Letters to the Editor

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.
Regards,
Jim

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

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

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)

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

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

Safe passage signs serve little purpose

To the Editor:

If you look north on Dorchester Avenue from 55th Street, the first thing that will catch your eye is now no longer the canopy of green trees sheltering the architecture of the old street. Your eyes will instead focus on a half dozen bright yellow signs announcing the street is a “SAFE PASSAGE.” They are the latest example of visual blight brought to our neighborhood by the City of Chicago. A forest of these signs have sprung up all over Hyde Park in the last couple of weeks.

They are the city’s effort to convince passing schoolchildren that they are safe even though their neighborhood school has been shuttered.  Will they work? Well, the one they put up in front of our house is about 10 feet from where our car was stolen a week ago. This so-called protection program is costing the taxpayers almost $12 million. How many teachers could have been put back to work for that kind of money? Then our children would indeed be safe and our streets freer of visual clutter.

There is an ironic message in this dramatic signage sprung up everywhere. Every time I see one, I am reminded of what the mayor did to Chicago’s teachers and children and how unsafe this city is for them.

The Tribune was surely right on Wednesday in calling for the signs to be pulled down as an ineffective and embarrassing eyesore. But perhaps we should leave them there so future generations can ponder the legacy of Mayor Emanuel.

John B. Wickstrom

U. of C. goals at Schuster site clear

To the Editor:

Your Aug. 21 article “U. of C. denies plans for site” misrepresents my comments about the Schuster Building in a way that confuses the issue. As the Herald previously reported, the university is planning a thorough renovation of the building, which is in need of repairs. The long-term goals of that project are clear — we hope to see successful retailers on the first floor who can add to the vibrancy of 53rd Street and meet the expressed needs and interests of the community. The second floor will be used for office space, which we hope can similarly contribute to the vitality of the neighborhood.

As we have for other properties owned by the university, we will work hard to seek tenants who can best contribute to those goals. It would be inappropriate, and make it much harder to get good tenants, if we were to speculate about tenants before we have reached agreements.

Finally, as we told the Herald at the time of the first article, the university has worked with existing tenants either to help them remain in the building during renovations or to identify appropriate locations in other buildings.

We look forward to sharing with you the good news about the businesses that will move into the renovated Schuster Building when those agreements are in place.

Jonathan Dennis

Commercial Real Estate Operations Project Manager, University of Chicago

Praising No. 28’s return to old route

To the Editor:

Nowadays it is a rare pleasure to read any good news in any newspaper. So I was glad to see the recent article in the Herald announcing that the CTA has agreed to return the No. 28 bus to its previous route as per the public’s request. Having this bus go directly down Lake Street from 47th to 55th streets (and beyond) means that there is once again convenient access to Hyde Park’s primary shopping/ business district. With all the new stores, restaurants and businesses being developed in this area (not to mention all the wonderful locations already in place), I think there is just cause for community-wide rejoicing, and for thanking Ald. Will Burns (4th) who was the successful liaison between Hyde Parkers and the CTA. It is good to know that at least one of Hyde Park’s alder-persons is publically addressing such useful neighborhood concerns.

E. M. Christian

Hyde Park is becoming a mess

To the Editor:

What a mess my old neighborhood, Hyde Park, has become. At least it’s that way driving along 55th Street. It’s like an obstacle course with all kinds of marked lines on the pavement, little poles sticking up and cars parked where there used to be a lane for traffic. I saw a bicyclist almost get knocked out of this world by a car turning into Bank Financial’s drive-up facility just east of Kenwood Ave. The car’s driver couldn’t see the cyclist because of the parked cars in the way.

But this seems to be the way things are headed in Chicago now — lots of obstructions and clutter. It’s getting like that downtown, too. Now, more penalty cameras are coming.

Too bad for Chicago.

Paris Smith