Letters to the Editor

Community left out of U. of C. planning

To the Editor:

I read about the incubator space that the University of Chicago announced on Friday, Oct. 11. I am writing in response to the announcement, and in the hopes that others will chime in; this is our community, our neighborhood, and our voices need to be heard.

I am life long Hyde Parker — born and raised here. I returned to Hyde Park to raise a family after a stint in the Northwest. I am an entrepreneur and lament the dearth of professional spaces to work in, meet at, park in, create in … so the possibility of a space that may be available to the community is exciting.

While I am also excited about the many changes taking place in Hyde Park, many in the community, including myself, are aghast at the lack of community involvement in the changes and development taking place. So, my excitement at the possibility is tempered by the reality of our present situation and the history of the university’s apparent unwillingness to work with the Hyde Park community to find development solutions that work for the U. of C. and for Hyde Parkers.

And if history is any lesson, there will be very little community members or businesses or entrepreneurs able/allowed to use this incubator space. Maybe that is OK — it’s their money, their idea, their space … it is their sandbox. However, Hyde Park is not their sandbox. And the way they approach development in this area is pretty old-style, Chicago “ganstah” for lack of a more descriptive word … They roll in, allege to ask for feedback (although not sure from whom), “listen” and then do what they were going to do in the first place.

Case in point – the McMobil development (site of the old Mobil gas station) further west on 53rd Street. Community members started a lawsuit on that matter in an effort to get the university and the developer to listen/negotiate. The lawsuit alleges illegality and willful ignoring of the community voice. In other lawsuits and public forums, it has been alleged, among other things, that there was duplicity on residents in zoning application/petition processes.

Whether the current McMobil suit prevails or not, and whether the allegations of duplicity are true or not, Hyde Parkers are tired of being treated like tenants in their own home. In many phases of this development process, and even in its current iteration, the university holds all the cards, and the community is left with unanswered questions and, often, development that suits only the transient student and employee population. For instance, it is still unclear whether the McMobil developers are being made to create enough parking or whether “affordable housing” will simply be reduced rents for “poor” B-school and other graduate students.

So while I applaud continued development, I am very cautious. And, I query why is the information kept away from Hyde Parkers? Can the university learn to be more collaborative with Hyde Parkers? Is there anyone who will stand up for the rights of the community? Where are our elected officials? Is there an independent voice for Hyde Park, Kenwood and Woodlawn?

I’m all for progress, but not at the cost of community.

Curtrice W. Scott, Esq.

Come and tend a memorial garden

To the Editor:

I am writing to invite readers of the Herald to participate in a workday at a special Hyde Park garden. Amanda’s Garden, at the corner of 56th Street and Kenwood Avenue, near Ray Elementary School, is a space dedicated to the memory of Amanda Carter, a Ray School second grader who was killed by a drunk driver in 1990. In May of 1990, Ray students, parents and community members started a wildflower garden in her memory, and over the years this garden has been a place of beauty that has provided Ray students the opportunity to observe and work in nature. The garden has evolved and flourished over the last 24 years because of the ongoing efforts of current Ray students, teachers, parents and community members.

Every fall we gather to put the garden to bed and have a workday to pull weeds, plant bulbs and spread wood chips on the garden paths. Please join us on Saturday, Oct. 19, from 9:30 to 11 a.m. to share in this rewarding work.

Andy Carter

Reviewer saw different play

To the Editor:

After reading Anne Spiselman’s review of “Pullman Porter Blues” it became glaringly clear to me why I don’t base my entertainment choices on the reviews of critics. Evidently Ms. Spiselman and I didn’t see the same play. I found “Pullman Porter Blues” highly entertaining and totally accurate. If Ms. Spiselman had an opportunity to speak to some of the Black men who served as Pullman porters she would have better insight into the mindset of the men of that period. The play was on point and I would recommend it to anyone.

Yvonne J. Pulliam

Theater review misses point of play

To the Editor:

I am writing in regard to the theatre review written by Ms. Anne Spiselman on “Pullman Porter Blues” currently running at the Goodman Theatre. I have been a season ticket holder for some 30 years and this play is one of the best ever run at the Goodman. The staging was exquisite, the acting and singing were marvelous and the audience was exceedingly appreciative of the event as we gave the actors a standing ovation.

I read Ms. Spiselman’s reviews when they appear and I am never surprised when she trashes one cultural event after another. I normally take her negative reviews with a shrug but this one was totally off base and I feel compelled to write.

My husband, who also signed this letter, is from a long line of sleeping car porters (father, grandfather and uncle) and they were all members of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. They all knew A. Phillip Randolph and the play was reminiscent of the many stories my father-in-law told us about his experiences on the road. He met the likes of cultural and artistic giants on the road from Seattle to New York and all points in between. In fact, he missed my husband’s graduation from Roosevelt University in the 1960s because he dared not miss a road trip. My husband still has the telegram his father sent him from the road commemorating his graduation.

Ms. Spiselman wanted a musical extravaganza but what she got but hardly noticed was a history lesson. The music and dancing were beside the point. The theme was the indignity that Black men had to suffer at the hands of unwitting and many times avowed racists on the road. The actors only mimicked the contempt, bewilderment, anger and amusement about the treatment.

Perhaps Ms. Spiselman should have visited the A. Phillip Randolph Pullman Porters Museum at 104th Street and Maryland Avenue in Chicago before writing this review. The context for her review did not bear witness to the important role Pullman Porters have played in the life of this country.

Joanne E. Howard, Ph.D.
Phillip R. Donaldson

University not talking straight about plans

To the Editor:

The Herald’s Oct. 2 article on the lawsuit filed by neighborhood residents who object to the university’s proposed high-rise at the McMobil site included a statement by Calmetta Coleman, director of communications for the University of Chicago’s Department of Civic Engagement. According to Ms. Coleman, there were “a series of workshops that began in 2007, and public meetings earlier this year where the majority of the people voiced their support for this particular project.”

It is particularly offensive that the university inaccurately describes the workshops it sponsored, through the Southeast Chicago Commission. I attended the last of those workshops, on April 21, 2012, at the Nichols Park fieldhouse. At the workshop, the university and its consultants were wonderfully solicitous in asking what community residents wanted to see at the McMobil site. However, they made a point of not asking what people thought of the 14-story (including mechanical penthouse) high rise they apparently were contemplating.

The fact of the matter is that the university did not publicly unveil this project until a poorly publicized TIF Advisory Council meeting on Jan. 30, 2013. It is astonishing, but not surprising, that the university continues to claim that this project was supported by this community six years before it was publicly announced.

It seems that the university is willing to say anything to create a false justification for its project. Is it capable of straight talk?

Marc Lipinski

Stony naming for Brazier has many flaws

Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th)

Dear Alderman Hairston:
I will be unable to attend the community meeting mentioned in your newsletter about renaming S. Stony Island Avenue.

I am opposed to renaming it, for the late Bishop Arthur Brazier or for anyone else, however deserving.

My reasons are as follows:

1) We have many honorary street names for many deserving individuals. This is honor enough for Bishop Brazier and other such individuals. With all due respect to the late Bishop Arthur Brazier, he was no Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. That renaming (of Grand Boulevard/South Parkway) was appropriate; this is not.

2) Stony Island is a unique and interesting name, referring to a geographical feature recognized many years ago. Why should this aspect of Chicago history and uniqueness be lost?

3) As has been amply noted elsewhere, renaming the street entails substantial costs to the City of Chicago, which is flirting with bankruptcy, and to the Postal Service, which is also in financial chaos, to the financially strapped CTA, and to the many residents of this avenue, who would have to change everything related to their postal address. Would you personally want the street on which you live to be renamed? I would certainly not want this for myself.

4) If this foolishness prevails, i.e., renaming a street for the late Bishop Arthur Brazier, then why not rename one of our many numbered streets? An example is 63rd Street, which is a street more relevant to the late Bishop Arthur Brazier than Stony Island Ave is. Renaming a numbered street is what was done for Mayor Anton Cermak (22nd Street) and General John Pershing (39th Street). Whether these renaming were appropriate is moot, the point is that numbered streets have no uniqueness or appeal; they are placeholders. Note that the North Side has no numbered streets.

Thank you for your consideration.

Joshua Telser

McMobil project remains in shadow

To the Editor:

The McMobil proponents (the University of Chicago and Mesa Development) have deliberately misled the public on the shadows of McMobil. Ald. Will Burns (4th) has gone along with this and refused to get Mesa to produce a more complete and telling shadow study. Mesa produced a “shadow study” for the 53rd Street TIF advisory council meeting on May 7 and the Chicago Plan Commission on May 16. You can download this shadow study from the save53rdstreet.org website at save53rdstreet.org/ mcmobilevue53/shadow-study.

This “study” is an obvious piece of propaganda. They would have been better off coming out and admitting, “Yes McMobil will cast long shadows over many surrounding buildings at certain times of day and it will totally obscure many residents’ views every day of the year.” But instead their shadow study showed, on pages 20 through 25, shadow illustrations on a map at 9 in the morning, noon and 3 in the afternoon in the spring, summer and fall.

Excuse me Mesa (Jim Hanson), have you forgotten about winter and the late afternoon? The day does not end at 3 in the afternoon you know.
I wrote to Jim Hanson of Mesa Development on May 14 and 17 and asked him to produce a complete shadow study showing the shadows of McMobil at 4, 5 and 6 in the afternoon in the spring, summer and fall as well as 9 in the morning, noon, 3 and 6 in the afternoon in the winter. Mesa had conveniently omitted illustrations of the shadows of McMobil at these times and times of year because these are when the shadows of McMobil would be the longest and would shade the most neighboring houses and buildings. Not to mention that McMobil will completely block many residents’ views every single day of the year, including my tenants.

On May 22 Jim Hanson from Mesa wrote back to me:

Mr. Graham:
Thank you for your interest in Vue53. We will not be completing any additional shadow studies for the project.

No transparency, no honesty, just propaganda. Thank you university, Mesa and Ald. Burns.

I asked the university and Burns to get Mesa to produce a complete shadow study. The university’s advocate for McMobil, Derek Douglas, told me he couldn’t get Mesa to produce one. Burns never returned my repeated phone calls on this matter. Burns continues to hide from the public, hide from the opposition and hide from the issues on McMobil. The shadows of McMobil are a “side effect” that the university, Mesa and Ald. Burns don’t want to acknowledge or talk about.

Mark Graham

With tongue in cheek, a bit of Hyde Park “history”

To the Editor:

The following letter may be of interest to your readers, particularly those who take an interest in the historical character of the neighborhood. I found it working on our house, after tearing out a particularly hideous piece of cabinetry from the 1960s. It is a letter to the editor of your very newspaper, from 1927. Whether it is a copy of a letter sent, or it never made it to the offices of the Herald, it seems appropriate to send to you for publication, though of course it is only a historical curiosity today.

I do hope your readers will be as delighted at the quaintness of Mr. Longfellow’s opinions as I was.

April 1, 1927
To the Editor:
I take up my pen to remind your readership of the grave error they are committing in welcoming the construction of the so-called “Hyde Park Bank Building” on our beloved 53rd Street. The current occupants of the lot at 53rd and Harper, Christopher McDonnell’s odious “restaurant” and Pierre Meauville’s feedlot, have been exemplary community members (discounting the murder at Mr. McDonnell’s establishment some years ago, resulting in the tearing down of his building). I shall use the names of these good gentlemen for convenience, and refer to the parcel as the McMeauville lot.

The building proposed for the McMeauville lot, need I remind you, is an architectural abomination, with its face of vertical stone slots in the current “Neo-Classical” style, it looks like nothing more than a radiator or prison cell. And I scarcely need mention that the proposed building would be the tallest building in Chicago outside the Loop. Why, it will completely blot out the sunrise from my home on Dorchester Avenue!

I must also protest the removal of Meauville’s stablery; where shall the customers of the many promised new establishments of business stable their horses and have their carriages cleaned whilst patronizing the Bank? Surely it is laughable to suppose that the sorts of people we wish to welcome into our community will use the IC.

Yours in good faith,
Ebenezer Longfellow

Timothy McGovern

Editor’s note: Although we were unable to find reference to Mr. Ebenezer Longfellow in our archives of 1927, we did find two references that year to the esteemed poet of the same surname, who reminds us to “Look not mournfully into the past, it comes not back again. Wisely improve the present, it is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future without fear and with a manly heart.”

Against naming Stony for Brazier

To the Editor:

I am writing as a concerned citizen of the 5th Ward in opposition to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed change of South Stony Island Avenue to Bishop Arthur M. Brazier Avenue. I question the mayor’s basic premise (as reported in the Sept. 18 Herald), that the renaming of Stony Island will bring honor to the Bishop’s legacy. I also question his judgment in setting an undesirable precedent for renaming a major thoroughfare, lined by residences, businesses and institutions. The more than five hundred registered voters in the five affected precincts in the Fifth Ward with Stony Island addresses need more time to engage in a public dialogue with Ald. Leslie M. Hairston (5th) and explore whether the renaming of Stony Island is the best way, the only way, to honor Bishop Brazier. We are now conducting a survey of residents, business owners, hospitals, churches, mosques and institutions in the affected precincts. To date, we have not discovered anyone in support of the street name change, even those few who were familiar with the Bishop’s former congregation, the Apostolic Church of God, on 63rd Street and Dorchester Avenue. We are hopeful that Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), the chair of the Committee on Transportation and Public Way, will assign this matter to a special committee or subcommittee to properly evaluate the complex issues involved, and that our alderman and the other sponsors will consent to such a compromise.

Ray Kuby

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

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)

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