Letters to the Editor

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
Strive

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

A protest against the CAC election

To the Editor:

A Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Action Council (HP-K CAC) election recall is requested. Wednesday, Feb. 19, the HP-K CAC elections were held at Kenwood Academy for two co-chairs and two secretaries with three candidates each, but I contest the HP-K CAC elections. I was one of three candidates who ran for co-chair of the HP-K CAC to assist  community and parents to create Level 1 schools through family and community engagement. I became temporary leadership by attending HP-K CAC meetings: planning, e-mailing and discussing crucial educational issues with the intent of creating a three-point plan to save our traditional neighborhood public schools — Canter and Dyett — from closing. Our community needs and deserves neighborhood public schools in walking distance of their homes —elements of  citizenship and democracy should not be compromised.

Before we started the HP-K CAC, we mobilized at Canter school — next door to Kenwood Academy — then we held meetings at Kenwood Academy King Room and Little Theatre. Though the HP-K CAC formed from a “Save Canter and Dyett” theme, there was less interest in saving these schools and a three-point plan over time. Instead, the HP-K CAC kept looking for business interests and somewhat disregarding education interest. For instance, when I submitted my suggestion for the three-point plan, the CAC liaison told me that there was not enough interest in my three point plan because the CAC was not fully formed, even though this liaison told me that we were an official CAC at the All-CAC meeting. HP-K CAC also introduced the group as the 9th CAC to form city-wide.

As my temporary leadership role in the CAC continued, I noticed that more and more favoritism was being shown toward another candidate for co-chair. The candidate called a meeting at her home. Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference (HP-K CC) leaders initially started the organization of the CAC, but were not invited. Later I was told by a HP-K CC Schools Committee representative that the HP-K CC did not want that meeting held without them present. As we met the “winning” candidate was given the position as point person to the CAC liaison (while she and I were serving as Temporary HP-K CAC leadership) by a CAC member at a meeting with only four CAC members attending. Afterward I sent an e-mail for my interest in being a point person to the “winning candidate” and she did not agree with me being point person along with her. She took on the point person position as CAC liaison without a vote of the full CAC. This was in a sense “gerrymandering,” and taking power that was not approved by well-organized community organizations.

Later, the “winning candidate” was told to present the agenda before and for the election  on Feb. 19 by a member of the CAC. Again, the full CAC did not vote on her being point person while running for the position of co-chair. There were no vote watchers assigned to watch the vote counting. There were only about 40 voters in attendance. The CAC liaison told us that all could vote.

At the Feb. 5 meeting held at the “winning” co-chair’s home, it was said that they were going to disregard dates set for CACs citywide to achieve certain goals, not mentioning all the e-mails I sent with my website targeted at helping parents to build their child’s reading skills and meet those goals — my suggestion for the three-point plan on my website. They never commented on it through e-mails, at meetings, or in person —  it was as though I was a “ghost” CAC member when it came to visiting my website and participating in planning and tasks.

More importantly I suggested that we needed an “agent of change” — improve level 3 schools — that could be ownership of reading levels (reading more on independent reading levels for mastery while preparing for instructional levels and never being tested on frustration levels) as testing on frustration levels is unreliable and invalid in the school community.

I have contacted CPS Network 9 out of the 13 networks city-wide to file a complaint. They are preparing the complaint as of this moment. I ask for another election that is fair and democratic without favoritism, and all candidates be allowed vote watchers or poll watchers to verify count.

Patricia A. Breckenridge
Hyde Park-Kenwood
Temporary HP-K CAC Leadership

Join us to improve our public schools

To the Editor:

We are very excited that the Hyde Park/Kenwood Community Action Council (CAC) is up and running. This is an entity that has been created by individuals in our community, in partnership with Chicago Public Schools, to create a vision for our neighborhood schools through the participation and voice of parents, teachers, administrators, community members, churches, non-profits and community organizations. There are eight other CACs in the city in various neighborhoods, some of which were developed a few years ago.

As the CAC develops, it needs to hear from the community. We are in the early stages and need representatives from all neighborhood schools and the community at large. There is an application process to become a board member; however, all meetings are open to the community. If you are curious, interested or want to join, please come to our monthly meetings. If you know someone who might be curious, interested or want to join, please spread the word.

The next meeting is Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 6 p.m., at Kenwood Academy High School’s King Room, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave. We hope to set a regular meeting time each month so that it is easy to plan to be involved.

At that meeting on Feb. 19, leadership will be elected. We will be electing two interim co-chairs and two interim co-secretaries. These interim positions will last until June when the CAC will reassess its progress and development.

Temporary work groups have been formed to start some of our important work, like Strategic Planning, Rapid Response/Steering, PR, and By-Laws. These will morph as needed into more structured committees as we develop our mission statement, create our priorities, and elect our leaders. If you don’t want to lead, there is other work to be done. Please consider signing up for a work group if you can give some time or efforts for our schools. At this time, you do not need to have an application in to volunteer to become part of a work group.

Please visit the blog hydeparkcac.blogspot.com for ongoing announcements and information, including the application, CAC guidelines from CPS and meeting announcements. E-mail hydeparkcac@gmail. com to get on our e-mail list for meeting invitations and announcements. Please share this information with everyone you know!

Come, join, participate in creating a vision for our community schools!

The Temporary LeadershipTeam of the Hyde Park/Kenwood CAC
Nancy Baum, Patricia Breckenridge, Camille Hamilton-Doyle, Deb Hass, Robert Quashie, Kristy Ulrich Papczun

Public school advocates: Have your say

To the Editor:

We are very excited that the Hyde Park/Kenwood Community Action Council (CAC) is up and running. This is an entity that has been created by individuals in our community, in partnership with Chicago Public Schools, to create a vision for our neighborhood schools through the participation and voice of parents, teachers, administrators, community members, churches, non-profits and community organizations. There are eight other CACs in the city in various neighborhoods, some of which were developed a few years ago.

As the CAC develops, it needs to hear from the community. We are in the early stages and need representatives from all neighborhood schools and the community at large. There is an application process to become a board member; however, all meetings are open to the community. If you are curious, interested or want to join, please come to our monthly meetings. If you know someone who might be curious, interested or want to join, please spread the word!

The next meeting is Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 6 p.m., at Kenwood Academy High School’s Little Theater. We hope to set a regular meeting time each month so that it is easy to plan to be involved.

At that meeting on Feb. 19, leadership will be elected. We urge anyone to run for office. We will be electing two interim co-chairs and two interim co-secretaries. These interim positions will last until June when the CAC will reassess its progress and development. If you would like to serve as a leader, there are two simple requirements:

  1. Email hydeparkcac@gmail.com by Feb. 15 with your name, e-mail, phone number and two to three sentences about your affiliation and interest in the CAC.
  2. Be prepared on Feb. 19 at the meeting to give a one-minute oral presentation about yourself (present those two to three sentences to the group from your e-mail).

Temporary work groups have been formed to start some of our important work, like Strategic Planning, Rapid Response/Steering, PR and By-Laws. These will morph as needed into more structured committees as we develop our mission statement, create our priorities and elect our leaders. If you don’t want to lead, there is other work to be done. Please consider signing up for a work group if you can give some time or efforts for our schools. At this time, you do not need to have an application in to volunteer to become part of a work group.

Please visit the blog, hydeparkcac.blogspot.com for ongoing announcements and information, including the application, CAC guidelines from CPS, and meeting announcements. E-mail hydeparkcac@gmail.com to get on our email list for meeting invitations and announcements. Please share this information with everyone you know!

Come, join, participate in creating a vision for our community schools!

The Temporary Leadership Team of the Hyde Park/Kenwood CAC
Nancy Baum, Patricia Breckenridge, Camille Hamilton-Doyle, Deb Hass, Robert Quashie, Kristy Ulrich Papczun

Ruling is not discouraging us

To the Editor:

Last week the judge hearing the McMobil zoning case, Kathleen M. Pantle, granted a motion filed by the University of Chicago’s lawyers to dismiss our lawsuit. The motion alleged that the title company we hired to mail required notices miscalculated the property boundaries and thus failed to notify seven property owners on the east side of Dorchester Avenue. We are disappointed by the judge’s ruling. There is no precedent in case law for dismissal of a zoning suit on the basis of alleged procedural errors by a party making a good faith effort to give notice, though suits have been dismissed when no notices whatsoever were sent. We intend to pursue all legal avenues available to us to appeal this decision.

On behalf of myself and my fellow plaintiffs, I would like to thank the many supporters who have backed us over the last six months, and also to remind everyone that we are moving ahead vigorously with this. We continue to believe that the proposed development at the McMobil site is grossly out of scale with the surrounding area, that the university’s agenda in developing that site is out of sync with the desires of the neighborhood, and that the university has so far avoided a meaningful discussion of this issue. If the judge had allowed the case to go forward, we would now be preparing to have that conversation in court. Now any discussion in the courtroom of the merits of the case will be delayed for some time while the appeals process unfolds.

Our position has always been in favor of development at the McMobil site, but we want the right building for that site, and this is the wrong one. (As always, there are more details at save53rdstreet.org.) The judge’s procedural ruling does not lessen our commitment to work towards a 53rd Street that will be best for the future of Hyde Park. The community and the U. of C. are not identical. What the U. of C. thinks best isn’t necessarily good for the community.

Michael Scott

Deal with your dogs!

To the Editor:

If we gripe and moan about the mess the geese leave behind, why don’t we say anything about the poop that the dog walkers leave behind? In summer we seem to understand how to keep our communities free of dog’s poop. Once cold weather hits, we seem to forget how to take a plastic bag with us, and clean up after them. I don’t get it. So it’s a little cold outside. So the Park Service and city reduce the trash bins. We can hold onto the plastic bag, and drop it off at the bin in our alleys, or next to our house. Is that too difficult?

Elizabeth Wyman
(A dog lover)

Antheus greystone turnaround baffles

To the Editor:

On July 10, 1892, the Chicago Tribune ran a classified ad for “one 12-room and one 16-room stone residence (new)” at 5112 and 5114 Jefferson. Jefferson Avenue was the original name for Harper Avenue, and this ad is the earliest newspaper mention of the greystone townhouses at 5510-5114 S. Harper, which Antheus Property owns and now intends to demolish.

The original owner of the greystones was Charles H. Knapp, whose property adjoined the home of Paul Cornell, the founder of Hyde Park. The buildings were high-end Richardsonian Romanesque designs, and their original beauty is still readily apparent today, despite years of neglect and the steel security screens that presently cover the windows and doors.

When Antheus bought the greystones in 2008, it announced it did so “with the specific intention of eliminating blight in the community.” Antheus representative Peter Cassel was quoted in a July 2, 2008 Herald article as saying that the firm would undertake a complete gut rehabilitation that would likely result in nine new apartments. He further assured the community that the exterior would remain unchanged. “This facade is un-buildable today,” he added. “The real crime would be to let it deteriorate so far that it would have to be torn down.”

Why has Antheus changed its tune? The buildings are irreplaceable — a rare physical connection to the life and times of Paul Cornell. They could be repurposed as rental apartments, affordable housing units, professional offices, restaurants, boutiques or even a bed and breakfast. One interesting aspect of the property that has not yet been pointed out is the building’s unusual (for this block) setback from the street. The deep front yard could be used to create a pleasant outdoor cafe, a small tot lot, or some other public space. If Antheus isn’t interested in pursuing any of these options, why not sell the property to someone who is? If the firm is truly interested in eliminating blight in the community, why would it destroy a valuable historic building and replace it with a parking lot?
On November 20 of last year, the Herald published a fine editorial decrying Antheus’s announcement of its intention to demolish the Harper greystones. Since then, silence. This letter is written in the hope of awakening the community to the plight of these greystones, and of persuading Antheus to reconsider its decision.

Leslie Hudson
Ruth Knack

Looking for improved ward services

To the Editor:

My name is Larry A. Green, and I am a new resident to Hyde Park. I must say that it is hard for me to understand the love affair that Hyde Parkers have with their current alderman, Will Burns. The ward does a terrible job with snow removal on the side streets – as was evident on Kimbark Avenue and 52nd Street left untouched by snow plows for days. It took me three calls to the alderman’s office and two to the 4th Ward Streets and Sanitation office before finally, on Wednesday Jan. 8, after Sunday’s snow fall, a plow came through. If this was the 1400 block of North Dearborn, I would not have to write this letter. I urge others to let the alderman know that this has to change or maybe the rising star of Alderman Burns needs not shine so brightly.

Larry A. Green

Setting the record straight at the Village

To the Editor:

We fear some statements in Daschell Phillips’ article in the Dec. 25 issue of the Hyde Park Herald will give incorrect impressions about our plans for the Chicago Hyde Park Village (CHPV).

The Village will not be a senior center or social welfare agency.  However, the absence of such services in our community increases the importance of the kind of help and support that the Village will provide.

When it opens officially, CHPV will be a centralized source of information for members. It is also developing a comprehensive program for volunteers which will provide people of all ages with opportunities for sharing and participating in Village activities and services. Moreover, Village members will have access to volunteers who have been checked and trained to help them with a range of light tasks. Members will also have access to our lists of vetted and neighbor-recommended service providers. CHPV will continue to partner with other neighborhood groups and institutions to provide a variety of educational and social programs, such as our bi-weekly Drop-In program and our various entertainment and informational programs.

The major goal of Chicago Hyde Park Village is to encourage an “age friendly” environment in Hyde Park, where long-time residents feel comfortable and safe and newer arrivals can feel at home and welcome.

We are deeply grateful to our neighbors and local institutions for their tremendous help with our recent fundraiser. Their enthusiastic participation affirms that our neighbors want and support our mission. CHPV will open officially as soon as we raise sufficient funds to hire appropriate staff and to ensure that we can deliver the programs and services to fulfill our mission. People who would like more information about the potential for a village in Hyde Park can find information on the national village movement at vtvnetwork.org

In addition to financial support from Montgomery Place, its Unidine Food Service and the University of Chicago Office of Civic Engagement, MAC Property Management was also a generous financial sponsor.

Susan Alitto
President, Chicago Hyde Park Village