Letters to the Editor

Dedicate some time to a child in need

To the Editor:

Strive Tutoring is celebrating its 25th year as a Hyde Park tradition, its roots firmly grounded in the neighborhood since 1988. We are a community-based, 501(c)3 nonprofit, offering free one-to-one tutoring and mentoring services to local children, grades 1 to 12, from limited income families.

We are able to offer these services free of charge to children who need them because people from the community have stepped up to join our staff of volunteer tutors. Our committed, energetic and highly competent volunteers are the heart and soul of our work!

Strive has a long wait-list of students who would like to enroll in our program, and we would like to be able to accept them. You, our neighbors, can help us to reach this goal.

If you are a professional, professor, educator, business owner, college/grad student, exceptional high school student or other dynamic and committed individual, we invite you to share your talents and passions by applying to join us as a volunteer tutor/mentor in our mission of fostering lifelong passion for learning.

In addition to having a firm grasp of academic subject matter, our tutors are encouraged to share other talents and passions, such as chess, crochet, art, music-making, baking, science projects, etc. Essential traits of Strive tutors are both patience and energy to meet students right where they are.

Meaningful relationships between tutors and students and attention to the development of the whole child are the cornerstones of our work. In fact, some tutoring pairs meet over the course of years! Strong commitment is necessary to the success of our program.

To learn more about Strive’s work, visit our website at strivetutoring.org. Interested volunteers should call or email us: strivehydepark@gmail.com or (773) 268-4910. Please note that background checks are required for all Strive tutors.

With the status of education in Chicago — and the nation — standing at a crossroads, Strive’s services are more important than ever. We stick with kids for the long haul, from reading their first book to applying for college. As their lives change over time, our students take comfort in coming through the same familiar doors within a community of positivity and support.

We hope you will consider sharing in our journey of service — right here at home.

Angela Paranjape
Executive Director
Strive Tutoring

Work together to improve Vue53

To the Editor:

Why are so many Hyde Parkers continuing to speak out against the “Vue53” plan and the process through which it “developed?” No, it’s NOT all over. Some are answering your Hyde Park Herald’s warning call, in your Sept. 4 editorial, to work to develop sound planning principles and prevent a “Vue53” precedent from taking hold. I am continuing to find others who share my concern with the process, which for me started in March. That’s when I heard first-hand testimony from affected residents who had been misled by petitions about zoning change boundaries at (and over and down) 53rd and Kimbark and particularly residents behind the 53rd Street “art wall” in the shadow of the 13-story tower-to-be who had not received answers to their questions.

All of us, however we come down on details of the “Vue” (oxymoronic?) or the possibilities of modifying the plan, should work to improve the process for sounding out the community’s and affected residents’ consensus, to enforce transparency and truth in advertising, and to prevent escalation of more of the same or worse. To put it snarkily to the “responsibles” — University of Chicago realtor/owners and affiliates; Mesa developers and affiliates/consultants; the Ald. Will Burns (4th) — ”it’s the process, stupid!”

Let’s ALL work together to make it better and inclusive. 

Louise Kaegi, from the 53rd Street neighborhood (in 5300 block of Greenwood)

Why we’re suing over Vue53 development

To the Editor:

We are Hyde Parkers who have filed suit against the City of Chicago to reverse the rezoning of the McMobil property allowing a 155-foot building on that site. The University of Chicago and its agents want us to think that this is a done deal. And without the lawsuit, they are right. With the lawsuit, we have a chance for a more appropriate development that will better reflect the wishes of the community.

The new zoning is illegal – Chicago and Illinois law require zoning to respect the “existing uses and zoning of nearby property.” Under Illinois law, citizens can request de novo review by the courts.

This building would set a precedent for the scale of future development nearby. There would be no legal grounds to challenge a 20-story building at the corner of 53rd and Dorchester, for example, and we see no reason to believe that the university would stray from the position that bigger is better.

This is the wrong building for the site. Details of our objections can be found on our website at save53rdstreet.org, but the fundamental problem is that it is out of scale with its surroundings. We want to see 53rd Street developed, but not as a Lincoln Park South or a downtown Schaumburg.

There is significant community opposition to a project of this size at this location. Since the first visioning workshop in 2007 this opposition has been consistently expressed, and it has been just as consistently ignored by the university, which seems determined to make this project as big as possible.

Ald. Will Burns (4th) seems to agree with the university. He touts the “compromise” of a reduction from 14 to 13 stories as all we could ever want. His unwillingness to listen to his constituents has led us to this step.

Please join us! Visit save53rdstreet.org for ways to help out.

Michael Scott
Spokesperson for the plaintiffs

Troubled by the renaming of Stony

To the Editor:

The prospect of renaming Chicago’s historic Stony Island Avenue is troubling. The late Rev. Arthur Brazier may well qualify for memorial recognition, but there urgently needs to be public discussion and serious consideration of what kind of memorial would be most appropriate.

The present and long-standing name of the broad six-mile artery invokes both geologic and human history. The original “Stony Island” existed ages ago at what is now the south end of the avenue. At the time, it protruded from a higher Lake Michigan and had significance in the lives of the early Native American settlers. It would be a great misfortune to precipitously do away with the historic name that is so familiar to all of us.

A major consequence of such action would be the resulting inconvenience and confusion to the public. This would adversely affect not only the citizens, but also the many visitors to our city. In addition, there will considerable cost to taxpayers, as hundreds of street signs and directional signs will have to be replaced, and all kinds of paper reprinted, a burden especially for businesses. The state Skyway signs must also be changed. In the current financial crisis of both city and state, we can ill afford to be diverting funds to this ill-conceived and unnecessary project.

Reverend Brazier was a man of many good works, and it seems to me that a far more fitting and living memorial would be the initiation of or addition to a service dedicated to providing for human needs, health, the good of the community, etc. The proposed expenditures for street renaming cannot be of help to anyone! An appeal to people of good will can assist in raising of funds to help endow what could be a truly fitting memorial.

Charles S. Staples

Stony rename costly, poorly timed

To the Editor:

The mayor’s proposal to rename Stony Island Avenue after Dr. Arthur Brazier is an obvious political move on his part, at the taxpayers expense. The cost to the city of changing all of the signage and maps will be huge, not to mention the cost and inconvenience to residents and the many, many businesses on Stony Island who will have to replace all of their collateral and printed material.

Honoring Bishop Brazier is not the issue here. Instead of changing street signs, why not use the money instead to build much-needed community centers on the South Side, and name them after Dr. Brazier? This would be a much more fitting tribute to the great man, and more in keeping with his mission and devotion to the people.

I think he would agree.

Jan Holt

We deserve better than McMobil plan

To the Editor:

Gee, folks. What’s wrong about the new McMobil to be, huh? What’s all the fuss about? Aside from a full set of excuses, and of shortages, what’s the problem? Well, the problem is massive (13 stories? Here?) and multidimensional.

The intended abuse of 53rd Street is unwanted, offensive, congestive, etc., etc., etc. And, just by the by, it might not even be a success for its sponsors and providers.

The Herald is to be congratulated for its detailed exposure of what the University of Chicago is about in this tawdry, grotesquely inappropriate, excess. It is as if someone dropped in from another town, or another planet, and said “Well, this is a nice little under-developed shopping strip, in a quiet, ho-hum part of the community. Let’s overwhelm it with massive construction and, just for fun — or profit — see what happens. Even if we can’t do anything, it is as massively ugly as what we perpetrated at the East end of the road.

The university is better than this. As Bruce Sagan well knows, it has been my university since 1946. And we all deserve better than this.

Charles F. Custer

Safe passage signs serve little purpose

To the Editor:

If you look north on Dorchester Avenue from 55th Street, the first thing that will catch your eye is now no longer the canopy of green trees sheltering the architecture of the old street. Your eyes will instead focus on a half dozen bright yellow signs announcing the street is a “SAFE PASSAGE.” They are the latest example of visual blight brought to our neighborhood by the City of Chicago. A forest of these signs have sprung up all over Hyde Park in the last couple of weeks.

They are the city’s effort to convince passing schoolchildren that they are safe even though their neighborhood school has been shuttered.  Will they work? Well, the one they put up in front of our house is about 10 feet from where our car was stolen a week ago. This so-called protection program is costing the taxpayers almost $12 million. How many teachers could have been put back to work for that kind of money? Then our children would indeed be safe and our streets freer of visual clutter.

There is an ironic message in this dramatic signage sprung up everywhere. Every time I see one, I am reminded of what the mayor did to Chicago’s teachers and children and how unsafe this city is for them.

The Tribune was surely right on Wednesday in calling for the signs to be pulled down as an ineffective and embarrassing eyesore. But perhaps we should leave them there so future generations can ponder the legacy of Mayor Emanuel.

John B. Wickstrom

U. of C. goals at Schuster site clear

To the Editor:

Your Aug. 21 article “U. of C. denies plans for site” misrepresents my comments about the Schuster Building in a way that confuses the issue. As the Herald previously reported, the university is planning a thorough renovation of the building, which is in need of repairs. The long-term goals of that project are clear — we hope to see successful retailers on the first floor who can add to the vibrancy of 53rd Street and meet the expressed needs and interests of the community. The second floor will be used for office space, which we hope can similarly contribute to the vitality of the neighborhood.

As we have for other properties owned by the university, we will work hard to seek tenants who can best contribute to those goals. It would be inappropriate, and make it much harder to get good tenants, if we were to speculate about tenants before we have reached agreements.

Finally, as we told the Herald at the time of the first article, the university has worked with existing tenants either to help them remain in the building during renovations or to identify appropriate locations in other buildings.

We look forward to sharing with you the good news about the businesses that will move into the renovated Schuster Building when those agreements are in place.

Jonathan Dennis

Commercial Real Estate Operations Project Manager, University of Chicago

Praising No. 28’s return to old route

To the Editor:

Nowadays it is a rare pleasure to read any good news in any newspaper. So I was glad to see the recent article in the Herald announcing that the CTA has agreed to return the No. 28 bus to its previous route as per the public’s request. Having this bus go directly down Lake Street from 47th to 55th streets (and beyond) means that there is once again convenient access to Hyde Park’s primary shopping/ business district. With all the new stores, restaurants and businesses being developed in this area (not to mention all the wonderful locations already in place), I think there is just cause for community-wide rejoicing, and for thanking Ald. Will Burns (4th) who was the successful liaison between Hyde Parkers and the CTA. It is good to know that at least one of Hyde Park’s alder-persons is publically addressing such useful neighborhood concerns.

E. M. Christian

Hyde Park is becoming a mess

To the Editor:

What a mess my old neighborhood, Hyde Park, has become. At least it’s that way driving along 55th Street. It’s like an obstacle course with all kinds of marked lines on the pavement, little poles sticking up and cars parked where there used to be a lane for traffic. I saw a bicyclist almost get knocked out of this world by a car turning into Bank Financial’s drive-up facility just east of Kenwood Ave. The car’s driver couldn’t see the cyclist because of the parked cars in the way.

But this seems to be the way things are headed in Chicago now — lots of obstructions and clutter. It’s getting like that downtown, too. Now, more penalty cameras are coming.

Too bad for Chicago.

Paris Smith

Deadly birds? Here we go again

To the Editor:

Was it just yesterday when complaints rained in that peregrines — a handsome falcon only recently rescued from extinction — were wiping out local populations of pigeons and monk parakeets? Today the villains seem to be Cooper’s hawks, now reported to be damaging birds in Nichols Park. I will respond as I did before: are there too many wolves in Yellowstone National Park or too many sharks in the sea? A healthy ecosystem needs predators to manage and enhance prey species — an urban park is no exception.

Cooper’s hawks are native species. They feed on small mammals — mice, squirrels, young rabbits, bats and rats. They also feed on birds — starlings, pigeons, and to the dismay of bird lovers, thrushes and warblers, especially during spring and autumn migratory seasons. Hawks and other predatory birds do not take more prey that needed to sustain themselves and their young. To do so would waste precious energy needed to meet other challenges of life.

If residents of the Nichols Park area are concerned about faltering bird numbers, I invite them to come a few blocks west to Stout Park where robins, cardinals and chickadees, chimney swifts, nighthawks and mourning doves abound. Wood pewees often spend part of the summer there.

Predators are an important part of urban ecological health.

Frances S. Vandervoort

Davis’ Hyde Park book sets standard

To the Editor:

Thirty-five years ago, the University of Chicago Press published Jean Block’s “Hyde Park Homes” and it became the benchmark for community standards, preservation significance, even real estate values. The press now has published the next benchmark: Susan Davis’s “Chicago’s Historic Hyde Park,” listing 910 buildings and 141 architects. It establishes the enduring character of our neighborhood to be its mixture of people, cultures, professions and ages as expressed in our variety of old and new architectural styles, building types, sizes and uses. It articulates our commitment to fellow residents to foster a sense of community. It will have an influence on people’s local decisions far into the future.

Your excellent review last week tells us about the author’s quest, but not about the book’s intrinsic merit. This book is an important asset to our entire neighborhood and will remain so for many years to come.

Sam Guard

Thanks to Hyde Park from Mobil gas

To the Editor:

As owner and operator of the Mobil station on 53rd Street, it has been my pleasure to be involved in the Hyde Park community for last eight years. As many people know by now, I will be closing this Mobil location on Aug. 12. I did not want to do so without saying thank you to my customers and to all of Hyde Park and Kenwood.

I am sincerely grateful to everyone who has patronized the gas station and car wash throughout the years and especially to my employees for their continuing service. For anyone wondering what will happen to workers after the closing, most of our current employees have accepted job offers from other locations.

While closing the business will be a big change for me personally, I know it also will be a change for the community. There has been a lot of attention given recently to the future of the site where my business currently sits. I am well aware of Mesa Development’s plans for a new apartment building (Vue53) at this location, and I believe this project will be good for the businesses along 53rd Street and for the local economy in Hyde Park and the area around it.

Along with businesses that have opened recently and new ones that are coming, the building and its residential and retail tenants will continue to enliven all of 53rd Street. I wish the project much success.

Aqueel Ahmed

Ingleside Hall merited preservation

To the Editor:

In the interests of accuracy, the final phrase of your article (Ingleside Hall demolition, 8/7/13) which now reads, “… the building (is) too altered to be considered for preservation” might have better read, “Given the significant alterations, it’s doubtful the building would qualify for designation as an official Chicago Landmark.” But given its age (1896), architect (Charles Atwood, of Reliance Building fame), high style architecture, history (once the Quadrangle Club) and location (one of only three vintage brick campus buildings left west of the main quadrangle) a wise owner might well have considered it for preservation and restoration.

Jack Spicer

Editorial is backward-looking

To the Editor:

It’s sad that your great idea for the future of 53rd is just to limit the height of the buildings lining the street. I will readily agree that the late 1940s and early 1950s were, as many people remember, an idealistic time in Hyde Park’s history. You have told Hyde Parkers that we should think of the legacy left for us by the Hyde Parkers of that time. I think we should also think about the legacy we leave for the next generation.

Please, let’s focus on a less polluted future for my children. That means green buildings and fewer cars — anything less is a disservice to our community. Younger Hyde Parkers, like younger people everywhere, are less interested in car ownership and less dependent on cars. They want to hear how this newspaper is helping to promote a neighborhood with less pollution, more and cheaper public transportation options and enough density to support a lively business district and first-rate cultural institutions.

Aaron Collard