Sunday, September 14, 2008

Doctor's Hospital Petition: Hypocrites or Blackmailers?

posted by Peter Rossi

On November 4th, residents of the 39th precinct will vote on a referendum to make their precinct dry. Opponents of a hotel at the Doctor's Hospital site gathered the 150 signatures required from the 600 odd registered voters in this tiny precinct. A simple majority of those who vote on the referendum is needed to prevail. That means that only a handful of voters will determine the future of commercial development in HP.

An interesting soup of local "preservation" activists, labor organizers, university employees, and students canvassed for signatures.

Several of the petition circulators are local "preservationists" who are on public record as favoring a "re-use" of the existing Doctor's Hospital buildings. I reproduce two petition forms that were circulated by these "preservationists" below.

So much for "we want good development not this development" and "I'm in favor of a hotel; I just want preservation" and "I'm pro-development." Exploiting an absurd 1934 Illinois law, these folks have turned tail on their preservation roots. Voting this precinct dry will make any mixed used development infeasible, including re-use of the existing buildings. In all probability, the passage of this referendum would condemn the Doctor's Hospital Buildings to remain vacant indefinitely.

Would any developer come to Hyde Park after the cross has been burned on the lawn of Doctor's Hospital? Not likely, "those people are crazy; they would hurt themselves to avoid a restaurant or hotel in their neighborhood." So this petition has the potential to do great harm to Hyde Park and surrounding communities.

This looks pretty bad for the track record of some of the same folks who opposed development at McMobil, on Cornell, at St. Stephens, oppose fixing the Point, and want to gum up the works at Harper Court. They are more like undertakers than preservationists.

The sponsors of the petition have now signaled that this was all about a spot of blackmail. Vista Homes resident and winner of the petition sweepstakes, Mr. Rechtschaffen, let the cat of the bag in a letter in the Herald. Well, we want you (the developer and the U) to play ball; we aren't necessarily that interested voting the precinct dry. The head of the HP-KCC Preservation committee approached University officials and intimated that he didn't think the petition "had to go through," wink, wink.

Ah, the Prince would be proud of his HP proteges. They don't give a damn about preservation, they just want to hold feet to the fire. To what end, though? Mr. Rechschaffen is concerned about parking and noise. It's not clear he has any solution other than no hotel. He dances around the idea of a smaller hotel but this doesn't really help with his noise problem.

Mr. Lane of Harper Ave is even more obvious, "this has always been about the community process not the hotel." Translation: we want say in this project. We don't really care about the outcome; we just want power. Our other NIMBY friend is shy, or should I say sly, and doesn't say.

This was all accomplished by some pretty cynical political maneuvering. Our NIMBY handful went to some of their close neighbors at Vista Homes and Harper Ave and said "I know you are nervous about change, don't trust the wicked developer and arrogant U; let's slow this whole thing down." Well, they haven't "slowed it" down. In this kind of high stakes game, there is only go or no go. If the petition passes, this dooms the site and probably our neighborhood to no commercial development for some time.

The doomsday machine has been turned on. Does anyone seriously think that Mr. Rechtschaffen, Mr. Lane or the man behind the curtain are going to turn it off? Are they going to go door to door to tell their neighbors -- "Just kidding on that petition, the developer licked our boots clean, please vote NO?"

In the end, reasonable people will prevail and this measure will be defeated. Folks in the 39th will think it through and point the gun away from their foot.

The real question is will our students of Machiavelli be held accountable for this irresponsible act?

Next week: Anatomy of A Blackmail. A look at how this was set in the motion with the aid of local 1, Unite-HERE.


Zig and Lou said...

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

chicago pop said...

Also coming up: find out who signed the petition (some of them more than once!)

Later this week.

Hyde said...

This isn't NIMBY, it's BANANA - Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone.

edj said...

I think the title should have been "Hypocrites and Blackmailers!".

edj said...

It must be diffcult for some of the old line Hyde Parkers to see so much of the old institutions faltering and newcomers not seeing the neighborhood the same way that they do. I hope the 39th precinct doesn't try to save the neighborhood by destroying it.

I was interested to see in the Herald that the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club has raised only $30,000 so far in trying to meet its $250,000 goal. The original goal was to meet that goal by September 30. Isn't that just about the amount that people pledged to the Co-op in its waning days? I thought it was interesting that this was s short story on page three and there ws not much made of it.

My bet is on the HPNC closing on December 31. And my hope is that the vote will be in favor of drinks on the house.

David Farley said...

What precinct is the University Pub and the Quad Club in? The boundary of 39 appears to be at Blackstone, but the area immediately to the west doesn't have a number, at least on the map I was able to find.

Famac said...

I'm sure Community Organiser Jack Spicer had something to do with this.

Elizabeth Fama said...

David Farley,

The Quadrangle Club and the Pub are both clubs, and that's why they're exempt.

I think there ARE tricky ways around liquor licenses by using the "club" status. You can call yourself a club and charge a nominal (e.g. $1) one-night membership fee. Les Nomades, a fancy french restaurant (now closed), used that loophole for years.

Elizabeth Fama said...

P.S. on this 5th ward precinct map it looks like the Pub and the QC are in the 27th precinct.

chicago pop said...

I'm sure Community Organiser Jack Spicer had something to do with this.

You mean The Man Behind the Curtain?

Peter Rossi said...

Les Nomades did not use this as a loophole. They wanted to be a private club.

they are not closed, but open as full-service rest now.

However, there is no way that a hotel wants to have every transient visitor join a club for one drink.

David Farley said...

However, there is no way that a hotel wants to have every transient visitor join a club for one drink.

But they could have the satisfaction of keeping a list of people who lived in a certain precinct who were forever banned from joining their club.

chicago pop said...

We'll make sure they get that list.

And you'll be able to consult it as well.

edj said...

Then they'll have to drive somewhere and find parking to get a drink. Unless, of course, the bar they go to didn't do a noise and traffic study first.

Hey, maybe the list can be like that book in Vegas of people who can't enter any casino.

David Farley said...

What would make this perfect would be if the hotel, whatever it turns out to be, names their bar "The Late-Night Merry-Maker."

David Farley said...

C. Pop - thanks, but was it really erased? I posted it to the Shoreland thread, and it's still there.

Somewhat off-topic, but here it is anyway. People here will probably find these pictures fascinating. Search for "promontory point." There are a couple more pictures under "hyde park."

Props to Dean Armstrong for sending that to me.

chicago pop said...

Readers: sorry for the sloppy housekeeping -- david farley, yes I see your comment on the previous string. I need to get more sleep.

Richard Gill said...

If certain residents of the 39th Precinct weren't allowed in the new club, they could retaliate by starting their own club, inside the precinct. That way, they wouldn't have to venture out into the community at large. There's a certain appeal to that idea.

How about cul de sacs on Harper at both 57th Street and 59th Street? They'll nicely complement the speed humps. This would, of course, follow immediately upon completion of the moat around Vista Homes. Can I carve my initials in the drawbridge?

edj said...

If the precinct is voted dry, so much for President Obama's reelection victory party being held there in 2012.

chicago pop said...

You know, an election victory for Barak Obama would only mean more people urinating in front of Vista Homes, and alcohol-fueled revelry.

Totally unwarranted.

edj said...

So what you're saying is that a vote for prohibition in the 39th is a vote for John McCain?

chicago pop said...


A "yes" on the local option in the 39th Precinct = 100 years in Iraq, aerial wolf hunting, war with Russia, and a religious world-view that sees terrorism in Jerusalem as divine punishment of the Jews for rejecting Jesus as the Messiah.