Sunday, April 25, 2010

Police Roll Call at Tobacco for Less

posted by richard gill

Just before 5pm on Thursday, April 22, a dozen or so Chicago police patrol cars and vans swooped in at the corner of Hyde Park Boulevard & 55th Street. This wasn’t a raid or a response to a crime in progress. It was for a totally routine activity—roll call for police officers of Beat 32, 21st Police District, prior to the start of their shift. What wasn’t routine was the location, outdoors on a busy street corner.

Why that particular corner? It was to show a strong police presence in front of a retail store called Tobacco for Less. The store has been there about a year, selling tobacco products and snack food. Suspicions have arisen that the store may be selling cigarettes to minors and selling illegal wares. The roll call was conducted there in order to send a message to the store and its customers that the police are paying attention. It was also to reassure local residents that the police are on the case.

Police roll calls in public places are occasionally conducted where gangs hang out or criminal activity is known or suspected.

The showing on April 22 was indeed impressive. The cars arrived with swirling blue lights. The officers, about 20 in number, gathered across the street and then strode, rather like a platoon, to where the roll call was to be held, in front of the tobacco store. They lined up along the sidewalk, and a sergeant took the roll. It was semi-formal, and there was some good-natured bantering among the officers and people (most of them curious) who gathered to watch, and there was applause at the end. Representatives from the 4th and 5th Ward Aldermanic offices voiced appreciation for the officers’ efforts. The whole thing took less than ten minutes. The police departed and went to work.

This was strategy at work and great community outreach. I haven’t been that close to that many guns since the Army.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Cuisine of the Diaspora": African Food Emporium for 51st Street

posted by chicago pop

"Cuisines of the Diaspora" Entrepreneur Bernard Lloyd
[Source: Bronzeville Metropolis,]

In a Sun-Times piece of February, 2009, the paper took a look at "cuisines of the African diaspora" in Chicago's various neighborhoods. Curiously telling was the fact that, of the neighborhoods mentioned, none was on Chicago's South Side or Bronzeville, its historically black neighborhood.

That may change by the end of 2010.

If all goes according to plan (a big "if", given some of the epic failures we've catalogued in the immediate vicinity), a lot at 51st Street and Prairie and adjacent to the Green Line station will become the site of a 17,000 square foot food emporium highlighting cuisines from American Southern, African, Jamaican and vegan fare, together with a much-needed fresh produce market.

Former McKinsey partner and now developer Bernard Lloyd estimates that the project will bring 130 jobs to the neighborhood. The project will be financed with the help of $3 million in city TIF funding, that very special funny-money that sloshes around plentifully no matter what the prevailing economic climate.

With a good dose of City TIF money and the business acumen of a former McKinsey consultant committed to this project, it has a lot going for it. Let's hope this one comes through.

Spring Fix-Its and Digs: Metra Midway Viaducts and CTO Building Site

posted by richard gill

Midway Viaduct Repairs

It is spring once again, and in Hyde Park there are some welcome sights and sounds of air compressors, diesel excavators, front end loaders, and the backing-up beep, beep, beep of heavy equipment.

Some things are getting done that needed doing.

For instance, Metra is using Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) funds to repair the viaducts across 59th Street, the Midway, and 60th Street. Much work still needs to be done at this station (we called the staircase from the 59th Street Metra platform the "Stairway to Hell" last spring). But still, it's a good project; no controversy there.

New Chicago Theological Seminary Site Preparation

Also, the U of C has begun the construction of new headquarters for the Chicago Theological Seminary at 60th & Dorchester. Good project; controversy there. Remember the “community” garden on what is now the construction staging site abutting the actual construction? The gardeners insisted on remaining on the University-owned property during and after construction. They said the staging could just as well be done a couple of blocks away. Well, yeah, but at what cost, along with neighborhood disruption and safety problems as material and equipment is moved over the street?

That the Seminary is being built is good news. Even better: For once, a strident clique of Hyde Parkers was sent packing, along with their silly claims of entitlement and righteousness. For the greater good, the garden got moved. The carrots and radishes will grow again, perhaps on less sacred ground. But they will grow.

Nice as these two projects are, it’s too bad that they’re public works or U of C-sponsored. Private sector development in Hyde Park remains stymied by … well, just read some of the past entries on this blog.

NP Neighborhood Club Event: How to Save Money for College

Upcoming at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club:

College expenses looming? Come to the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club on Thursday, April 22nd at 6:30 to hear financial expert and Hyde Parker Greg Teague discuss the ins and out of saving for college. Whether it's years away just around the corner, Greg will have advice for you. It's FREE! Call ahead and reserve a spot 773-643-4062. Refreshments and talk sponsored by Country Financial. (This event is for parents/guardians only.)

Et tu, Muntu? Another Local Outfit Loses Millions

posted by chicago pop

[source: Chicago Tribune, April 21, 2010,0,3989679.story]

47th Street: Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

Today's Tribune reports that higher-ups are finally starting to wonder what ever happened to Muntu's performing arts center that was supposed to go up on 47th Street eight years after it received millions in grants and pledges and the official go-ahead.

Eight years ago, the nonprofit Muntu Dance Theatre secured more than $6 million in city and state grants, rights to the two-acre property for $1, and cash donations from the likes of ComEd and Boeing to build a $15 million performing arts center.

At the time, the project came with the blessings of local leaders who hoped to not only turn around the fortunes of an area littered with liquor stores and boarded-up buildings, but help restore a piece of Bronzeville's historic luster.

But Muntu could not demonstrate it could pay for the project, leading the city to later rescind its $1.75 million grant offer, said Pete Scales, spokesman for the city's budget office. Now the state has called a special meeting Wednesday to see what happened to the $4.5 million it granted the dance company. [video clip here]

It will be interesting to learn how this latest of Hyde Park Kenwood white elephants came about. For now, it makes a sad bookend with the old Co-Op space a few blocks to the east. Odds are, Muntu's story may wind up sounding a lot like the sad history of the Co-Op's 47th Street branch.

Pity Zaleski and Horvath Market Cafe next door, sandwiched between this white elephant to their west, and the vacant lot + billboard = cash machine for whoever owns the lot to the east.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The New NIMBY Tower of Power: 5490 South Shore Drive

posted by chicago pop

Move over, Vista Homes: self interest has a new address

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Playgrounds of Hyde Park: Coming Soon

chicago pop
takes a look at the playgrounds in Hyde Park - Kenwood and ranks the best of them.

Number One is not what you think!

Plus, selected rankings for special features. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

On Leslie Hairston's Parking Populism, or: Panem et Circenses

posted by chicago pop

Alderman Leslie Hairston (seated) together with Goddess of the Hyde Park Herald (standing)
Signal for Chicago Park District Reps to be Thrown to Lions

"Bread and circuses" (or bread and games) (from Latin: panem et circenses) is a metaphor for handouts and petty amusements that politicians use to gain popular support, instead of gaining it through sound public policy. The phrase is invoked not only to criticize politicians, but also to criticize their populations for giving up their civic duty.

In this week's Hyde Park Herald (April 14, 2010), both Alderman Hairston and the paper's op-ed make a handful of arguments against the coming of metered parking at a few lakefront, Park District lots.

Since the arguments are virtually identical, I refer to their advocate as "Herald Hairston". They are all fundamentally misguided, if not wrong. Here's why. Herald Hairston asserts, drawing deeply from a reservoir of bathos put at her disposal by the creative writers of the our local paper, that;

1. Parking at, and enjoyment of the lakefront parks, is and has historically been "free".

2. Metering lakefront parking is regressive because it prevents the disadvantaged (people with cars) from accessing the lakefront

3. No one told us this was going to happen and we are shocked.

Herald Hairston errs on each of the above points in the following ways:

1. Nothing is "free" in the web of obligations known as "society." We all pay for the facilities and upkeep of Chicago's parks through our property taxes. Parking spots in all parks are subsidized by city taxpayers even if they themselves don't use those spots. Those who make intensive use of the lakefront benefit from the largess of those who don't.

Parking at these and other heretofore unmetered locations has therefore never been "free," only subsidized, by the good graces of one's neighbors and the degree of fatness in the city budget at any given time, both of which are independent variables.

We pay: just not at the point of use.

2. People who own cars are not disadvantaged. Vehicles don't come with free gas or car washes. They shouldn't come with free parking. Making parking free amounts to a first-come first-serve policy that does not equitably distribute the resource.

The assumptions hidden within the contrary argument are that a) people have a right to park a car on the lakefront if they own one, and b) charging them a minimal fee for use is more economically burdensome to them than their private decision to own and care for a vehicle.

a) is problematic because the lakefront could not possibly accommodate every city resident with a car, which is what a) assumes, and which is unjust to those who cannot find parking. Those who find parking at the expense of those who cannot are not only freeloading, but also preventing their fellows from enjoying the fruits of their taxes.

b) reinforces a deeply held prejudice that owning cars should be costless, and that public treasure should be dispensed to facilitate everything -- including recreation -- being centered around automobiles.

The argument that a meter policy "will cause inconvenience and expense for people least able to afford it" is sophistry of the purest kind.

3. If you didn't know this was coming, you are ignorant.

If you are ignorant, Herald Hairston did nothing to prepare you.

If Herald Hairston did nothing to prepare you, it was the better to cultivate your outrage at "not knowing" in the run-up to an election year, the better to manipulate your discontent with bread, circuses, and parking.

Grown-ups in the rest of Chicago read about this in the papers and heard about it in the news for months well over a year ago.

To sum up our response to the 3 points above:

1) Parking was never free, so it free parking cannot be taken away. Metered parking is based on the principle that, in addition to base support from property taxes, those who use the facilities most assume some level of responsibility for paying for them.

2) That mythical poor family who can afford to buy and maintain an automobile, but not to enjoy 2 hours worth of parking for $1, needs to sell their vehicle and get a CTA pass.

3) Surprise!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Leslie's Lack of Leadership: Case #1

posted by chicago pop

When it comes to 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston, this blog has one thing to say:

FEBRUARY 22, 2011

That's the date of the next city elections in Chicago. In an ideal world, it should be the last day of Alderman Hairston's job.

There are a lot of reasons why we think this -- serial instances of disastrous community leadership running from the Promontory Point fiasco, her utter invisibility in the Doctors Hospital controversy, through to her bizarre power plays in the replacement of popular bus stops with free parking, and most recently, her protection of the stealthy NIMBYs roosting next to the Shoreland Hotel property at 5490 South Shore Drive (more on that, later).

But let's start with something simple. Hairston is holding a meeting next Thursday (see details at bottom) on the subject of new parking pay boxes being installed in Jackson Park and surrounding areas.

This latest circus act promises to involve the shooting of a hapless Chicago Park District in its barrel by Hairston, one of five Aldermen who voted against the parking deal. (We've given our opinion on the deal here). You can argue that the deal was a bad one, but it's done. And you can't argue that free parking optimizes access or is equitable. In fact, as has become visible in streets throughout the city, it's now easier to park almost everywhere.

Peruse, if you will, the following news article, forwarded to us from an exasperated reader living in East Hyde Park. As usual, EDITORIAL REMARKS ARE INSERTED IN PARENTHESES:

A South Side alderman is blasting the Chicago Park District over its moves to put parking meter “pay and display” boxes in South Side parks and other facilities. (YOU VOTED AGAINST IT ALDERMAN, BUT IT'S NOW IN EFFECT CITYWIDE. WHY SHOULD YOUR CONSTITUENTS BE EXEMPT?)

5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston says some residents in her area were upset (NO KIDDING -- PEOPLE LIKE FREE STUFF) when they saw pay and display parking meter boxes being installed in the park near the Museum of Science and Industry, the South Shore Cultural Center and even (EVEN!) near some basketball courts.

Chicago Park District Spokeswoman Jessica Maxey Faulkner says the metered spaces are no surprise (EXCEPT FOR LESLIE HAIRSTON). She says the North Side parks already have meters, and plans for the South Side parks were announced some time ago (BUT SOUTH SIDE NIMBY'S ARE SPECIAL).

Alderman Hairston says there should have been a public meeting first (WAY TO GO WITH THAT FAR-SIGHTED LEADERSHIP THING). Maxey Faulkner says the boxes will not be activated until a meeting takes place later this month (AND THEN THE BOXES WILL BE PUT UP ANYWAY AND HAIRSTON WILL KEEP HER VOTES ANYWAY).

Analyzing this situation, what do we find? A number of aggrieved people who think that the public streets in Hyde Park-Woodlawn-Jackson Park are somehow not a part of the now private meter franchise that manages parking for ALL OF CHICAGO, including LAKEFRONT AND CITY PARK PROPERTY. Acting on a matter of principle, they chose not to complain when pay boxes were installed elsewhere, but only when it eventually affected them.

Not only is the upcoming publicity stunt wrong-headed in its probable defense of free parking, but it is only one of many examples of the way Hairston acts to appease every NIMBY reflex in the 5th Ward.

Help get Antheus rolling along with the Shoreland, Alderman, instead of putting on floor shows like this one.


Meeting Date: Thursday, April 15 2010

Time: 6:30 PM

Montgomery Place 5550 S. Shore Drive

For more info call: 773-324-5555

Church for Sale! (The Sequel)

posted by richard gill & chicago pop

Community Message Board --or--
Most Effective Known Way to Communicate to 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston

Chicago Pop's April 5 post on Hyde Park Progress elicited a number of comments, some of which speculated on re-uses for the St. Stephen's Church property. Based on an April 10 walk-by, I am adding "community message board" and "white elephant dropoff" to the list (see photos). In place of whatever it is the nearby NIMBYs want to stop, maybe they'd prefer these.

Neighbor-Approved Re-Use of St. Stephens Property:
Old Junk Freecycle Station

Also, for those interested in purchasing the property, you can find its listing here, and for your convenience we reproduce it below WITH EDITORIAL REMARKS IN PARENTHESES:

BANK OWNED! Many options and opportunities to revitalize former church building in Hyde Park. Property sits on 100 x 150 sized lot (NEXT TO REALLY WACKY LOCAL FOLKS -- JUST YOU WAIT AND SEE :-> ). Land was rezoned to RM-6 for residential development. No alley access (BUT LOCAL TEENS CAN HELP US GET IN THROUGH THE ROOF), Blackstone is oneway going North. Please daylight showings only (BECAUSE AT NIGHT THE PLACE IS DAMN SCARY AND WE MAY DIE).

Agent Remarks: Bank owned property, agent needs to w/questions (AND BE PREPARED TO KISS ALDERMAN HAIRSTON'S A*S LIKE EVERYONE ELSE EVEN ANTHEUS)

Located on the mid-southside anchored by the University of Chicago, nearby communities Woodlawn and North Kenwood. A stones throw to the southwest shoreline (OR TO THE UPPER WINDOWS OF THE PROPERTY IF ANY GLASS IS LEFT IN THEM) of Lake Michigan and Lake Shore Drive. Easy public transport, Metra 2 blocks away. (SPECTACULAR GREEK-AMERICAN EATERY RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET BUT YOU ALSO GET A GOOD VIEW OF THEIR DUMPSTERS)

  • $1,700,000
  • 13,300 SF
  • $127.82
  • Special Purpose
  • Religious Facility
  • Vacant/Owner-User
  • Yes
  • 2.5%
  • 15,000 SF
St. Stephens Freecycle Station, Detail

Monday, April 5, 2010

Church for Sale!

posted by chicago pop

Any Buyers?
St. Stephen's Church at 57th and Blackstone in Hyde Park