Letters to the Editor

Darrow Bridge deserves restoration

The closed Darrow Bridge. -Fran Vandervoort

The closed Darrow Bridge.
-Fran Vandervoort

To the Editor:

The Jackson Park Advisory Council salutes the federal government for providing tens of millions of dollars to construct three pedestrian bridges over South Lake Shore Drive between 35th and 43rd streets (Chicago Tribune, Sept. 14, 2014). Convenient access to Lake Michigan for residents of South Kenwood, Oakwood and the slightly more distant Bronzeville is in keeping with the democratic spirit espoused by park designer Frederick Law Olmsted, who with city fathers Aaron Montgomery Ward and Daniel Burnham agreed that the Lakefront should remain forever open, free and clear.

Some 20 blocks south of the sites for these bridges, another bridge cries for help. For several years, the historic Clarence Darrow Bridge in Jackson Park has been falling apart. The bridge’s original Beaux Arts railings and other fixtures, so in keeping with the grand style of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, are rusted, bent or missing. The rockwork supporting the bridge from beneath is spalling and stained from weather and smoke from illegal fires. Rusted support beams and fractured macadam make the bridge unsafe for any form of vehicular traffic. In other words, the public is denied safe, legal access to the park and lakefront, both of which are legally theirs to enjoy.

Suppose you are an elderly Japanese-American who, to this nation’s retrospective embarrassment, spent almost all of the World War II years in an internment camp in the West. You have come to Chicago to visit the most famous Japanese cultural site in the Midwest, the Japanese Garden on Wooded Island in Jackson Park. You have heard that the garden is a shrine to the tremendous contributions made by Imperial Japan to the World Columbian Exposition of 1893. You want to see it before you die.

You arrive at the parking lot immediately south of the Museum of Science and Industry. Your relatives assist you into your wheel chair for the planned excursion to the garden, but you can travel only a short distance before you are stopped by high, chain-link panels bearing a sign announcing, in huge letters, ROAD CLOSED. Is this another kind of insult?

Hardy individuals — committed trekkers, birders, joggers and bicyclists — have pried open the panels blocking access to the bridge. Physically impaired individuals are left out.

Since the mid-1880s, the bridge has been crossed by people traveling by foot, carriage or other vehicular means from the east “Lake Michigan side” or the west “Stony Island side.” The bridge was the way to go to get to the west side of Jackson Park, Wooded Island, the Midway Plaisance and points beyond. Or it was the way to get to Lake Michigan, the vast meadow now known as Bobolink Meadow or the tennis courts or North Harbor. In 1957 it officially became the Clarence Darrow Bridge in tribute to Hyde Park’s great trial lawyer. Every March 13, the anniversary of Darrow’s 1938 death, politicians, historians, family members and various individuals of liberal bent gather at the bridge to honor his memory by tossing a wreath into the lagoon’s friendly waters.

We South Siders rejoice that new pedestrian bridges across South Lake Shore Drive will open Chicago’s Lakefront to families and other groups from North Kenwood, Oakland, and Bronzeville. We all agree, however, that Jackson Park, so very near Lake Michigan, should be accessible to all. It would cost $5 million to restore the Darrow Bridge to its original beauty and function, far less than the tens of millions of dollars required for bridge repair and construction over Lake Shore Drive. An intact Darrow Bridge would complement the new bridges and complete local access to the great treasure that is Lake Michigan. It is an investment that must be made.

Jackson Park Advisory Council
Louise McCurry, President
Frances S. Vandervoort

Lagoon needs fresh water source, not poison

To the Editor:

Thank you for Jeffery Bishku-Aykul’s article about how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning to poison the Jackson Park Lagoon in order to kill off all of the fish (Hyde Park Herald, Sept. 17, p.1). It seems to me that the entire concept here is fraught and undesirable. Why keep poisoning the lagoon water that is dirty and murky and turbid pond water which supports algal blooms? Instead of poisoning the waters to kill off undesirable fish that thrive in such muddy, stationary water and subsequently attempt after the killoff to replace the entire stock of fish with game fish whose usual habitat is clear fresh water, wouldn’t it be a better idea in the long run to bring fresh clear Lake Michigan water into the lagoons? This could be accomplished by connecting the lagoons in Jackson Park so that fresh water from Lake Michigan could flow through them. If the East lagoon were to be connected by a channel to the Inner Harbor, then a flow could be set up through these lagoons to provide for clear clean Lake Michigan water throughout all of the lagoons. This in turn would provide a superior habitat for game fish and keep the lagoons more attractive for all of us. So how about bringing in fresh water from Lake Michigan instead of repeatedly poisoning the muddy water in the lagoons? It would take some engineering, but isn’t that what the Corps of Engineers is for?

Caroline Herzenberg

Thanks for standing up for fish

To the Editor:

As someone who has walked nearly daily in Jackson Park for the last 15 years, I am grateful to the Hyde Park Herald for demanding a more careful consideration of the proposed poisoning of fish in the Jackson Park lagoon. The mania for native species has gone too far, and the commitment to destroying ‘non-natives’ seems to take no other value than “native-ness” into consideration. One wonders indeed what the term “native species” means in an historical sense (native at what moment in time?) or in a prospective sense (what species will really be able to flourish here in a future shaped by climate change?). Over the years I have been disturbed, not to say appalled, by the number of mature healthy trees in the park — the golf course, the Wooded Isle, the Bobolink Meadow, the boulevard west of the marina at Hayes Drive — that have been cut down in the name of removing ‘non-native’ species. While those areas did need tending and cleaning up after a long period of neglect, the measures taken went well beyond that. As the Herald editorial rightly points out, there is a difference between “non-native” and aggressively invasive. If we had been talking about destructive species like the kudzu vine, I could have understood. But most of the destroyed trees posed no such threat. What I saw was a massive loss of beauty, shade and screening from traffic noise, not to mention a huge loss of carbon absorption capacity. In short, all the cutting seems to constitute major damage to the green lungs of the city and to the pleasures of the park. The saplings planted in their place were many fewer than the trees cut, and a good proportion of them are unlikely to survive (trees suffer great stress in an urban environment), indeed quite a number have already died. The ones that do survive will need a human generation to reach the stature of those cut. So, let us take a few extra months to consider whether it is really a good idea to poison the Jackson Park Lagoon and kill all the fish in it.

Holly Shissler

It’s not necessary to kill the fish

To the Editor:

Why kill all the fish in the Jackson Park Lagoon? Why not stun and relocate? I’ve fished the lagoon ever since I was a small lad. Just catch and release. Why not clean up water and restock?

Some of us really enjoy fishing there where we don’t have to travel great distances. I’m sure there are other alternatives to consider than killing the fish.

All users of the lagoon do not agree the fish should be killed. It’s not good for a few to make such a large decision. Give us a chance to speak.

Randolph Strahan

The return of the goldfinches

To the Editor:

Actually, the goldfinches have been here all summer. These tiny, puffed-up flecks of sunlight flit amongst local parks, gardens and any place that provides food and other necessities for a productive goldfinch life. In late summer they begin to prepare for the winter.

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) maintains beds of coneflowers, black-eyed susans, lilies and floribunda roses at the ends of the berms flanking the north side of 55th Street between University and Cottage Grove avenues. For as long as the flower beds have existed, in autumn months my husband and I have enjoyed seeing a dozen or so goldfinches feasting on the oil-rich seeds buried deep in the spent flower heads. They pry the seeds out with their strong beaks, often scattering seeds on the ground to be eaten by other birds or mice.

Last autumn, not a goldfinch was to be seen. All that was left of the flowers were bare, black stalks — someone had given the order to remove spent flowers, probably because they were “unsightly.” This year, to our delight, the goldfinches have returned. We have learned that CDOT ordered that spent flowers not be removed. Once again we see the striking black-and-yellow of the males, the soft beige and cream of the females, watch their rollercoaster flight, and hear their rollicking chatter.

The Chicago Department of Transportation has invited us to have a truly golden autumn.

Frances S. Vandervoort

Hoping Kiwanis will stick around

To the Editor:

It was sad to read the recent cover story on the current status of the Hyde Park Kiwanis Club. I am not a member of the Hyde Park Club, but am a 39-year member of the Southeast Kiwanis Club. All of the reasons Kiwanis Clubs are diminishing as stated in the article by their club treasurer, Jon Will, are true. It is also true that Kiwanis Clubs in towns and communities with a strong business organization and/or strong church groups do not fare as well.

It might be useful for potential members to understand what Kiwanis is all about. There is no secret hand shake. Like Rotary and Lions Clubs, Kiwanis International is a worldwide service organization. A major difference between Lions and Rotary is that Kiwanis Club levels include Key Clubs (high school) and Circle K clubs (college level), which present opportunities to perform service to their communities. Through our sponsored youth initiatives, local Kiwanis Clubs support these youth organizations both financially and through direct mentoring.

Although the main objective of local Kiwanis Clubs is service to youth and senior groups in our communities, many clubs manage to enjoy their time with the club. Hopefully meetings have speakers that both inform and entertain the membership and guests. On a personal note, I was recruited to join the Southeast Kiwanis Club as a part of my duties as a commercial lender at a neighborhood bank. There was no pressure by the bank that I sustain my membership. The first thing I learned about Kiwanis was that every dollar raised from the public went back to the public. Meetings, conventions, membership recruitment parties and the like came from our pockets. Many projects in which our clubs participate are extremely rewarding to our members. Seeing the look on one of the inner-city kids’ faces as they disembark from a plane ride with a Tuskegee Airman or a pilot from the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is priceless. Sponsoring trips for our area high school juniors to visit colleges as far away as Atlanta or just sending some kids to a White Sox game leaves us feeling pretty good about the time we give to our club’s service. We have not done it recently but we have rented a bus to take seniors downtown just to see how the city has changed since their retirement. I will never forget the effort the Hyde Park club made to get uniforms for a local high school who did not have them in their budget.

Hopefully the membership will vote to keep the Hyde Park Kiwanis Charter alive. If so, I, as well as a couple of friends, plan to allow ourselves to be sponsored as members.

Paul L. Carson

Thanks to my hard-working neighbors

To the Editor:

A great thank you from me to some hard-working people. I do not know anyone who lives in the apartment building on the north east corner of 54th Street and Harper Avenue. But every time I drive west on 54th Street from the shopping center, I am in awe of the beautiful flowers on their back porches. The colors are outstanding, and the residents of the building have showed us how life in a crowded city can still bring beauty to many. I say thank you every time I witness your hard work.

Judy Allen

Vue53 site reflects disregard for residents

To the Editor:

As a Hyde Park resident of over 20 years, I am appalled with the lack of concern that the University of Chicago has shown for the safety of children and others about the property that they own and endorse for the Vue53 luxury apartments development.

I documented through a photo on Aug. 9 the total disregard for Hyde Park residents — especially children on land owned by the University of Chicago — in this case, by leaving a gate open and not attended across from Murray School and playground and Nichols Park. This will have a negative impact on the kids, especially those who are students at Murray School as well as any kid that will have to negotiate the increased traffic on 53rd Street.

I am also concerned about the loss of private local businesses that the university is pushing out in favor of national chains. I am very concerned about the gentrification of our neighborhood by this development that View53 cites as luxury apartments on its own sign!

I vow to continue to fight these issues no matter what happens with regard to this horrible plan. And think about it, this horrible building, as proposed, is 13 stories tall and longer than a football field — the Merchandise Mart of 53rd Street.

I want to congratulate Michael Scott and his colleagues for their continuing legal proceedings to limit the size of this obnoxious building.

Ed Rock Sehr

Addenda to Hiroshima Day photo

To the Editor:

Thank you for your coverage of the annual Hyde Park peace and justice community remembrance of the day the first nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima: August 6, 1945.

The Herald photographer Spencer Bibbs’ photo, which appears in color on the front page, captured four of the participants and the essence of what went on; however, Dave Kraft’s creditials were not detailed in the photo. He is the director of the Nuclear Energy Information Service based in Chicago. Two important comments, including a correction, also must be made about the coverage of this year’s event:

First, Bradford Lyttle, who was the catalyst for this event once again, and who takes on the responsibility of setting up the sound system every year, and also brings information and models to educate the public, deserves recognition. Brad also spoke briefly about “why we are gathered at this historical spot on this day.” Too bad he wasn’t in the photograph.

Secondly, the caption for the photo said that we met on Monday; we, in fact, met on Wednesday, Aug. 6.

And finally, I would like to encourage all readers to mark this date on their calendars for next year: Aug.6, 2015, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.

I would also like to express thanks to the University of Chicago for understanding the community’s need to gather at the Henry Moore sculpture, “Nuclear Energy,” which marks the location of where the nuclear age began.

Roberta Siegel

Herald headline gets park plans wrong

To the Editor:

Thank you Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul for writing last week’s article about the restoration plan for Jackson Park, utilizing the original Olmsted Plan to create a beautiful, “democratic” park for all to enjoy. Thank you to everyone on the Hyde Park Herald staff for the coverage over the last four years. JPAC and the Chicago Park District has put in thousands of volunteer hours partnering with the Chicago Park District to plant thousands of trees and plants and create natural habitats in the nature preserves, build playgrounds, repair and build new recreational areas, repair the fieldhouse for community meetings, remove the years of trash and invasive species accumulations, and open up the rich and important history of Jackson Park to the community through free tours, historical feature naming, lectures and community forums, and the Herald covered these events. We believe that every Hyde Parker and every Chicagoan should come to Jackson Park and relax in its peaceful surroundings, play in safe sports and recreation areas and playgrounds, swim on its beautiful and safe beaches and fish in its safe lagoons and harbors.

So it is particularly painful for JPAC members to see the community-wide damage done with the inaccurate headlines that the Herald chose for the restoration plan article this week. We applaud the Park District and the Army Corp of Engineers for being completely transparent through hours of multiple open community meetings, answering every question; including the community in every step of the planning process, and incorporating the community suggestions into the plan. The Herald headlines of all species in the Jackson Park lagoon to be exterminated with poison is inaccurate, and is followed by the statement of “Say goodbye to the fish in the Jackson Park Lagoon,” which is sensational and inaccurate. It will sell newspapers and we support the Herald for its important historic role in making Hyde Park an informed and involved  community. But it is just wrong! Removing unhealthy, damaging and invasive species from the waterways to protect native fish habitats is an important ecological fish management practice to maintain those habitats. It produces an abundant fish population which fishermen, women and children can catch and use to feed their families, or simply catch and release as practiced by many fishermen. The restoration plan is about producing more safe areas for  fishing, walking, biking and recreating; more natural areas where birds and wildlife can live successfully; more areas where teachers and school children can visit to learn about plants, animals and birds, and fish here in Jackson Park.

So we really hope that this was an error that the Herald staff chose these headlines to characterize this wonderful ecological plan to restore the park utilizing the original Frederick Law Olmsted plan to restore our beautiful Jackson Park. It is a plan which is too big to cover in a couple of newspaper paragraphs. We invite anyone who would like to learn more or ask questions, to attend our JPAC educational meetings the second Tuesday of each month.

Louise McCurry, President
Jackson Park Advisory Council

Consider coverage more carefully

To the Editor:

I was very disappointed in the headlining of the front page article on the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) Jackson Park project. I consider that it lifted out one aspect of the work and treated it in a sensationalist manner, inaccurately, and out of context. This is not the only instance in which the paper has used headlining to editorialize, with little indication of what the object or policy outcome is being served. I believe this harms community discussion on matters that affect our community and its assets.

Your reporter, like many others, had plenty of opportunity to learn the facts and details from numerous meetings, (I understand had an extensive interview with the chief USACE ecological planner and manager on the project) and to communicate the sense of his article to the person(s) preparing the headline and paper. The headline made all involved — ACE, the Park District, the Olmsted park expert and Jackson Park Advisory Council and other stakeholders including fishing groups — look irresponsible and insensitive. The exaggerations made and details left out in the article contributed to this sense, negating the limits of what will be done and the extent of public inconvenience, the care being taken for public safety, the benefits, and any understanding of how nature works with natural winter fish kills.

I do want to thank you for the important services, crucial information, and challenges to the status quo and powers that be that the Herald provides for the community and its many organizations and institutions. The Herald’s importance makes it all the more important to get it right or carefully set forth choices and consequences.

Gary M. Ossewaarde

Jackson Park plan is beneficial

To the Editor:

I am the Chicago Park District volunteer steward for Wooded Island and am a member of the Jackson Park Advisory Council (JPAC). Wearing these two hats, I often weigh proposals of the Park District on a scale to balance the interests of the Park District with those of the residents around Jackson Park. Often, I then try to present, sometimes with little success, my opinions.

I have attended several meetings and met with people involved in the proposal for the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) Project 506, relating to the project in Jackson Park that includes Wooded Island and its lagoons. I attended the meeting of JPAC two Mondays ago. I came away with a very different view of the project from that left by the Herald’s article.

The essence of the treatment of the lagoons isn’t a “fishkill,” but a program to enhance the aesthetics and quality of the water of the lagoons. While it is doubtful that the water, which now frequently looks like chocolate pudding, can be changed to look like the pristine water of Lake Michigan, what ACE plans on doing will certainly improve its appearance. As presented, the ACE is going to spend a large amount of money to improve the appearance of the water, while at the same time upgrading its quality for fish and other aquatic life. They hope to accomplish this by two separate processes.

The first and most extensive is to regrade a significant portion of the shoreline around the edge of the lagoons. This would eliminate the drop-offs and bring the shore down to the water’s edge. The result is known as a “swamp fringe.” When the shore is regraded to the level of the water, it is then planted with herbaceous native plants, sedges, and grasses. The effect would be two-fold: it would deter runoff of rainwater carrying dirt and mud into the lagoons while simultaneously limiting erosion, all of which would help clear the water. As an added benefit, it would allow fishermen and visitors access to the water’s edge.

The other process for treating the quality and aesthetics of the lagoon water is to change the fish species from bottom-diggers that churn the mud to a higher species quality that would improve the water and the attraction of fishing in the lagoons.  The elimination of the existing fish would be followed by stocking the lagoons with increasing sizes of native fish, including game fish.

The “fishkill” focus of the Herald article may have been eyecatching, but, unfortunately, it put a negative spin on a program that will have a significant beneficial impact on a treasure of our community.

Jerry Levy

Burns has made no effort for Dyett

To the Editor:

Recently Ald. Will Burns (4th) convened Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools Chief Barbara Byrd Bennett to promote his plan to turn over Canter’s school building to Kenwood Academy to house their 7th and 8th grade academic center. Members of the Committee to Revitalize Dyett have requested such a meeting for nearly three years, and Burns has not delivered, despite his awareness of the deplorable conditions Dyett students have endured since 2011. As a matter of fact, Alderman Burns has had the opportunity to partner with the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett since 2011, when I, along with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis and former Kenwood Oakland Community Organization Executive Director Jay Travis met with him to propose our vision for Dyett High School. He has known about the abuses Dyett students were subjected to, at least since 2012, when he attended a student-led press conference where young people protested having to go through the back door of their school, and taking art and music as online classes. Unfortunately, his knowledge of these abuses did not result in any action on behalf of those students. Has he met with Dyett students in more than two years? Has he engaged any of our coalition members to support or build on our plan? Absolutely not, and that is the truth. Burns’ refusal to take the same definitive action on behalf of Dyett students as he recently took to relieve overcrowding at Kenwood is reflective of his continued dismissal of the issues impacting many African American families in the northern part of his ward. Additionally, as mentioned by numerous letters to the editor in the Hyde Park Herald, Burns’ inability or refusal to hear and act upon the concerns of his constituents is unacceptable.

Yes, the tension was palpable at a recent, long overdue public meeting to discuss the fate of Walter H. Dyett high school. The question is why? Parents and community members are fed-up with Burns’ disrespect and lack of leadership; and were further insulted by his insistence on hiring outside facilitators to take hundreds of residents through a process they had already experienced. His job at this stage is not to lead us, but to “catch up!” The meeting was a typical CPS-style sham hearing, and community residents who have endured the same type of meetings around the closing or private takeover of Price, Dyett, Fuller and Phillips knew it from their lived experience. We will no longer be convened by people with no skin in the game and who don’t have to live with the results. Burns’ claims that he was against the phase-out of Dyett rings hollow because for anyone in leadership, the question is not how did you feel, but rather, what did you do? What did you deliver? His actions clearly were not visible to his constituents. Perhaps he wrote a letter. Who knows? The truth is, in the face of paralysis from CPS and Burns, the Committee to Revitalize Dyett was formed. Members include the: DuSable Museum for African American History, Chicago Botanic Garden, Plant, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Education, Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council, Blacks in Green, Washington Park Advisory Council, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Teachers for Social Justice, Chicago Teachers Union Quest Center and Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University.

Let’s be clear. While Burns sat idle, the community created a planning process that yielded a solid academic plan for Dyett students, the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School. While Burns sat idle, students at Dyett filed Title VI Civil Rights complaints at the U.S. Department of Education about the treatment and conditions of Dyett High School; which along with the violations mentioned earlier in this letter, included having viable programs and activities such as AVID and the “Life after Dyett” class cut. While Burns sat idle, people from the 4th Ward with supporters from the greater Chicagoland area sat on the floor in front of Mayor Emanuel’s office for three days, demanding a meeting to address issues at Dyett. While the 4th Ward alderman sat idle, Rainbow PUSH partnered with KOCO and held forums to engage the community about concerns regarding Dyett. While Burns sat idle, community residents secured meetings with the Chicago Board of Education chairman David Vitale, and board members such as Andrea Zopp to present the plan for the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School. While Burns sat idle, parents and community leaders addressed the mayor directly at a press conference and hand delivered a copy of the plan. There would have been no forum regarding Dyett on July 28, if it had not been for the consistent pressure by community residents to hold Burns accountable.

Jitu Brown
Kenwood Oakland Community Organization

A good deed recounted

To the Editor:

Neighborliness and good deeds did not pass away with your great-grandmother. They still exist, right here in Hyde Park.

On Monday, July 21, a day of oppressive heat and humidity and terrible air quality, a delightful young woman named Sharon Carver looked up from her desk and noticed a senior citizen out on the sidewalk, huffing and puffing, trying to push an electric scooter with no power.

Carver ran out and asked if she could be of any assistance. The scooter only needed to be pushed two more blocks to home. Carver called back into her office and said she would be gone for a couple of minutes and then began to help pushing. The scooter was contrary — one person was needed to push, the other to steer.

After about 25 feet, Carver ordered the senior citizen to sit in the scooter and steer, and she pushed both the scooter and the senior citizen all the way home, despite the heat and poor air quality.

Sharon Carver deserves a Good Neighbor Medal as well as a bucket of thanks. She reflects well on her upbringing. Her family and friends can be proud of her.

Thank you Sharon.

Sue Terranova

Signs for trucks are routinely ignored

To the Editor:

The signs up at Hyde Park Boulevard and Kimbark Avenue really do not mean anything. The city of Chicago put up a sign that says no trucks over five tons are allowed — however the Budweiser delivery, Miller Light delivery and paper and produce trucks, along with RFS and several other heavy overweight trucks go down the street, as well as 52nd Street between Kimbark and Woodlawn avenues.

I am asking what does one have to do to get these heavy trucks off the street that they are not supposed to be using? These trucks have the streets in bad shape and according to the sign should be ticketed for using the street.

My question: How do we enforce the sign and get these heavy trucks off a residential street?

Larry A. Green