Letters to the Editor

The Obama Library in a park? No!

To the Editor:

May I add my sharp opposition to the now seemingly inevitable placement of the Obama Presidential Library on a large slice of diverted public park space in either Washington or Jackson parks. The Park District is gravely remiss in its giveaway of dedicated public open land to this project, just as they were in their readiness to turn over a large chunk of Washington Park for the building of the huge Olympics stadium, fortunately never done.

Do readers realize that 20 acres is the equivalent of two full Chicago city blocks? That’s enough for a college campus! For what earthly reason does the library require such a generous space? The ideal proposal that the Herald and all concerned citizens should be demanding is the eleven available acres of private vacant land at the west edge of Washington Park near Garfield Boulevard, fully sufficient to meet library needs. It would be a great enhancement for the community both economically and aesthetically, and provide a beautiful “adjunct” of sorts to Washington Park. No parkland would be sacrificed. The two compatible facilities could be joined with a pedestrian bridge as was suggested in a recent letter. We must not allow dedicated public open land to be eroded by diversionary uses!

Charles G. Staples

Obama Library needs South Side, non-park location

To the Editor:

The Nichols Park Advisory Council voted at its March meeting to announce our enthusiastic support for the proposal to site the Obama Presidential Library on the South Side of Chicago, but also to express our definitive opposition to the use of any park land for this project.

We believe building the library on the South Side would bring economic development, jobs and educational benefits to the area, no matter which piece of land is used. However, parks are not vacant space waiting to be developed. They are a finite commodity, all too rare in a big, concrete and glass city. Parks are hard-won public areas of enormous worth, which need our protection if they are to survive.

The idea of using any public park for the library disavows the intrinsic value of open space; puts all parks in jeopardy of classification as ‘land banks;”’ denigrates the historic value of both Washington and Jackson Parks; and would result in the destruction of irreplaceable, 150 year-old trees which are every bit as valuable as any man-made artifact.

We sincerely hope the Obama Presidential Library will “come home” to the South Side of Chicago, where there is other land available. There is no need to build this new monument upon the ruins of another.

Stephanie Franklin
Nichols Park Advisory Council

Good food doing good: Taste of Hyde Park returns

To the Editor:

Since 2002, the Hyde Park Transitional Housing Project (HPTHP) has been helping homeless families get back on their feet. To support that effort we are launching our tenth annual fundraiser, the Taste of Hyde Park.

The dinner and silent auction will be from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday April 18, 2015 at St. Paul and the Redeemer at 4945  S. Dorchester Ave. The event will feature a buffet of the finest of Hyde Park restaurants, a silent auction and some cool jazz from Willie Pickens.

Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 at the door, $25 for students with ID, $15 for children 6-17, and children 5 and under are free. Advance purchases can be made by contacting an HPHTP board member at your congregation or arranging a purchase via e-mail to HPTHP@yahoo.com. Contribute more than $100 and you’ll be recognized in the program.

The Hyde Park Transitional Housing Project is an all-volunteer organization, supported by a volunteer board representing local churches and synagogues in the Hyde Park neighborhood. It provides housing and a stable, supportive environment for up to two years for homeless families who are working to improve the skills necessary to live independently. HPTHP partners with local congregations and organizations which provide volunteer mentors and essential financial support. The strength of HPTHP is in the positive relationship that develops between the HPTHP mentors and the families they are supporting.

HPTHP receives financial support from local congregations and individuals, as well as a significant grant from the Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council. It was founded through the work of the Interfaith Open Communities. HPTHP is supported by a number of religious organizations, but is not itself a religious organization and does not discriminate on the basis of religion.

Jerry Gripshover

Obama Library: South Side yes, in a park no

To the Editor:

With dismay I have watched momentum gather for placing the Obama Presidential Library in a major park. With the rest of the South Side, Hyde Parkers long to have the library of this remarkable man nearby, but a park — public land – is not the place for it. Siting the library anywhere on Chicago’s South Side would immediately result in a burst of community development not seen since urban renewal more than 50 years ago. Public transit would improve, businesses would move in, walkways would be beautified with trees and flowers and potholes would disappear as fast as a snowflake on a hot tin roof. All this would happen, regardless of whether the library was placed next to, across from or down the street from either Washington Park or Jackson Park. In fact, building the library on the west side of King Drive between 51st and 55th streets and connecting it to Washington Park by an overpass or underpass would be a win-win situation for the community and park!

Nearly 150 years ago, Jackson and Washington parks were designed by legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who envisaged them as green respites providing relief from the hurly-burly of city life. Olmsted disapproved of elaborate landscaping, most buildings, even statues in the parks he designed. Constructing the Obama Library in either of our great parks demeans the vision of this great man, and dishonors the memory of dedicated local park advocates including George Overton, George Cooley, Gerda Schild and beloved photographer and environmental activist Nancy Hays. We can, we must do better than this.

Frances S. Vandervoort

Vue53 fight may be over

To the Editor:
Last week the Appellate Court upheld Judge Pantle’s dismissal on procedural grounds of our lawsuit challenging the McMobil rezoning. We are disappointed that the merits of the case will not be discussed in court, and that Vue53, which we still consider illegally zoned as well as wrong for the neighborhood, will presumably be built as proposed.

We would like to thank the many, many people who contributed to this effort. It was clear that neither the university nor the alderman expected this much passionate opposition. They should pay more attention: They have been asking the question since 2007 and have never gotten the answer they wanted from the public. Of course, they did not really need community support, only the alderman’s blessing, and Will Burns was only too happy to oblige. While Burns managed re-election this past month with 55 percent of the vote in the ward, his support in the precinct which includes the McMobil site fell from 63 percent in 2011 to 40 percent last month.

The university spent an enormous amount of money fighting us and were clearly prepared to spend much more to make sure that Vue53 could keep its full 165 feet of height rather than put any money towards making a smaller building affordable for the developer. Of course, they had a $23.4 million taxpayer subsidy for Harper Court, so in more ways than one we are all paying for their choices.

We would like both our supporters and our opponents to know that over the past year the university refused to discuss any compromise that would change the project and we refused all settlement offers that did not include changes to the project.

Going forward, we assume that there will be no further residential development proposed on university-owned land until Phase 2 of Harper Court is completed, that no further TIF money will be requested by the university, that the workforce at the Vue53 site will be both diverse and local and that if Vue53 is completed there will be complete transparency from the university and the developer as to who benefits from the affordable housing.

Michael Scott
James Des Jardins
Mark Graham
Lorraine Pettigrew

Vue53 is not right for its location

To the Editor:
Although there have not been many articles lately concerning the building that has been proposed for 53rd Street at Kenwood, silence means that no progress has been made to prevent the 13 story building from going up. Whatever encouraged Ald. Will Burns (4th) to change the zoning there in order to allow that building to be built, it was not in the interest of the neighborhood. A building that tall is out of character for that neighborhood. It is an old neighborhood with established homes and small apartment buildings that are important for the residents as well as people who have respect for not ruining a beautiful neighborhood.

The Ronald McDonald House is a prime example of how a building can be built taking into account of how much space is needed. It is a large house located at 5444 S. Drexel Ave, actually on 55th Street. The Ronald McDonald House is large with more than ample parking space available for people who stay there when their family members are in the hospital. The traffic from there does not inconvenience anyone: They chose a good location.

Vue 53, as it is called, is not a place for a high-rise building and certainly no place for any kind of business that would bring in additional cars. Parking there is already difficult; with a building that large, it would ruin the neighborhood permanently. It should not be allowed. When Chicago was trying to get the Olympics, the University of Chicago bought up some local property. Why not look elsewhere for that building if the developers really like the idea and design?

Donna Graham

Woodlawn wants the Obama Library

To the Editor:

We are neighbors in the Woodlawn community. We need your attention to this most urgent matter. Over the course of the past 12 months, we have been excited and nervously hopeful to learn the Barack Obama Foundation is considering Jackson Park and Washington Park as potential locations for the Obama Presidential Library and Museum (OPL). We emphatically support the use of the Chicago Park District land in our neighborhood for the creation of this institution. And we need our voices on this issue to matter.

We are disappointed that the media continue to sensationalize a handful of naysayers’ comments ahead of our endless pledge of support. The opportunity to house President Obama’s legacy just blocks from our homes is of grave importance for all of our families. Please understand that we do not intend to allow special interest groups to impede the public process and devalue our community’s will. They cannot be allowed to limit our possibilities.

Undoubtedly there is much dialogue about the OPL’s ability to be a catalyst for economic development in our vulnerable neighborhood. But for us the most critical benefit is the human connection that the OPL shall provide to our inner city youth. It’s a presidential library within reach. It helps us all reaffirm to our children and young neighbors that their grandest dreams can become realities.

We feel strongly that our president’s library and museum is a wonderful asset to complement either our Jackson Park or Washington Park site. The OPL shall serve to provide focus and resources to a neighborhood park that sorely needs it. It will be a place, in the heart of Chicago’s South Side, which salutes the first African American president in the history of this country.

We are certain. We would like to allocate 22 acres of park space for this tremendous opportunity for our children and families. We stand united and enthusiastically wish to bring the Obama Presidential Library and Museum to its home on the South Side of Chicago.

Jeane Clark and Maya Hodari
on behalf of neighbors in Woodlawn Ulysses B. Blakeley, Danita Childers, George Davis, Jared Davis, Elizabeth Gardner, Lola Gray, Ursula Gordon, Brian Harris, Judith Hill, Jackie Hudson, Charemi Jones, Teresa Kilbane, Deidre McGraw, Terrence Miller, Wanda Newton, Crystal Nix, David Nuckolls, Eugene Randolph, Ulises Sanchez, Scott Schaafsma, Florence Streeter, Latisha & Paul Thomas, Linda Thomas, David Walker, and Tina Watson

Where’s Toni? — still “staying out of it”

To the Editor:
Toni Preckwinkle has declined to publicly endorse Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for mayor of Chicago. In a public statement, she said, “I’m staying out of it for now.” Preckwinkle is the most respected African American elected official in town. Her endorsement of Garcia for Chicago’s mayor would be honored by many voters, especially African Americans. Garcia needs to poll well with African American voters to win on April 7. If Preckwinkle stays out and Garcia loses the election, it will be in large part because Preckwinkle stayed out and didn’t endorse him.

We desperately need an honest, progressive mayor now. And we need to repair the political alliance between African Americans and Hispanics that has been in disarray since the death of Harold Washington. Garcia was there working with Mayor Washington to unite the people who suffer most from dishonest, elitist government, and to unite all of us who want honest, progressive government. These opportunities — to elect a progressive mayor and to build solidarity across racial lines — don’t come very often. It’s up to all of us who want good government to work for it. Nobody’s going to do it for us. But we’d welcome the power of Toni Preckwinkle’s endorsement of Chuy Garcia for mayor.

I’ve started a petition to encourage Toni Preckwinkle to endorse Chuy Garcia for mayor. As of Monday morning 490 people had signed. Please sign at http://chn.ge/1ELQJQR and pass it along to others.

Jack Spicer

When giving, don’t forget the local

To the Editor:

More than ever, individual philanthropic giving is essential to the success of non-profit organizations. Because headlines often refer to large, high-profile organizations, it is easy to overlook the substantial impact that private donors can make in the lives of local children and families. The Hyde Park Neighborhood Club is an apt example.

Contributions to organizations such as ours often have an immediate and measurable impact. For example, our former board member Gus Swift passed away in December and his wife, Linda, remembered the club in Gus’ obituary. Donations received in Gus’ memory have already helped us kick off a scholarship fund to support low-income children wishing to enroll in our fee-based after-school enrichment programs. In another example, a donor’s generosity last year allowed HPNC to provide swimming lessons to our summer camp children, many of whom have had few opportunities to learn this potentially life-saving skill. Similarly, a recent contribution from the First Unitarian Church allowed us to replace crumbling gym doors through which hundreds of children pass every week.

Philanthropic giving strengthens and enriches everyday life right here in our community. We thank those of you who already have contributed and encourage others to join in giving to our neighborhood’s vibrant charitable organizations.

Bethany Pickens, HPNC Board Chair
Sarah Diwan, HPNC Executive Directir
Miriam Sierig, HPNC Development Director

A vote for Dyett plan from a familiar name

To the Editor:

My name is Dr. Timuel Black and I have lived in Bronzeville for 95 years. Captain Walter Dyett was a very important person within the community who I knew personally for most of those years. The proposal that has been developed by the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School and presented to Ald. Will Burns (4th), Mayor Rahm Emanuel and key decision makers at Chicago Public Schools preserves the legacy of this great teacher and icon of the Black Metropolis known today as Bronzeville.

The Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School proposal preserves this rich and important history and deserves the support of elected officials and all decision makers. The coalition’s proposal enriches the proposed Barack Obama Presidential Library that would be potentially located near Dyett High School. As visitors from around the region, country and world visit the library, the proposed high school developed by the coalition would become an additional source of information that makes it easier for individuals to understand and appreciate the important legacy of Walter Dyett and the Bronzeville community.

The Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School will be a place of art, culture and academic achievement that honors and continues the rich heritage of this important man. Captain Dyett taught and inspired Nat King Cole, Gene Ammons, Dorothy Donegan and many others. He was responsive to the needs of the community and the proposal embodies that. The Dyett plan is an important piece that connects the Presidential Library, DuSable Museum and the high school to the community. It should be noted that the community made the ascendency of President Obama possible. Additionally, First Lady Michelle Obama’s father was a graduate at DuSable High School where Captain Dyett was a teacher.

I fully support the proposal to convert the school into a Global Leadership and Green Technology High School. Many of our youth are in need of inspiration and this proposed plan is exactly what is needed in our neighborhood.

Finally, Walter Dyett was nurtured and profoundly influenced by the community in which he lived. Dyett High School’s future must also be nurtured and controlled by the community in which it exists. The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School is the only group that has done the necessary work over a lengthy period of time that reflects that.

Dr. Timuel Black

Shovel your sidewalks, MAC

To the Editor:

For Hyde Park pedestrians, especially those of us who are older and have balance problems and walk with canes, accumulated snow and ice makes walking more difficult and more dangerous. I’ve been noticing again this winter that MAC Property Management has been deficient in arranging for snow removal in front of some of its buildings, while other companies such as McKee & Poague Real Estate Services, and Marian Realty, seem to have been more responsible in clearing away the snow. Let’s express our thanks to the real estate companies that have been behaving responsibly, and again ask companies like MAC Properties to do their civic duty and clear the snowy and icy sidewalks in front of their buildings here in Hyde Park.

Caroline Herzenberg

Parkland library deal a shameful thing

To the Editor:

I am ashamed of the Chicago Park District Board for not fulfilling their roles as stewards of the parkland, and protecting it from development.

Mr. Tim Black and others have only shown how clueless they are, regarding the value of the park land as open space. They are, and I have a feeling many South Siders are, letting their own personal social/political/racial/emotional opinions override any sense of propriety.

Shame on all of you, who sell our parkland.

You betray Chicago.

John Loftus

Where’s Toni Preckwinkle?

To the Editor:

Toni Preckwinkle has given us honest, progressive government in Cook County for the first time in living memory. If she’d stepped up she could have also given us honest, progressive government in the city of Chicago for the first time since Harold Washington died. If she’d run for mayor she would have won. But she backed away instead.

Chuy Garcia has stepped up for real democracy in Chicago. He can be the honest, progressive mayor we deserve. Imagine honest, progressive government at the county and the city at the same time. Imagine the changes possible in schools, health care, public safety, neighborhood development.

If Rahm the Republican buys the “50 percent plus one vote” he needs to win the primary, he will strangle any chance for progress and for real democracy. That narrow sliver of rich and powerful people will continue to rule for their own self-interest. We need Preckwinkle to endorse Garcia to ensure there will be a run-off. No run-off and we will have no real say in who our next mayor will be. We need Toni Preckwinkle to endorse Chuy Garcia now. Where is Toni Preckwinkle when we need her?

Jack Spicer

Hairston comes through for the little guy

To the Editor:

Readers might benefit from this information when making their choice for alderman.

We live in a co-op apartment building across from Regents Park. Unfortunately, we have been dealing with excessive noise from the new garage doors put in by the rental giant, in a move to eliminate their garage staff. Not only were these new metal doors creating noise each time they were raised or lowered, but an alternative entrance had a sign posted which invited drivers to honk every time they wanted to enter the garage. You might imagine how serious a disturbance this was, day and night.

We had little success when discussing this with the management at Regents, or with MAC Properties. Finally, we called Ald. Leslie Hairston’s (5th) office out of frustration and are please to report we have had great success with the help of her assistant Kim Webb, who was empathetic and respectful upon hearing about our dilemma.

Our building’s board has also been responsive and was ready when Kim set up a meeting for residents and board members to sit down with her and two member of the management at Regents Park to address the problem. Webb told them they had to do something about the doors. Her concern was for our neighborhood.

Regents’ management listened — as they had not before. The honking is now minimal and the doors are quieter. Without help from Hairston’s office, we are convinced nothing would have happened.

When David is fighting Goliath, no matter how small the issue might seem to some, having an effective alderman is essential.

Consider voting for Leslie Hairston when you cast your vote this month.

Julie and Art Holmberg

Transit not part of local pols visions

To the Editor:

In the upcoming aldermanic elections, Hyde Park candidates are branding themselves as “independent” and “progressive.” This conveys the idea that these candidates are standing up for the interests of their constituents above those of outside influences. However, the most important economic development issue in our ward is being ignored or actively undermined by our aldermanic candidates: non-motorized transportation.

In 2012, CDOT released the South Lakefront Transit Study to find opportunities for more transit connectivity to the South Side. This was in response to abysmal transit travel times to the rest of the city from the study area, and the Gray Line proposal, a decade-long community effort to turn the Metra Electric line into a frequent rapid transit line. The report so completely fudged the numbers that it estimated the Metra Electric South Chicago branch and mainline north of 63rd Street would serve only 13,300 trips per weekday, up from 8,788 last measured in 2006. The south Lake Shore Drive express buses serve more than 40,000 trips per day. Why, in the wards that would most benefit from rapid, reliable access to our struggling commercial centers, are candidates not standing up to this stonewalling from the city and Metra?

Instead, when our neighbors risk their lives every day crossing two of the most dangerous streets in the city, Stony Island Avenue and 63rd Street, our candidates in the 4th through 8th wards, with the sole exception of Tracey Bey, are campaigning for the removal of red-light cameras. Leslie Hairston would rather spend billions of transportation dollars on a new South Suburban airport. This airport would be 10 miles farther from our ward than O’Hare is now, giving it a near-zero chance of spurring economic development in our ward.

Who are these candidates representing?

Alan Robinson