Letters to the Editor

Davis’ Hyde Park book sets standard

To the Editor:

Thirty-five years ago, the University of Chicago Press published Jean Block’s “Hyde Park Homes” and it became the benchmark for community standards, preservation significance, even real estate values. The press now has published the next benchmark: Susan Davis’s “Chicago’s Historic Hyde Park,” listing 910 buildings and 141 architects. It establishes the enduring character of our neighborhood to be its mixture of people, cultures, professions and ages as expressed in our variety of old and new architectural styles, building types, sizes and uses. It articulates our commitment to fellow residents to foster a sense of community. It will have an influence on people’s local decisions far into the future.

Your excellent review last week tells us about the author’s quest, but not about the book’s intrinsic merit. This book is an important asset to our entire neighborhood and will remain so for many years to come.

Sam Guard

Thanks to Hyde Park from Mobil gas

To the Editor:

As owner and operator of the Mobil station on 53rd Street, it has been my pleasure to be involved in the Hyde Park community for last eight years. As many people know by now, I will be closing this Mobil location on Aug. 12. I did not want to do so without saying thank you to my customers and to all of Hyde Park and Kenwood.

I am sincerely grateful to everyone who has patronized the gas station and car wash throughout the years and especially to my employees for their continuing service. For anyone wondering what will happen to workers after the closing, most of our current employees have accepted job offers from other locations.

While closing the business will be a big change for me personally, I know it also will be a change for the community. There has been a lot of attention given recently to the future of the site where my business currently sits. I am well aware of Mesa Development’s plans for a new apartment building (Vue53) at this location, and I believe this project will be good for the businesses along 53rd Street and for the local economy in Hyde Park and the area around it.

Along with businesses that have opened recently and new ones that are coming, the building and its residential and retail tenants will continue to enliven all of 53rd Street. I wish the project much success.

Aqueel Ahmed

Editorial is backward-looking

To the Editor:

It’s sad that your great idea for the future of 53rd is just to limit the height of the buildings lining the street. I will readily agree that the late 1940s and early 1950s were, as many people remember, an idealistic time in Hyde Park’s history. You have told Hyde Parkers that we should think of the legacy left for us by the Hyde Parkers of that time. I think we should also think about the legacy we leave for the next generation.

Please, let’s focus on a less polluted future for my children. That means green buildings and fewer cars — anything less is a disservice to our community. Younger Hyde Parkers, like younger people everywhere, are less interested in car ownership and less dependent on cars. They want to hear how this newspaper is helping to promote a neighborhood with less pollution, more and cheaper public transportation options and enough density to support a lively business district and first-rate cultural institutions.

Aaron Collard

Bird crisis in Nichols Park

To the Editor:

I have noticed with great alarm that there is a deadening silence in Nichols Park in the early morning and early evening when we should be hearing the cacophony of bird songs — sparrows, robins, cardinals, crows, occasional mourning doves — silence except for the shrill of dive-bombing Coopers Hawks. They swoop across the park scooping up whatever their talons can grab. From my back porch I watch four of them go after squirrels and other small critters. I have never seen them here before. This spring as I longingly waited for the songs of mating birds which for me is one of the first signs of spring, there was nothing. When I walked to work at Ray School, I heard and saw lots of robins, cardinals and crows. In Nichols Park, nothing.

Could any ornithologically minded or trained readers please comment on this latest addition to our neighborhood? They are amazing to watch, though a little intimidating, especially as they seem to lose any fear they might have had of humans. One landed on the rail of my porch this evening, not five feet from where I was standing, and stayed there for about two minutes before flying off to join its family. Some questions I have: I thought hawks were solitary hunters? These guys hunt in a group. Will they ever go away? Where did they come from, that is, what is their natural habitat? Why are they here? Will the native bird population be able to recover? Are pets at risk?

If anyone cares to watch them, they can be easily be seen from the north end of Nichols Park where they have their nests in the cottonwood trees.

Jane Averill

Ingleside Hall merited preservation

To the Editor:

In the interests of accuracy, the final phrase of your article (Ingleside Hall demolition, 8/7/13) which now reads, “… the building (is) too altered to be considered for preservation” might have better read, “Given the significant alterations, it’s doubtful the building would qualify for designation as an official Chicago Landmark.” But given its age (1896), architect (Charles Atwood, of Reliance Building fame), high style architecture, history (once the Quadrangle Club) and location (one of only three vintage brick campus buildings left west of the main quadrangle) a wise owner might well have considered it for preservation and restoration.

Jack Spicer

Parking may be a major flaw in Vue53

To the Editor:

Am I correct in remembering that fewer parking places are planned for McMobil/Vue53 than there are apartments? If one and a half parking spaces per apartment are not available, it will be a very bad mistake, and there will be no recourse. Even now, there are not enough spaces on neighboring streets to accommodate residents’ cars.

Tom Lathrop

Kimbark Plaza ignores residents

To the Editor:

Livability refers to the ability of business area residents to amicably co-exist with the surrounding business community. Over the past year, community residents, representing 30-plus home-owning families and members of the 53rd and Kimbark Merchants’ Association have met to resolve community concerns related to truck deliveries of goods and services to plaza merchants. During these discussions, specific community concerns were identified and ideas generated to address these concerns. However, due to a lack of leadership or indifference on the parts of owners and management, these issues or concerns remain unattended and livability is at a low unacceptable level.  These issues and related agreed-upon fixes follow:

1. Damage to Property
 a. Sidewalks and streets – Oversized and overweight trucks (16 to 18 wheelers) go over curbs onto sidewalks, in order to turn around in cul-de-sac delivery area, causing damage. This expense is shared by home-owners with city. Also, these large trucks cause continuous street pot holes.
b. Perimeter brick wall surrounding the Kimbark Avenue townhouse development has been knocked down by delivery trucks four times in recent years and the responsible trucker conveniently leaves the scene. Use of our liability insurance for repairs caused a considerable spike in premiums.
 c.  Solution — Management should request that deliveries be made in smaller trucks and the installation of security cameras and planter barriers in the delivery area could record and deter offending vehicles.

2. Congestion and Noise Nuisances
 a. Blockage in cul-de-sac by converging trucks preventing ingress and egress to alleys for emergency and resident vehicles. Alleys lead to off-street parking and homes. Delivery trucks travel in the wrong direction on one-way streets, backing out, and speeding.
 b. Plaza employees are not allowed to park in plaza parking lot, consequently, parking on Kimbark Avenue (no meters) used by employees, limiting resident use.
 c. Noisy grease pick-up trucks serving Leona’s on a regular basis at an early hour, and Leona’s home delivery personnel loiter and socialize in a disruptive manner in alley.
 d. Daily sidewalk cleaning at 5:30 a.m. and regular monthly power washing of sidewalks before 7 a.m. A request was sent recently to company calling for a later start time.
 e. Solutions — Implement management proposed specific truck route, with adequate signage. A rotating truck delivery schedule should reduce congestion. Management should send memo discouraging horn blowing, idling motors and continuous truck refrigerator motors running. In addition, no Sunday deliveries and all trash pick-ups start after 7 a.m. Use CPD and plaza security to monitor and enforce plans.

The issues set out above have been entertained over the past several years and were re-visited during the past year. The conversation between plaza management/owners and community residents regarding community concerns goes back to the 1970s. Some changes have occurred, e.g., three additional restaurants, a bank, CVS and a kiddie hair salon have expanded the negative impact on resident livability. We, the area residents, are calling for concerted action to relieve stressed residents of standing issues. An effective plan of action by owners/management that is fully implemented, clearly communicated to all parties and vigorously enforced. Your considerable community influence and leadership are needed to persuade owners/management to act and attend to the outlined issues. It is our goal to establish a healthy balance between a viable business community and a supportive comfortable residential community. Representatives of plaza management and owners are listed below:

Kimbark Plaza Merchants’ Association                               
Charles Newsome, president   1208 E 53rd St.
773-858-8671             

Aegis Properties Corp.
William Southall, managing agent
1525 E. 53rd St.
773-667-8900

Will White

Towing mars festival visit

To the Editor:

Sunday, July 21 between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., my family and I decided to walk through “Celebrate Hyde Park” before shopping in Kimbark Plaza. They were visiting from California. When we returned, my vehicle had been towed from the lot along with four others.

The July 17 advertisement in the Herald, p. 5, stated “plenty of free parking to stop at the businesses before, during and after the fest.”

I feel victimized by the plaza security personnel on duty at this time, a spotter for the towing company and the towing company. Security stated that a sign posted stated “immediate towing for anyone leaving the premise” had been taken down. We were told this after the fact but not warned prior to the towing.

The spotter immediately alerted the tow trucks sitting in the lot which cars to tow. Then, security personnel would inform the distraught vehicle owners (who thought their vehicles had been stolen) that they had been towed to 35th and Iron streets at a cost of $200.

I don’t believe that the businesses nor the university were aware that visitors were being taken advantage of in this manner. I don’t believe anyone should have this experience when visiting future festivals.

Sylvia Wright

Remember the star behind Chaka Khan

To the Editor:

It’s nice to read that the 5000 block of South Blackstone Avenue will be honorarily named after former Kenwood High student Chaka Khan, as I am sure this will raise the market value of my 1978 Kenwood diploma. But I’m sure Ms. Khan would agree that an even longer length of nearby pavement ought to be named in honor of her Kenwood teacher, the distinguished and charismatic music educator Dr. Lena McLin.

I remember Dr. McLin explaining that when Ms. Khan (nee Yvette Stevens) had been in her class, her style was formed in imitation of Aretha. I also fondly recall McLin tearing up the Yamaha grand piano, whether she was playing gospel (a style she learned at the feet of her uncle, Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey), or Beethoven’s Sonata Pathetique (which she encouraged me to play). Finally, I recollect at least one time when she left the classroom to quiet the young people who would congregate in the hall (her classroom was near the door at the 51st Street and Blackstone Avenue entrance), returning with a sheepish rogue whom through sheer force of personality she drafted into doing vocal warm ups in front of the class.

The Herald’s online archives contain a wealth of fascinating information about Dr. McLin’s career, including her founding of the music major program at Kenwood, her supreme standards of choral excellence and her insistence on exposing talented students from the South Side to performing opera as well as a broad range of other musical forms. The effort took many of them all over the country for contests and concerts and led to not a few distinguished careers in music. In this regard she was a pioneer in the type of outreach more recently touted by the likes of Barenboim and Muti, with the obvious addition of unique insider cred. Lena McLin’s long career at ground zero of Chaka Khan Honorary Way tells an important story about the founding ideals of Kenwood High, about diversity in Hyde Park/Kenwood and about Chicago’s and the nation’s musical history; they should be remembered.

Andrew S. Mine

No. 28 bus should return to old route

To the Editor:

I am disappointed with the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) promises to give us transit with the No. 28 bus to businesses along Lake Park Avenue up to 55th Street. As you know, the No. 6 and the No. 28 turn left on Hyde Park Boulevard, leaving those of us who live on Lake Park Avenue north of Hyde Park Boulevard without transportation.

A group of concerned citizens met with Ald. Will Burns (4th). Those of us in the buildings at 4700, 4800 and 4850 S. Lake Park Ave. said we would appreciate the No. 28 bus resuming its route down Lake Park Avenue to 55th Street. Promises were made at that time.

I am appealing to the shops on 53rd Street to appeal to the CTA. I am sure that increasing access to 53rd Street through the No. 28 bus would increase business on the street: More people would shop and eat there if they had access to transportation.

There is definitely a demand for enhanced transit on Lake Park Avenue, and the No. 28 bus could meet that demand. As Chicagoans struggle through difficult economic times and government deficits, we ask the CTA to help us relieve some of the stress our families have as we have to transfer from the No. 28 bus to the No. 15 bus in order to continue our journey to access stores, restaurants and the movie theater.

Betty Kenny

Ald. Burns ignoring needs of seniors

To the Editor:

Dating back to April of 2012, seniors from Judge Slater Apartments and Judge Slater Annex, just north of 43rd Street on Cottage Grove Avenue, have mailed in excess of 30 letters of complaint to Ald. Will Burns (4th), the Chicago Housing Authority and others about the deplorable health and safety conditions that we have endured. The Involved Seniors for Justice of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (ISJ of KOCO), is comprised of senior citizens that reside in Judge Slater Apartments, Judge Slater Annex and the Vivian Harsh Apartments that represent more than 570 units of housing in the North Kenwood community in the Fourth Ward. These buildings are all managed by the Woodlawn Development Corporation (WCDC).

More than a year later, there has still been no relief for the seniors. While the conditions in the above-mentioned buildings moved Mary Mitchell to highlight them on the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper on Feb. 19, 2013, we are not aware of Ald. Burns making his own observations in the buildings to assist us in resolving the issues which are impacting so many of his elderly constituents. We have, however, received notification this week that Ald. Burns is now working to schedule a walk-through. How long does it take to schedule time to walk around a building to observe what Mary Mitchell was able to document within 30 minutes? This appears to be an ongoing pattern of disregard and disrespect for seniors and their plight.

Moreover, on June 24, 2013, at a Fourth Ward community meeting, Ald. Burns agreed to meet with the Involved Seniors for Justice of KOCO concerning these urgent issues. On June 24, representatives from three buildings were present at the agreed upon location, but he never arrived. We did not receive any notification from his office to indicate that he would not honor the agreement to meet with us seniors – many of whom are more than 70 years old.

Some of our concerns are:

  1. Safety and health concerns of the residents of buildings WCDC manages. Senior citizens are forced to live in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. For example, fire doors and extinguishers are locked, and the buildings are infested with roaches and bedbugs;
  2. Inconsistent application of the Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy (ACOP), which is meant to be the standard guidelines to be followed by tenants and management to stay in compliance with the rules and regulations of the Chicago Housing Authority. The building manager currently picks and chooses when she is going to follow the rules, and with whom she is going to enforce the rules at her complete discretion;
  3. Rampant disrespect of seniors and people with disabilities. Senior citizens have been subjected to physical, verbal and emotional abuse by management staff; and
  4. Substandard material and construction in the $20 million dollar rehab of the Judge Slater complex.

The Involved Seniors for Justice of KOCO previously requested a meeting with Ald. Burns on March 27, 2013 at the King Center to discuss the aforementioned building conditions with him. While Ald. Burns and his staff were present at the agreed-upon date and location, instead of meeting with us as agreed, his response was to invite us into a meeting with the management company that we were concerned about with over 70 other people in attendance! We requested a meeting with Ald. Burns. At this meeting, however, he did agree to meet with the Involved Seniors for Justice of KOCO, CHA and WCDC to conduct bi-monthly walk-throughs in order to monitor building conditions and address residents’ concerns to begin in May. Despite his agreement and our consistent follow-up with him to schedule a date for the first walk-through, there has been no further communication or action from him or his staff to hold to that commitment. A walk-through would afford him the opportunity to view the conditions of our buildings and for him to hear from many residents that are elderly and disabled that often find it difficult to leave their buildings.

In addition to the meetings discussed above, we’ve also made several other requests of Rev. Leon Finney (Chairman of WCDC) and Alderman Burns to get their support in resolving our issues, but the poor conditions and poor treatment that we are facing still hasn’t been fully addressed. The issues have not disappeared, and as Fourth Ward constituents we all have a responsibility to hold him accountable for the deplorable conditions that seniors and disabled residents are being forced to live in within the ward, more particularly in: Judge Slater Apartments, Judge Slater Annex and Vivian Harsh Apartments. Until these issues and concerns are addressed, we will not sit by and be disrespected and dismissed. Seniors must be treated with dignity and deserve respect that their years have earned them. We will not stand by and watch seniors and disabled, low income and working residents be treated like animals. Ald. Burns should heed the concerns voiced by seniors and all of his constituents in the Fourth Ward. Seniors and everyone in the Fourth Ward deserve elected officials that are accountable to all the people that they represent. We must all work together to remind them of their responsibilities to us — the people.

Alphonso Jones
Carol Moody
Lawrence Ratliff
Frances Banks
Joel Bengad
Duchess Gunn
Cassandra Staples
Minnie Jefferson
Trisha Hardison
Dorothy Ellis
Involved Seniors for Justice of KOCO

McMobil threatens our village

To the Editor:

Some time ago, upon meeting a young New Yorker, he asked why I had not been to New York in decades. In response to my comment that I don’t like to visit large cities, he then asked me why I live in Chicago, a large city. I told him that I live in a village, Hyde Park. Living in Hyde Park, we can live in a neighborhood that is part of the city of Chicago.

When articles in The Herald change “McMobil” to “Vue53,” that does not change the fact that the proposed building is vastly inappropriate for that site. The question remains whether that design is appropriate for any site.

Recently, we, residents of Montgomery Place, a retirement community, saw slides along with a talk about changes being made in Hyde Park. I had begun to think that if people wanted to see just what a 14-story building looks like, they could look at our building at 5550 South Shore Drive. Our building is appropriate for the site, similar in appearance to other buildings near us; we have indoor parking. The parking on the street is tight; however, nothing like how difficult it is now to park on Kenwood Avenue and/or 53rd Street.

When the slide of the proposed building was shown, it is a monstrosity of design, going along with nothing in Hyde Park, specifically at the location of 53rd Street and Kenwood Avenue. Seeing the design of McMobil’s proposed building and hearing about the other buildings being planned for 53rd Street was disturbing to anyone who loves Hyde Park.

On March 20th, Amanda Englert’s letter spoke of what a 13- or 14-story building would do to this neighborhood where she has lived for 13 years since she was a student at the University of Chicago. No one close to that proposed building would have sunlight because a building of that size would block the sun that those people have enjoyed.

The Herald of May 1 had a letter by Marc Lipinski that told about other University of Chicago-built buildings that conform to the vicinity in which they were built. Why not use this common sense in planning a new building for this site? This is a prime location for the proper building.

Driving west on 53rd Street from Lake Park Avenue is already a challenge due to the traffic. When people write about how Hyde Park needs more density, we know that they are interested in possible profit to be gained, not for the convenience of residents. Looking at the large building that was built for a new bookstore on the southwest corner of 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue and what has become of it is a sign that we don’t need huge buildings. The Hyde Park Herald of June 26 has an article about the fact that we are losing yet another local “Mom and Pop” book store because they are moving to Indiana — O’Gara and Wilson, 1448 E. 57th St.

What will Ald. Will Burns (4th) get from his approval of this planned controversial building as well as other plans on the books that do not take into consideration the wishes of many Hyde Park residents?

Donna Graham

Thanks to supporters of school of dance

To the Editor:

On behalf of Hyde Park School of Dance, I want to thank all of the neighborhood families, friends and community partners who helped make En Avant, HPSD’s 20th Anniversary celebration, a major success. More than 900 people filled the audience for our two performances on June 14 and June 15 in the fabulous performance hall at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St.

In celebrating what makes HPSD unique, En Avant brought together multiple generations of dancers, teachers, choreographers and visionaries to share our story and raise awareness of the transformative power of dance. My heartfelt thank you goes to everyone involved in the planning and realization of this celebration: HPSD’s artistic team, faculty, staff, board and 20th Anniversary committee; our legion of volunteers, including so many alumni and parents, and our generous community sponsors and benefactors. Together we were able to raise funds which will allow HPSD to continue to underwrite its commitment to offer dance instruction to anyone who wants to dance regardless of their ability to pay.

En Avant means “Moving Forward.” With great pride and joy HPSD looks forward to continuing to serve Hyde Park and the greater South Side by providing high quality training, neighborhood performances and a safe, inclusive and nurturing community for our students and their families.

Thank you for your support.

August Tye, Artistic Director
Hyde Park School of Dance

Still supporting U. of C. — but with caveat

To the Editor:

Several weeks ago in these pages I voiced support for the University of Chicago and Mesa Development’s proposal for construction on the so-called 53rd St. McMobil site. While I still believe that that apartment building will be a net asset to the neighborhood, I also wish to join my neighbors in adopting a stance of measured skepticism to all claims by developers that their efforts are sure to beautify the streetscape. 

Case in point: the university and its partners in the development of the 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue are soon to open the doors of their new office building at that intersection. Could be quite lovely inside. Outside? Not so much. 

Consider this photo (below). Were the designers of the new sidewalk planters concerned that there wasn’t enough unadorned and badly-finished concrete in the vicinity? The planters appear to have sprung fully-formed from the curb. This gulag-inspired design does little to soften the stark appearance of the corner. Perhaps it’s just an architect’s wry nod to the brutalist character of the intersection — or perhaps it’s just plain old ugly. 

I could find no drawings of the planters in any of the pre-construction renderings available online. The developers can thus truthfully claim that they’ve delivered what they promised —nothing. In any event, I would ask the university, Vermilion Development and JFJ Development: is that all you got?

Loren Santow

Hyde Park, stand behind Kenwood

To the Editor:

As the chair of the Kenwood Academy local school council, I had the privilege of congratulating and shaking the hands of every graduate that crossed the stage at the school’s recent commencement ceremony. As I looked into their eyes, listened to the cheers of their family members and watched them hug their teachers and counselors, the sense of pride and accomplishment was palpable. Students were heading to colleges around the country, many of them with scholarships in hand.

Kenwood Academy is Hyde Park’s neighborhood school and, as such, it opens its doors to area students and provides a well-rounded college preparatory education. You will find Kenwood students taking classes at the University of Chicago, patronizing businesses on 53rd street, playing instruments at the Fourth of July parade and volunteering at Hyde Park festivals. They are a part of the Hyde Park community, and we need you to be a part of our school community.

Whether a business, one of our neighbors or an alum, I invite you to get connected to Kenwood. Join an LSC committee, mentor or hire our students or, in this season of school budget cuts, there are many ways you can contribute to ensuring the success of our students. Hyde Park is a great neighborhood, and it has a terrific neighborhood high school. This will be reinforced with the students as they interact with the community around them.

Juliana Stratton
Chair, Kenwood Local School Council
Class of ‘83