Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Herald's Chicken: Paper Launches On-line NIMBY Archive

posted by chicago pop

Hyde Park Herald Publisher Bruce Sagan, NIMBY Heart-Throb
(Picture found in girls locker room of Hyde Park Hysterical Society)

Because the Hyde Park Herald is essentially the vehicle for a personality cult, once in a while something useful actually results from the homages, celebrations, panegyrics, whiggishness, festschriften, glorifications, and pats-on-the-back to publisher Bruce Sagan that appear every year or so.

On the occasion of Bruce Sagan's 80th birthday, his sons have done us all the favor of digitizing half a century of the Herald's plentiful NIMBY-ism, and we should all be thankful. No more tedious trips to the Regenstein, or stuffing our file cabinet full of clippings documenting the local insanities of Hyde Park's Greatest Generation.

No, now it's all on line for die-hard NIMBY hunters, who may now clear away all the Herald clippings blowing about their garage.

We decided to test out the search engine in the New NIMBY Archives. So what do we think of this new feature? Here's one of 2 results we got when we typed in "NIMBY":

139 Down; the "y" in NIMBY

Not promising.

So we tackled the problem from another angle, substituting the synonymous term "parking" for "NIMBY." Outcome: 5772 results. Now we're talking!

We find that on November 6, 1996, Judith Kritzberg, one of the team of hard-core obstructionists that pushed the dry vote in the 5th Ward's 39th Precinct in November, 2008, like other dry-voters, was already complaining about parking. Specifically, she doesn't like permit parking and makes arguments against the idea that people have a right to exclusive use of the street in front of their homes to park their cars.

I wonder what happened to that line of reasoning last November?

In any case, the ease of searching and reproducing the results bode well. The results of other searches varied in surprising ways.

A search for entries including "Jack Spicer" returned only 2 results.
A search for entries including "task force" returned a much more satisfying 277 results. "Save the point" scored 160 entries, many of them advertisements, and other letters such as that dated June 12, 1963 and titled: "Save our Point from Riff-Raff."

We decided to finish our trial run with a by now classic euphemism for NIMBY-ism: Hans Morsbach.

Lo and behold, we have a goldmine of 43 results going back to the 1960s. From a random sample, I've learned that back in 1970 Morsbach was the target of a neighborhood petition to close one of his restaurants for attracting too many undesirable people.

This is going to be very useful after all.


Anonymous said...

According to a Time Magazine article, Bruce Sagan was the inspiration and driving force behind the Urban Renewal program... which the NIMBYs demonize and blame for everything under the sun.,9171,865758-1,00.html

I thought that was interesting. Maybe The Herald is really just a 40-year long self-flagellation.

chicago pop said...

Thanks for that link Obama ... I mean Greg. Here's a quote from that much-quoted piece:

Publisher Sagan mounted a hard-hitting campaign for slum clearance, coupled picture spreads of slum dwellings (including owners' names) with authoritative how-to-do-it articles on redevelopment. Outcome: Hyde Park qualified for federal aid as the Midwest's first and biggest project of this type approved under the new Eisenhower urban-renewal program.

Then there's this plum. Sayeth Sagan: A city is a terribly complicated animal. It's even harder for people to know what's going on in their own city than to find out what Khrushchev is doing. This is a function that dailies are no longer filling.

Would be nice if the Herald actually did fill that function, no?

On the point of today's editorial in the Herald (it's been a while since the last one...), there's a "fuzzy-headed" comparison made between the acquisition of Harper Court and surrounding properties with Urban Renewal (which, of course, the Herald's owner helped promote and carry out), and this comparison in understood to be negative.

It is also false. The principal issue at the core of Urban Renewal was residential displacement during a time of legal racial discrimination in housing, all powered by tremendous legal authority given to the agencies executing Urban Renewal (in this case, the U of C).

None of these circumstances are germane today: 1) Harper Court is a commercial development, and does not involve residential displacement; 2) there are few if any racial undertones to the redevelopment issue, and 3) the University has no special dispensation to act upon in this case. In fact, it is acting as a broker, together with the city, for private development.

Lastly, for the Herald or anyone else to complain that the Harper acquisitions are undermining a fragile retail environment on 53rd is absurd. The Hyde Park Establishment has done everything possible to retard the emergence of a vital commercial district there and elsewhere, chiefly by opposing population growth in and around Hyde Park.

edj said...

One of the things that I find very interesting about the digital archive is that it is being ut together overseas in a program that allows disadvantaged youts in Cambodia and Laos to be trained in the growing IT sector.

Too bad we don't have any youths like that around here.

I'll remember that the next time the Herald argues for the university or other companies pay living wages to their workers and provide training that leads to good paying jobs.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Wow, the Herald advertisements (which you can see on "page view") next to Hans's speech of 1970 really bring me back to the old days of my childhood in Hyde Park: the Foreign Car Hospital, Far East Kitchen...


David Farley said...

Look at this. Only a few blocks from you-know-what.

Elizabeth Fama said...

David Farley,
The Shore Drive Motel had become a gang/drug/prostitution pit before it was razed, as I remember. But it had nice lake views!

Richard Gill said...

A thousand years from now, historians will read about Hyde Park according to the Herald, and they'll marvel that a President of the United States would want to live here.

Elizabeth Fama said...


After reading your comment about overseas scanners, I realized that the typos in the archived titles (and there are MANY of them) must be the result of the language gap. The original scan is often a little smudged or bent away from the scanner, and the person transcribing the title can't infer what it says, even in cases where it's fairly obvious from context.

David Farley said...

Usually the transcribing like they describe is double-keyed, but who knows in this case.

I don't know what they did, but I've noticed a vast improvement in quality since the first couple days online, when many of the OCR'd search results were gibberish.

edj said...

I still want to know what they're doing to train some local kids to do some of this. Shouldn't these be good union jobs organized by UNITE-HERE? Why aren't they sending around a petition, organizing meetings?

Anonymous said...

Yes, where are Jack Spicer and Greg Lane with their righteous indignance?

Elizabeth Fama said...

My favorite archive entry so far, which I found by searching my childhood address:

"December 21, 1934: Mrs. William A. Smiley, her daughter, Mary Katherine, and sons Bill and Jim, 5651 Drexel, are leaving tomorrow for St. Petersburg, Florida, where they will spend the Christmas vacation."

Ah simpler times, when you could post your address and the fact that your house would be empty for a week in the local newspaper!

chicago pop said...

y'all are havin way too much fun with this!

Raymond said...

Speaking of the ads on that page, I noticed ads for the Hyde Park YMCA. I'd heard that was quite an architecturaly impressive building and that many who grew up in the neighborhood had fond memories of the place. Elizabeth, you are our instituional knowledge on the blog...any comments on the Hyde Park Y? We got a lovely strip mall in its place.

Elizabeth Fama said...


The strip mall is hideous.

I was 18 when the YMCA was torn down so I should have a better recollection of it, but I don't. I never went inside, as far as I know. My husband swam as a "Minnow" on the Y's team when he was about 7.

The building certainly looks majestic in this photo of it being demolished.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Oh my gosh! I just found an article from 1981 that says that the YMCA (built in two sections, in 1906 and 1927) had been boarded up for a year, and so neighbors had filed a lawsuit to have it demolished, because it posed "an imminent threat to their property and their health and safety." Guess who one of the neighbors was? Hans Morsbach!

chicago pop said...

Elizabeth, that last little nugget on Morsbach is a terrific find. The NIMBY archive is living up to our expectations.

Richard Gill said...

"ya'll are havin way too much fun with this!"

So...anymore, Hyde Park isn't where fun comes to die? No wonder the Hyde Park Establishment wants to turn back the clock.

Elizabeth Fama said...

I'm still stuck on that YMCA building that Hans and others lobbied to raze.

The photos I've found of it, even though they only show portions, make it look like a nice building. It was red brick with limestone accents, including a front doorway with a gothic "ogival" arch.

chicago pop said...

Did you just say "limestone accents"?

And he wanted to tear it down?


Raymond said...


I was being sarcasting about the "lovely" strip mall. I'm not sure if that came through.


Elizabeth Fama said...

I understood!