Letters to the Editor

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

Deadly birds? Here we go again

To the Editor:

Was it just yesterday when complaints rained in that peregrines — a handsome falcon only recently rescued from extinction — were wiping out local populations of pigeons and monk parakeets? Today the villains seem to be Cooper’s hawks, now reported to be damaging birds in Nichols Park. I will respond as I did before: are there too many wolves in Yellowstone National Park or too many sharks in the sea? A healthy ecosystem needs predators to manage and enhance prey species — an urban park is no exception.

Cooper’s hawks are native species. They feed on small mammals — mice, squirrels, young rabbits, bats and rats. They also feed on birds — starlings, pigeons, and to the dismay of bird lovers, thrushes and warblers, especially during spring and autumn migratory seasons. Hawks and other predatory birds do not take more prey that needed to sustain themselves and their young. To do so would waste precious energy needed to meet other challenges of life.

If residents of the Nichols Park area are concerned about faltering bird numbers, I invite them to come a few blocks west to Stout Park where robins, cardinals and chickadees, chimney swifts, nighthawks and mourning doves abound. Wood pewees often spend part of the summer there.

Predators are an important part of urban ecological health.

Frances S. Vandervoort

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

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

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

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