing so hard as I type this.

bornatreese said...

Although the compromise plan would provide for swimming access, the park district repeatedly waffled on whether they would actually sanction that swimming, so it is not correct to assume that fixing the point (which certainly needs to happen) is all that stands between this community and legal open water swimming.

If you are talking about safe access, there is no reason people can't begin their swim at 57th St. Beach--except that the lifeguards will not permit anyone in past their waist.

EdJ said...

Good poitn, Bornatreese. Still, I'd rather have a safe unsanctioned access point rather than an unsafe one.

The comment in one of the letters to the editor was actually quite funny in that the writer said that the Point hhad not fallen into the lake as some predicted after he wrote about the police not assisting the elderly woman up the rocks with their unsteady footing.

Elizabeth Fama said...

BornAtReese, I'm not sure where you're getting your information, but sanctioned deep-water swimming was part of both the 9-Point plan (the earlier version of the Compromise Plan) and the Compromise Plan. The only "waffling" I know about is the change from 300-foot water access points to 150 (a cost-saving measure) from the 9-Point Plan to the Compromise Plan.

That's not to say that swimming couldn't be removed from the "third-party" plan -- either because the Point Savers don't care to push for it, or because the City decides to punish us for our ridiculous (and extraordinarily costly) behavior.

Anonymous said...

Regarding sanctioned swimming at the point: I clearly remember the Save The Pointers bringing this up ("will swimming be allowed at The Point") at the big meeting at South Shore Cultural Center a few years ago and the primary spokesman (the young guy) releatedly stating "The City does not sanction swimming off of Promontory Point". But the way he stated it was very ambiguous. What I got from it was that they would provide access (they were installing at least two ladders), but that they weren't going so far as to say "jump right in."

chicago pop said...

Edj: the Herald letter writer that you (and I) found amusing is a history grad student at the University.

I hope his dissertation makes more sense than the argument in his letter.

chicago pop said...

OK folks, you're keeping us busy sweeping away the rumors and heraldic aura of misinformation.

Take it away, Elizabeth:
sanctioned deep-water swimming was part of both the 9-Point plan (the earlier version of the Compromise Plan) and the Compromise Plan. The only "waffling" I know about is the change from 300-foot water access points to 150 (a cost-saving measure) from the 9-Point Plan to the Compromise Plan.

Zig & Lou said...

Theoretically, could I 'legally' swim across the lake, or for that matter up to Oak Street beach, starting from the 57th Street beach? Once I am beyond the life guard sanctioned area am I not on my own, me against the lake, in a nature versus man duel? Or is there a imaginary line 100 yards out that is considered the City of Chicago territorial waters, protected by our City navy? Just curious.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Hi all,

I've looked at my correspondence with Rob Rejman, the CPD official who presented the Compromise Plan at the Cultural Center meeting on Sept. 15th, 2005.

In an e-mail to me on Sept. 19th, 2005 (and copied to other officials, including Leslie Hairston) he states that the CPD "remains committed to providing sanctioned open-water swimming on the south." He says, "The large limestone steps on the south face will help people of all abilities to interact with the water at whatever level they find comfortable."

Now here's what Greg and BornAtReese are probably remembering: although the north side will also have a step-design water access site (like the south side), the CPD won't have sanctioned deep-water swimming on the north side. Thus, it's a water access site, but in theory they're thinking of it as a place to dangle your feet in the water; it will not be staffed with a lifeguard.

Does anyone else wonder if an annual neighborhood fund to staff the north side with a lifeguard would work? I'd be willing to contribute, because I prefer the north side for swimming.

(Note regarding ADA access for those who are interested: ADA access into the water will be provided at the beach, but there will be ADA access to the promenade level on the north and the east sides.)


Stephen said...

So Elizabeth provides factual evidence? What kind of a weird blog is this, anyway?

I'd have to think given the opportunity to put the structural issue at rest without further useless fighting, we'd be in a much better position to negotiate a little swimming on the North side. It doesn't seem like the parties are as far apart on this point, and this seems like something Ms. Hairston would be able to get (and she is probably willing to do so).

EdJ said...

Pop -

I was quite chagrined at seeing such poor logic from a history grad student in that letter, particularly since that's what I did my undergrad work in. I guess he's a revisionist historian.

LPB said...

About a month ago, I passed a 40-something woman on the sidewalk in front of the Flamingo building -- she was actually wearing a "Save the Point" t-shirt. Makes me wonder whether it was a last-resort apparel choice (i.e., everything else was in the laundry hamper), or if she was still genuinely trying to "save" the Point (i.e., let it rot and fall into the lake).

bornatreese said...

My memory stands corrected on the swimming access.

By the way, the Park District website lists 15 sanctioned locations for distance swimming along the lakefront--including, at 57th St. beach "Parallel to shore from 55th St. south to pier." (!!!) Here is the link to the whole list: (scroll down for the list).

49th St. (Pebble) is no longer even listed as a beach. The new beach (43rd?) is not yet in use.

Michael said...

Regarding the comment that "deep water swimming is common along the lakefront, but in areas staffed with lifeguards," would someone enlighten me as to where? I have been hassled for going no deeper than neck-level at 63rd, 57th, 31st, Foster, and Loyola. I've pretty much given up on swimming (not playing) in the lake.

Stephen said...


Deep water swimming is allowed along the lakefront south of North Ave. Beach. This area is commonly used by triathlon swimmers, and it is staffed with lifeguards. I used to swim at this location when I lived on the north side. I'd start at approximately the chess pavilion and swim southward.

I'm not sure of the other places you mentioned.