Letters to the Editor

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

Hyde Park does not need to be branded

To the Editor:

I was unsure whether to laugh or cry at the news that the new Special Service Area No. 61 is “working on branding the neighborhood,” and that the South East Chicago Commission has already met with two branding companies “whose names could not be disclosed” (the reason for this secrecy was not clear). I was under the impression that Hyde Park already had a “brand”: we are intellectual, progressive, integrated, independent-minded and just a little edgy in an urban sort of way. I would say that part of Hyde Park’s “brand” is to disdain the very idea that our neighborhood would need branding consultants.

Sadly, the idea of re-branding Hyde Park fits in all too well with the University of Chicago’s apparent agenda to “compete with its peer institutions” through gentrification and the promotion of upscale retail. The university already has a brand as well, and the life of the mind used to play a prominent role in that brand. Brand management is supposed to communicate and safeguard an institution’s core values so that they are not unintentionally diluted. I will be interested to see how any SSA tax dollars spent on branding our neighborhood fit in with my idea of what my neighborhood is all about.

Michael Scott

Encore thrift is a Hyde Park gem

To the Editor:

One fine day in April of 2013, I was strolling to the lakefront to feed the birds and I happened to see a thrift shop on East Hyde Park under the viaduct of the Metra train on the right hand side of the street. The address was 1553 E. Hyde Park Blvd. (corner of 51st Street and Cornell Avenue). Now, I usually wear tailor made clothes because off the rack clothing does not fit my thin body. But this day I went inside Encore, the thrift store for men, women and children. I was happily surprised – clothes that fit me. I found the staff very gregarious and kind. Specifically Amy, one of the staff. Rebekah was also very nice.

It was fun just browsing at this shop, for they have many high fashion clothing items of all sizes for men, women and children of all ages. But please bring enough money because they will not lower their asking price. Still the prices are very fair. They will hold your chosen garment for 24 hours. There are no refunds or exchanges. Children’s clothing is plentiful, so you can dress your tyke very well.
Encore is a not-for-profit store and accepts donations of clothing and handbags everyday. Drop in and patronage these fine people!

K. Xavier Zehir

Canter’s closure and the question of race

To the Editor:

Canter Middle School, formerly housed at 4959 S. Blackstone Ave., has closed, and Ald. Will Burns (4th) is leading the drive to install Kenwood Academy’s Academic Center in its stead. This move replaces an open enrollment junior high school with a selective enrollment junior high school. At his community meeting on Monday, June 16, Burns suggested that moving the Academic Center is a more sustainable solution for the Hyde Park/Kenwood neighborhood. He suspects that the community supports the selective enrollment Academic Center in a way that the community did not ever support Canter Middle School.

The Alderman is not wrong. Factions of the Hyde Park community do support the selective enrollment Academic Center over Canter Middle School’s open enrollment model; however, the Hyde Park/Kenwood community is composed of multiple factions and no single faction’s aims can be correctly identified as the aims of “the community.” It does a disservice to the community’s Black residents to ignore the racialized divide driving the popularity of Kenwood Academy’s Academic Center. The rhetorical appeal of the Academic Center to a non-negligible number of white Hyde Park residents stems from the fact that these parents do not want to send their 7th and 8th grade students to an open enrollment, predominantly Black school. These Hyde Park residents will only send their children to predominately Black schools if the Black students are handpicked. This preference for installing an Academic Center as opposed to an open enrollment junior high school has everything to with anti-Black racism.

The presence of anti-Black racism among white Hyde Park residents should not surprise anyone. The markedly un-Chicago semblance of racial integration in our neighborhood erupts from a shotgun marriage between, on one hand, the University of Chicago’s policing and housing efforts to make non-Black faculty and staff feel comfortable, and on the other, greater Chicago’s attempts to herd Black residents into the South Side of the city. These two antagonistic factions account for much of the demographics of the Hyde Park, Kenwood, Washington Park and Woodlawn communities. Historically, anti-Black racism in our neighborhood is most clearly expressed in the university clinging to the racial covenants restricting Blacks from owning, renting or leasing land in Hyde Park, and while these covenants were legally overturned in 1948, the aim of these covenants – that is, to make white university affiliates feel comfortable in the neighborhood – still remains intact in the relation between the University of Chicago and Antheus Capital. One only needs to investigate the manner in which Burns, the University of Chicago and Antheus pick and choose which schools and businesses survive and thrive in the neighborhood to see how the political and economic comfort of whites turns into anti-Black racism. The switch from Canter Middle School, an open enrollment school, to the Academic Center, a selective enrollment school, is yet another case of the comfort of white residents depending on degrading Black economic, political and social life. The move surrenders the development of too many of our neighborhood’s Black children to the faction of white Hyde Park residents who will only send their kids to a neighborhood school if the school jettisons a percentage of their low-scoring Black students. Unfortunately, our political rhetoric has normalized this Faustian bargain, as opposed to calling it what it is: capitulating to anti-Black racism.

The switch from an open enrollment middle school to a selective enrollment middle school will disproportionately select out Black Hyde Park/Kenwood residents, since a multifaceted legacy of anti-Black racism tends to depress grades, test scores and other traditional signs of academic success.

There was another way. Burns could have stood up against anti-Black racism in his ward by calling on white parents to name and address their ingrained anti-Black racism and send their children to their neighborhood schools. These open enrollment schools, if you can find the will to get over the blackness of their students, are wonderful.

Instead of political leadership, Burns gave himself to the market model of politicking and acceded to anti-Black racism in order to keep neighborhood white parents from moving to Beverly or sending their kids to Whitney Young.

The closing of Canter Middle School is a shame, but this shame is not directly the fault of Burns; the alderman’s greatest crime is capitulating to the comforts of the anti-Black racists who live in his ward.

Irami Osei-Frimpong

All races can produce good teachers

To the Editor:

I just received the June 18 issue of the Herald and would like to comment on the article re the Ray School principalship. I have never taught at Ray School or in Hyde Park. I spent 21 years in CPS on the Southwest Side in multi-racial, multi-ethnic situations, as a reading and learning disabilities teacher. Before CPS, I taught in another school system and in the reading clinic at the University of Chicago. My husband, Chuck, served as a school social worker for CPS in North Kenwood-Oakland for 27 years. Before that, he worked for the County in public aid and welfare work. Almost all of his clientele in those situations was Black. I am a native Chicagoan and Chuck is originally from New England. I mention this to illustrate my concern about the stereotypes about the effectiveness of white people in situations that are multi-racial. Aside from the close relationships developed in both of our situations, Chuck routinely visited in the public housing complexes in Chicago (including those not in North Kenwood-Oakland and was often asked to accompany his Black co-workers, who were hesitant to make these home visits.) Chuck never suffered any violent or seriously dangerous experiences. And, he was a school social worker during some of the problematic gang activity in the local communities.

Race does not predict or determine either competence, empathy or effectiveness in a multi-racial situation. That was my experience and my observation during my career. I witnessed outstanding and average principals, of several races/cultural backgrounds. The white principal at my last school was very good. A Black principal at one of my schools, who was outstanding, was able to deal constructively with a long-time teacher who needed to leave, shortly after this principal was placed in that school. I taught with Black, white and multi-racial teachers. Most of the teachers I knew were good. Some, including non-white teachers, were not, and this was not just my observation or judgment.

While there are cultural differences between different racial groups – having friends of different backgrounds, I am aware that I don’t know all of the tangible or intangible aspects of these – the ability of a teacher to relate to different kinds of students is based on attitude, understanding, positive expectations and competence. There were many examples of white principals and teachers who teach in multi-racial situations with great success. One principal, Ms. Beckwith, is just that – one principal who apparently had problems that transcended race. Certainly, people of different races/cultures can be seen as role models for students, but mainly if they care about and enjoy teaching students of all kinds.

From my discussions and observations about what was happening at Ray during these recent years (and I did vote as a community member, for the LSC, and participated in the survey anonymously regarding the next principal), I believe there have been concerns other than race about the future direction of Ray. Because Chuck and I are strong supporters of public education, we oppose the current policies of the mayor and our president, particularly in relation to high-stakes testing and the privatization of public schools. We believe in the strengthening of the powers of the LSC, the parents and the community.

We believe that the Ray School stakeholders do, also. The new LSC now has the task of finding a permanent principal. But it also has the task of building trust and consensus about objectives for an effective school, grounded in a philosophy of education that honors the contributions of all.

Joan Staples

Help out with the 4th on 53rd this year

To the Editor:

Thank you so much for the wonderful article in last week’s “Hyde Park Herald” about the upcoming 4th on 53rd Parade in Hyde Park. It’s great that Hyde Parkers will know about the festivities planned for the Fourth of July in the neighborhood.

We are excited about the big day and still looking for volunteers to act as banner carriers, decorators, marshals, a balloon artist and face painters. To help out, your readers can call me at 773-955-3622 or e-mail Publicity Coordinator Kirsten Srinivasan at kirstensri@ gmail.com.

Not only are we grateful for the community, but we also thank everyone for volunteering their time.

We can’t wait to march with this year’s crowd and celebrate an old-fashioned Fourth of July. Thank you again for your support and excellent coverage.

Stephanie Franklin
4th on 53rd Event Chairman
and the 4th on 53rd Parade Committee

Burns weighs in on fate of Dyett High

Editor’s note: The following letter was recently distributed by Ald. Will Burns (4th).

To the Editor:

On June 9, the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School held a press conference on the future of the school.

There have been some false, misleading rumors about where I stand on Dyett High School, so I’d like to set the record straight.

I opposed closing Dyett High School in 2011. Like the Coalition, I support keeping Dyett open. Specifically, Dyett must be an open enrollment, high quality, neighborhood public high school. The process to work through the details for what that would entail should include community involvement through a collaborative process.

The Coalition has asked me to endorse their specific plan for Dyett. While there are elements of the plan that reflect the values of a high-performing high school, the Coalition, to date, has not engaged a wide range of Bronzeville stakeholders like the Bronzeville Community Action Council.

Right now, encouraging the Chicago Board of Education to reverse its decision on Dyett is our top collective priority.

And that is something that we can all agree on.

Ald. Will Burns (4th)

Burns support should go further

To the Editor:

I was very happy to see that Ald. Will Burns (4th) has publicly stated that he supports Dyett remaining open as an open enrollment, high quality, neighborhood public high school. However we need an alderman who will not only use his words but his actions to actively work to make sure that all of our children receive a quality education now.

Burns, although late to the game, could remedy that by holding public hearings. Not only would that give an opportunity for Dyett supporters to present a plan that has been researched and developed with community input over a two year period but could satisfy his concern expressed in his recent e-mail that there “should be more community involvement.”

Finally we need Ald. Burns to get the school board to re-open Dyett for the fall of 2015.

Vicky Long