Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Coming Hyde Park Bar Mitzvah Ban

posted by chicago pop

A bar mitzvah ban? For what reason should you want to ban bar mitzvahs?

Ask the guy who showed up at the August 5th community meeting on the planned redevelopment of Hyde Park's Doctors Hospital. Among the many quixotic neighborhood objections to the construction of a Marriott hotel on the site at Stony Island and 58th Street, this one is at the top of the list.

To quote one of Hyde Park Progress' finest field reporters, who heard it all go down:

[T]here was the "threat of alcohol being served on the premises" and [that] it would endanger children who would somehow get hold of the stuff ... [O]ne man stood up and said alcohol would surely be a threat, because there would be Bar Mitzvahs in the function room.

Yes, you read that right. If voters of the 39th Precinct of Hyde Park's 5th Ward (Leslie Hairston) decide to exercise their "local option" to ban the sale of alcohol on November 4, they will effectively be banning the celebration of bar mitzvahs in their corner of the neighborhood.

Along with fun in general, together with the present and future possibility of a hotel with restaurants that serve alcohol, all of which are badly needed in our neighborhood. Through no animus to the Jewish religion, of course; it just seems that, in the eloquent words of this concerned citizen, whose foolishness we will keep shrouded in anonymity, bar mitzvahs are barn-burning, house-thumping bacchanals, where minors get a free pass to get drunk and loudly run around.

Which of course is true, as I plan my son's to be. But residents of the 39th Precinct don't want that. In a way it makes sense. It will be just one more thing that we will have to go and do on the north side, the only place where you can get rooms big enough to host fundraisers for Alderman Hairston, or bar mitzvah's for her constituents' children.


The bar mitzvah issue hasn't been the only bizarre concern to arise from the profoundly sagacious bosom of the 39th Precinct.

Over the last year or so, a collection of Major and Minor Activists have advanced worries that the proposed Marriott building would "alter the air flow"; the same Major Activist and Very Minor Meteorologist who made that claim also argues that the hotel would cause an ailment previously unknown to science, called "urban claustrophobia"; and of course there is the complaint that the high-rise hotel would block views from the nearby Vista Homes, views over which no one has any legal or proprietary right.

Among the Minor Concerns heard are threats to the safety of children, obstruction of birds, threats to the safety of children, interference with the magnetic field of the Earth, more threats to the safety of children, and the overall destruction of the quality of life of happy homesteaders who like to park their cars for free on adjacent Harper Avenue, where life is quiet and there are no bar mitzvahs.

The interesting thing about how our devious local NIMBYs are using this legal maneuver is that, in most cases where Chicago precincts have been voted dry, it is to get rid of some liquor retail establishment that locals find offensive. In this case, to the contrary, it is to block any development from happening at all.

Typically, the targeted establishments are bars and liquor stores. Further typically, these establishments are thought to be vectors of crime and disorder, especially in poorer, ethnic neighborhoods. This is one reason Daley has been such an enthusiastic supporter of the local option city-wide.

The nearby 8th Ward, for example, has four local option referenda on the November ballot, as do precincts in the 13th and 19th Wards, both on the South Side. It is interesting to note that, while sensitive urban pioneers fret about liquor in gentrifying City neighborhoods, Chicago-area suburbs have trended away from prohibition, in pursuit of restaurants and the sales tax revenues they bring. The suburbs are more interested in pursuing the mechanics of urbanity than some neighborhoods within the city itself.

Alas, in Chicago, at least on the South Side, folks aren't terribly interested in these connections, or in making them happen. In the Big Sky Country of vacant lots and empty buildings, South Side community leaders have perfected the art, not of making things happen, but of taking things away: elevated spurs, liquor stores, public housing, and, with this referendum in the 39th Precinct of the 5th Ward, the very possibility of new development in the future.

All we need is buffalo to fill the empty space, and we've got ecotourism.

Let's drink to that!

[This post also appears on Huffington Post Chicago]


Chicago_mom said...

Well, speaking as a recent "mom of bar mitzvah boy," I can tell you that the only person who came anywhere close to drinking too much at the luncheon following the service was me--and believe me, I needed every drop of it! The only excess consumption I saw was at the dessert table, where the chocolate fountain's treats ruined white shirts of young and old alike.

Kidding aside, I hope precinct voters see through this ploy and reject this proposal. I look forward to the day when my family can host a social event--with alcohol, if we choose--in a function room at one of our new Hyde Park hotels!

LPB said...

Having to rely on an argument that children should be protected from out-of-control bar mitzvahs speaks volumes about the desperation some residents of the 39th precinct apparently feel to derail any sort of hospitality business in the doctors hospital location.

This is truly absurd and I certainly hope voters in the area can recognize the sham. Unfortunately, I'm just pessimistic enough to think sufficient numbers of voters will actually embrace this crazy argument to keep any development from taking place on that site.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Judging from the 5th ward precinct map on the City's web site, it looks like the 39th ward includes Blackstone and Harper between 57th and 60th, and Stony Island between 56th and 60th.

How many readers do we have in that precinct? I hope we have one or two, and I hope you'll encourage all of your neighbors to vote "No" and defeat this proposal.

Raymond said...

Wait, I thought they didn't get enough signatures to get on the ballot? This is disgusting...

chicago pop said...

I think we need the lobby for the right to petition for the 39th Precinct of the 5th Ward to be expelled from the City of Chicago.

Or, if they prefer, they may secede, and assume taxing authority in order to pay for their own services, and they can preserve their small world frozen in paleo-communitarian nostalgia forever, just exactly the way they want.

What would best suit the mentality of this little NIMBY haven would be steel walls along its borders, behind wide moats filled with alligators, 6-inch speed bumps at every access point, private security demanding identity checks when 39th Precinct residents attempt to enter the rest of Hyde Park, and higher prices for 39ers at any retail establishments outside their own precinct.

Richard Gill said...

Raymond -
Unfortunately, the petition was submitted prior to the deadline. The initial information, that it was late, was incorrect.

Chicago Pop -
Expulsion of the 39th Precinct would be gratifying, but let's allow them to secede. That way, they can eat crow when they petition for re-admission (on good-conduct probabtion, of course) to the City.

Elizabeth Fama said...

So I'm not the only person scratching her head about the new speed bumps on Harper!

There's a similar meddlesome, slightly patronizing message there, between the speed bumps and the dry precinct proposal, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

This whole mess is just more hand-wringing and alarmist nonsense. If Doctors Hospital was still in operation, would the old ladies over on Harper be whining about associated ambulance noise and foot traffic? Did they complain about this stuff back when Doctors was still open?

My guess is no.

More evidence that NIMBYs pick and choose what they want based on their own subjective whims (and that demagogues tell them they want). I keep looking around for Ellsworth Toohey.

chicago pop said...

Greg, you're the 2nd person who has brought up The Fountainhead in relation to the wacked-out NIMBY obstructionist crowd. You must be on to something there.

Ben said...

I don't remember the other reference to The Fountainhead, but I hope that it was made in reference to Peter Keating's, I mean Aaron Cook's, uninspiring Harper Court redesign.

chicago pop said...

The Fountainhead reference was made off-blog with reference to the Co-Op supporters last year, although you demonstrate that there really is endless material work with as far as Fountainhead analogies go.