Letters to the Editor

Taste of Hyde Park has another successful year

To the Editor:

The Hyde Park Transitional Housing Project’s major annual fundraising event, the Taste of Hyde Park, held earlier this month, was again a success, raising slightly more than $10,000 after expenses. More than 100 members and friends of HPTHP enjoyed the opportunity to sample food from 17 area restaurants and other food and drink establishments, while socializing and being soothed by the wonderful piano artistry of Willie Pickens. There was also the opportunity to bid on 60 silent auction items, mainly personal services, gift certificates and tickets donated by local businesses. Attendees are had the opportunity to view the premier of a video about the organization’s work. The event, held on April 5, was hosted by Church of St. Paul and the Redeemer.

We appreciate the support of our corporate sponsors Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, Hyde Park Bank and the United Church of Hyde Park.
The food sampled by those attending was marked as to which restaurant or other establishment had donated the particular food, foods or drink. The contributing establishments included, in alphabetical order: Bar Louie, Cedars, Cholie’s Pizza, DeRice, Hyde Park Café, Hyde Park Produce, Kimbark Beverage, Maravilla’s, Medici, Norman’s Bistro, Rajun Cajun, Salonica, Seven Ten Lanes, Siam, Snail, The Sit Down Café and Uncle Joe’s Jerk Chicken. Please try to patronize some of our contributing restaurants and other food and drink establishments during the balance of 2014.

Along with the great food and music, the Taste of Hyde Park included a silent auction, where those attending could bid on tickets to events, gift certificates, services, and donated items. We thank all those who donated items that were included in the silent auction and also those who found things of value to them and outbid any other interested bidders.

Thanks are also due to the members of the HPTHP Board who contributed their energies to make this event a success and to the numerous other volunteers who helped make this event go smoothly.

Allan J. Lindrup
HPTHP Trustee for Fundraising and Chair
Taste of Hyde Park

Canter site could help Kenwood

To the Editor:

No one likes school closures. Make no mistake, they are disruptive, and that has certainly been the case in Hyde Park. Many Hyde Park and Kenwood residents, parents and elected officials opposed the closure of Miriam G. Canter Elementary School last year. In spite of ardent community opposition, the Chicago Board of Education phased out the school.

We now face the question about what to do with the Canter building. I believe the solution is to relocate the Kenwood Academy Academic Center to Canter. Currently the Academic Center has 264 students enrolled and Canter’s ideal capacity is 390 students. Moving the Academic Center to Canter will give the Academic Center room to grow, while freeing up space for Kenwood to grow, as well.

In the upcoming weeks I will be working closely with parents, community organizations and Kenwood Academy to put together a plan for this relocation.

I’m looking forward to a productive, meaningful collaboration so we can reach an outcome that best serves the futures of our community’s students.

Ald. Will Burns (4th)

Permit parking plans disappointing

To the Editor:

I was disappointed to read the April 2 story outlining plans for permit parking in the 5th Ward. All this will do is push the problem to the next block. This is not a solution that serves the community. Ever drive to North Side neighborhoods where permit parking is ubiquitous? Ubiquitously annoying, frustrating and curse-worthy. The streets are public, which I thought meant they are open to all, not a few. It’s bad enough that the meters are everywhere. This is not the answer to urban parking problems. Living in the city, you know there are parking issues. It’s like complaining about the noise when you move to a house next to O’Hare.

I know how near and dear to many folks’ hearts this idea is, but I see it as a wrong step for Hyde Park.

Judy Jakush

MAC demolition shows wantonness

To the Editor:

One of the reactions of long-time Hyde Parkers to Susan Davis’ valuable and obviously timely series on “Lost Hyde Park” must be one of both sadness and outrage, not just for the historic structures we lost but also for the goods and services we no longer have and so far, in the current “urban removal” process, are not getting back.

A short list includes Breslauer’s (dry goods-and-misc.) department store, the Fret Shop (musical instruments and repair), Plants Alive, Cooley’s Candles, the Sewing Circle, Acasa Books, 2nd Time Around, Artisans 21, Buttons and Bows, the Fair Trader, the Green Door and the entire Artist’s Colony on 57th Street. These or similar businesses (e.g. small appliance repair, a tailors, an ice cream parlor, a knitting/crafts shop, an upholsterer) could have been happily housed in the now defunct, historically interesting and irreplaceable greystone rowhouses on Harper. Any of that kind of blend — interesting, varied, designed for ‘browsing-as-well-as-shopping’ — would augment and diversify the stagnant mix of restaurants and “stylish” clothing places now coming to Hyde Park. Instead, we will have a parking lot.

The wanton, unnecessary demolition of those greystones is just one more travesty currently being perpetuated by the “we know best” conglomerate apparently determined to remake Hyde Park into a fancy bedroom community. Current residents who plan to stay and live here probably know that a “bedroom community” is not a “community” and certainly not a “Village.” Residents in such places rarely volunteer for or join or support community organizations or events, since after all they plan to stay only for three to five years.

It seems this is to be the result for Hyde Park faster than one can say “the University of Chicago” or “MAC Properties”, to whom an award for historic preservation is obviously a joke, or at best an accident. I hope these comments elicit thought, debate and even action.

Stephanie Franklin

MAC’s sad moves

To the Editor:

Well, MAC Properties certainly didn’t wait around for permission to knock down these townhouses with the lovely facades.

Be sure to look behind the demolition at the contiguous parking lot reserved for Picadilly married student housing owned by the University of Chicago. Hmm! What is next?

Nancy B. Baum

MAC’s promises cannot be trusted

To the Editor:

Promises made. Promises broken.

MAC promised to build its City Hyde Park without a public subsidy, and then asked for and got TIF money.

MAC promised to restore the historic 1890s greystones at 5110 S. Harper Ave., and then tore them down for a parking lot.

MAC’s promises aren’t worth much.

Debra Hammond

Our history is shamed by teardowns

To the Editor:

Inaugurated with a chorus of 5,200 voices, the World’s Columbian Exposition brought 20 million visitors to Hyde Park. From that moment forward, Chicago entered the ranks of a world-class city.

To showcase the possibilities of our community, C.A. Kapp, a local property owner, built at 5110-14 Jefferson Street (now Harper Avenue) a triad of urban homes, attached to each other with beautifully carved stone detailing. When acquired 117 years later by MAC Property Management, their community development representative told us in the Herald: “This façade is unbuildable today. The real crime would be to let it deteriorate so far that it would have to be torn down.”

Twelve days later, amid community accolade, MAC presented a re-development plan for the nearby Village Center and received from our neighborhood TIF $11.3 million of local tax dollars. Last week MAC, a private New Jersey company, demolished these three historic homes now saying they were “unable to find a way to rehabilitate the building affordably.” In this callous manner “the real crime” was committed, and every property owner has suffered a loss.

Clearly it is time for the tax-paying supporters of our long-standing, forward-looking community to re-evaluate decision-making at the local level.

Sam Guard

Eat, drink — and be righteous

To the Editor:

On Saturday evening, April 5, readers of the Herald will be able to do good while enjoying an evening out. That is the date of the ninth annual Taste of Hyde Park, the major annual fundraiser for the Hyde Park Transitional Housing Project. The location will be the Church of St. Paul and the Redeemer, 4945 S. Dorchester Ave., with the event officially starting at 6 p.m and lasting to roughly 9 p.m. Attendees will be able to sample food and drink from twenty or more local eating establishments, enjoy the jazz offerings of Willie Pickens and look for bargains in the silent auction. Tickets are $35 in advance, or $40 at the door (less for students with ID and children). To purchase tickets on-line and in advance, readers should go to hpthp.org. Folks with questions can write to hpthp@yahoo.com or phone Allan at 773-595-4921, up until noon of the day of the event.

Allan Lindrup, Chair
Taste of Hyde Park

Local tutors invite you to a party

To the Editor:

Strive has always been proud to call Hyde Park-Kenwood home. As a truly community-initiated organization, we have been providing free academic and mentoring support to children in our neighborhood since before our 1990 incorporation as a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Strive’s students, volunteers, board members and staff all have Hyde Park-Kenwood roots. And this is why we are so excited about our spring benefit’s return to the neighborhood.

In the spirit of reciprocity, Strive delights at being a stable source of pride to our neighborhood. Times are exciting for our program, as we’re in a period of growth. Student enrollment and volunteer participation is greater than it’s been in many years, and our program is in high demand with an ever-growing wait list. Our students arrive with enthusiasm, and our volunteer base is eager to contribute in innovative ways.

Of course, successful growth only happens within a community of support. We invite you to support our work by joining us at our spring benefit, which will be held at Hyde Park Bank on the evening of Saturday, April 5. Event and program details are available on our website, strivetutoring.org; Facebook page, facebook.com/StriveHyde Park, or by calling our office at 773-268-4910. We are also happy to accept tax-deductible contributions in any amount. Every dollar helps.

Thank you to all of our contributors for allowing the lives of children right here in Hyde Park-Kenwood to be touched by Strive’s meaningful and lasting work.

Angela Paranjape, Executive Director

MAC teardown hurts preservationist rep

To the Editor:

Just over a month ago, the Hyde Park Historical Society presented MAC Property Management with the Marian and Leon Despres Preservation Award for the restoration of the Shoreland Hotel. Now we watch the same company’s demolition of the elegant and historic greystone rowhouses on Harper just north of Hyde Park Boulevard. And we learn that the building is being taken down for a mid-block parking lot — the second in the two-block stretch between 51st and 53rd streets. This is not preservation.

Ruth Knack, President
Hyde Park Historical Society

The Great Frame Up is going strong

To the Editor:

After 13 years, Mr. Mark Jelke the owner of The Great Frame Up on 53rd Street is still in business and doing better than ever.

Mr. Jelke’s store, The Great Frame Up has however made a slight change in location. He is now on 53rd St. between Dunkin Donuts and Papa John’s pizza stores. Mr. Jelke has been swamped with orders to mat and frame works of all types all winter in spite of the frigid weather this year.

“We get everything from valuable family photos to valuable works of art here,” says Mr. Jelke (himself an accomplished artist).

Art historian Ms. Leslie, Ms. Jessie (who was once an artist with NASA) and life drawing artist Mr. Mykel are The Great Frame Up’s brilliant framing artisans, and do the best of work.

K. Xavier Zehir

Dyett is a needed local resource

To the Editor:

As a follow-up to the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference’s general resolution to keep all the Chicago Public Schools open, we write to support keeping, in particular, Dyett High School (slated for closure in July, 2015) open as an ongoing school.

We argue in favor of keeping Dyett High School open for the following reasons:

  1. Dyett has an important place in the Bronzeville community because it has the potential to provide a college career-focused education to children who really need it. The Bronzeville community is a neighbor to Hyde Park and Kenwood.
  2. Dyett is a key asset to the community because of the overcrowded conditions at Kenwood Academy and the distance the Dyett population would have to travel if they went to any other school. If Dyett closes, there will be no convenient neighborhood public high school for the neighborhoods it serves for the first time in 100 years.
  3. Children should have the option of being able to walk to good public schools in familiar settings without having to cross into danger zones or endure inconvenient transport. The closure will be detrimental to families, schools and neighborhoods. The Woodlawn neighborhood has Hyde Park High. The Hyde Park and South Kenwood neighborhoods have Kenwood Academy. This leaves the west side of Woodlawn, Washington Park, Lower Grand Boulevard, North Kenwood and Oakland neighborhoods with Phillips High School, which is located at 244 E. Pershing Road, far from many of these neighborhoods.
  4. Families in Bronzeville and from surrounding neighborhoods would like Dyett as a school that can provide a safe environment for their children.
  5. There has been sustained community involvement by Bronzeville parents, community members, organizations and students in the development of a plan for the revitalization of Dyett High School, and the community has demonstrated its capacity to support the school.
  6. The school has a successful partnership with the Chicago Botanic Garden.
  7. The Dyett facility is a good facility in a special setting (Washington Park) with recent general capital improvements made to the gym and weight room.
  8. This public school building should remain open as a public neighborhood school.

Please keep Walter H. Dyett High School open.

Anita R. Hollins, President and for the Board of Directors
The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference

Help our schools — run for an LSC spot

To the Editor:

Elections for the local school councils (LSC) — a governing body of public schools consisting of the principal, two teachers, one non-teaching staff, six parents, two community representatives and, high schools, one student —are drawing near. The application deadline is March 14th and the elections are April 7 and April 8. We need a concerted effort to canvass the schools that do not have an organized LSC in Hyde Park-Kenwood.

There are three reading levels: independent, instructional and frustration. Our students are typically tested on frustration level. This is why it looks as though the parent, teacher, student, schools, faith-based organizations and education stakeholders are failing. We will never know our students’ full potential unless we are testing them on the instructional level as the frustration level means the student is not comprehending. Take a book your child loves to read, then Google Fry Readability Graph to understand how to find your child’s independent reading level. The instructional level is a level above that, and the frustration level is a level above the instructional level where a teacher must teach beyond the call of duty to differentiate instruction on the student’s instructional level that is not necessarily the grade level. Let your child’s teacher know the independent reading level of your child.

I encourage all of the 40,000 plus residents of Hyde Park-Kenwood to get involved. If you question what is going on in your child’s education the LSC is the place to be. LSCs are your opportunity to leave your life experience with the future generation. The deadline is March 14 — elections April 7 elementary and April 8 high school — and you can become an important part of a child’s education — again! See your child’s school clerk today!

Patricia Breckenridge

Why is Burns giving MAC freebies?

To the Editor:

The most interesting agenda item at the Feb. 18 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council meeting was not even on the agenda. I refer to the proposal, supported by Ald. Will Burns (4th), to allow MAC Properties to use two parking spaces (36 feet of curb space) on Kenwood just north of 53rd Street for valet parking between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. I find this problematic for two reasons: it gives away public goods for private use, and whatever logic the alderman applies in making these decisions is known only to him.

The market value of two parking spaces at that corner is easily calculated, as there is paid parking right there on 53rd Street for $2 an hour per space, which works out to about $12,000 a year for two spaces. Presumably MAC Properties could make an arrangement to use two spaces on 53rd Street by covering the lost revenue. If Burns wants to give MAC free access to two public parking spaces instead, then I would like at the very least to see him provide $12,000 in benefit to the neighborhood from his own funds.

And why does MAC in particular deserve this favor?  What policy is the alderman applying here? What if other business owners on 53rd Street ask for similar concessions? MAC seems to be protecting itself against anticipated future parking problems. I really want to believe that Burns’s decision is not capricious, but that would require more transparency than I have seen so far.

I would like to say that I was shocked, but unfortunately the giving away of public goods for private benefit is kind of the point of a TIF. This gift of two parking spaces pales in comparison to the $11.3 million subsidy for MAC’s City Hyde Park or the $23.4 million for Harper Court, but that does not make it right. Because it’s good for MAC doesn’t mean it’s good for the community.

Michael Scott

La Rabida is a Hyde Park gem

To the Editor:

It was with great pleasure that we read your article about the opening of the rebuilt outpatient center at La Rabida Children’s Hospital. The center has been transformed into a modern, energy efficient (applying for LEED Certification), well-equipped health center. It was attended by scores of caring and concerned public and community officials. Since the 1893 World’s Fair, it is still located on the La Rabida Promenade peninsula in Jackson Park at the southeastern edge of Hyde Park. Its spectacular lakefront vistas provide a beautiful, relaxing setting for sick children to triumph over chronic illnesses, disability or abuse.

La Rabida was built by Spain for the 1893 World’s Fair in Jackson Park, honoring the Franciscan monastery where Christopher Columbus lived and prayed as he planned his voyage to the New World. After the fair, La Rabida stood while other fair buildings were razed by fires. In 1895, the Spanish consul petitioned the Commissioners of the South Park Board to dedicate the building for use as “a free, fresh air sanitarium for the children of the poor living in crowded, unwholesome districts of the city.” Dr. Robert A. Black, from his graduation from medical school in 1904 until the 1950s, directed the treatment, staffing and fundraising and was able to open a modern, better equipped building in 1932. He enlisted the staff from four medical schools to do inpatient and community health care outreach for impoverished urban children. Over the years, it has treated thousands of children with chronic diseases, disabilities and abuse-related injuries. It provides both inpatient and outpatient care, plus training and support for families who care for these chronically ill children at home. Today, with its rebuilt modern outpatient center, it can better serve its young patients needs in its historical, healing, lakefront setting.

La Rabida today is staffed by physicians, nurses, and support staff primarily from the University of Chicago. It provides state-of-the-art care to its young patients. Hundreds of volunteers from Hyde Park and Chicago communities help by rocking babies, playing with children and tutoring the older hospitalized children and their siblings. Hundreds of volunteers from The Jackson Park Advisory Council work with the Chicago Park District, maintaining Jackson Park-La Rabida as a beautiful, safe park where patients and their families mingle with community joggers, bikers, bird watchers, dog walkers, musicians, fishermen and families enjoying the beauty and peace of the lakefront. La Rabida’s 67th Street Beach, once the place where thousands of families and young singles spent their weekends and summer nights, is now being rediscovered by its neighbors. La Rabida Hospital and Park in Jackson Park is a medically vital and historic part of our community that we should all know and support. A hundred years from now people will not remember what kind of car you drove or how big your bank account was, but if you help a child survive and thrive, you will be remembered always.

Louise McCurry
President of the Jackson Park Advisory Council