Monday, December 21, 2009

"Stimulate" the Promontory Point Repair!

Posted by Elizabeth Fama

Point Decay as of October, 2009.

I was at a dinner party last weekend with a woman who just happened to be a former Director of Lakefront Operations at the Chicago Park District (she's now the director of a non-profit). Naturally we got to talking about Promontory Point, and she expressed without solicitation the same opinion I've had about the Point for years: Hyde Parkers have bickered and stalled and obstructed so long that the funding has disappeared, and one of these fine days Mayor Daley will shut it down and build whatever the heck he wants there, for our own safety.

Mayor Daley finds Hyde Parkers a nuisance at worst, and may in fact find us amusing. After Meigs got carved up with big, bulldozed X's on my birthday in 2003, it dawned on me that the very same strategy would work at the Point: ignore our silly local controversy until 1. someone is injured or killed at the Point, or 2. enough erosion has occurred to declare it a hazard to people (shhh, that's already happened) and a flood risk to Lake Shore Drive (less of a worry but more important to the Army Corps of Engineers). And after Daley barricades it, it's not likely that the Army Corps will build the Compromise Plan, with its two deep-water swimming access sites, and re-use of the existing limestone. That's an expensive plan that we were darned lucky to be granted (and to help design) the first time, during an economic boom, and my dinner companion said the lakefront funds are gone now.

So I whined to her, "But our hands are tied! We're being forced to wait for 'Senator' Obama's 3rd-party review process." And then she said something absolutely brilliant, that had not occurred to me because I secretly disapprove of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. She said, "Someone should go after stimulus dollars to build the Compromise Plan. It's shovel-ready, isn't it?"

And yes, if we're lucky, it may well be. I believe the engineering plan was one of those "35%-complete" plans (or whatever percentage indicates it can be signed-off for construction).

But how could we achieve this? Who could do it? Alderman Hairston? Could she simply say to now-President Obama, "Screw the 3rd-party process that never got off the ground, I'm approving the Compromise Plan"? Could she persuade Daley to aggressively solicit ARRA funds for the Compromise Plan, with her blessing?

It would be a bold move. Too bold for her, I fear.

No, the outcome that seems more and more certain, given the level of decay at the Point, the non-existence of the 3rd-party review, and the lack of decisiveness of our alderman, is that we'll have no say in what gets built there.


SR said...

They're still seeking funding, apparently:

I was kind of amazed it wasn't put right into the stimulus bill, to be honest. You'd think it would be kind of a gimme, considering it was Obama's idea in the first place.

David Farley said...

How about a water taxi depot?

Or Hyde Park Pier, with its own ferris wheel?

The funny thing is, neither of these ideas are really that far off from the way HP was a hundred or so years ago.

edj said...

The only thing Obama did was to help get the funding for the review of the review as requested by the establishment.

Anonymous said...

Hairston approving the Compromise Plan unilaterally? I don't think she could decide what shoes to wear in the morning without consulting someone.

According to this weeks Herald, it looks like the Shoreland renovation is stalled as Hairston refuses to approve the project until they "satisfy their neighbors that they will provide enough parking". Given the neighbors of East Hyde Park's historic and unmerited complaints about parking, this probably means the whole thing will die a slow death. The Point II?

Can we please vote Hairston out when the next election comes around and get someone in there who will make decisions like they're supposed to do?

chicago pop said...

Well said regarding Hairston's wimpy position on the Shoreland, Greg, and much more polite than I am inclined to be. Hairston is a careerist hack, and this is only the most recent evidence of that fact. The Shoreland as a Promontory Point, Part II is right. If Hairston were to be abducted by aliens tomorrow, her legacy would be to have pleased a bunch of grumpy solipsists and changed absolutely nothing. Oh, forgive me -- I forgot about the drive-through Starbucks on Stony Island.

The mistake Hairston makes is in thinking that by siding with the NIMBY's 9 times out of 10, she's covering her ass for re-election. Until people realize that those 9 times she's basically accomplished nothing.

Raymond said...

It has been absolutely stunning to me how many people I've talked to about the point are completely bought in to the fact that the community has "won." How wrong they will turn out to be.

Richard Gill said...

This week, I wrote a letter directly to Alderman Hairston, reminding her of how she has helped to stifle a number of projects in the 5th Ward. I advised her of the fact that she is accumulating a lot of enemies because of her indecisiveness and unwillingness to confront anyone.

The 5490 "neighbors" are interested in parking FOR THEMSELVES in the Shoreland. Hairston knows that they want the Shoreland to solve their "parking problem" even though 5490 owns a big piece of land behind their own building that could be used for parking. Also, right now the 5490 residents have a private block all to themselves; how nice for them. No wonder they're willing to hold up the project.

Hairston heard overwhelming support for the Shoreland project at the September public meeting, but she is knowingly making it languish by knuckling under to a literal handful of wealthy owners at 5490. The building has 20 units.

The Alderman has said point blank at public meetings that Hyde Park's parking issues cannot be solved by any single project, and that specific beneficial projects (like the Shoreland) shouldn't be expected to solve the problem. Yet she is taking the exact opposite position on the Shoreland. Tough talk, no follow-through.

If the project is delayed too much, the financing, which is now available, will disappear. There will be no Shoreland redevelopment then. Is the Alderman willing to chalk up another big zero to her record?

I was a Hairston supporter until recently. Sadly, I now find her tenure as Alderman to be a total disappointment. Maybe it really is time to elect someone else.


Anonymous said...

Excellent letter in the Herald this week from Rushim Bains regarding the Shoreland.