Parks belong to the people

 

To the Editor:

In a recent article, Mr. Shoked, of Northwestern law school, shared some assessments of the OPC case so far. He seems surprised that the judge has allowed the case to go to trial, while simultaneously acknowledging there are valid points (public trust, eminent domain) made by plaintiffs.  There seems to be much back-tracking, back pedaling going on here.

The parks belong to all the people. In theory, we elect officials (the mayor, who appoints the park district) to manage these spaces. In fact, the idea to put this in the park was made in secret. It came from a U. of C. bid that was not open. There was no “working with South Sider’s” in the preparation of this bid, it was just dropped on us. Any details of this bid were only revealed as part of the plaintiff’s discovery; this was not voluntarily produced by UC. This bid process was deeply flawed, only considering park land, and excluding extensive UC holdings, on the park’s edge.

The reason a park site is controversial is this campus, this 22-story-tower is going to erase the park around it. It ceases to be a park when you build to this extent. A far better location is to be had along the west side of Stony Island.  Why they insist on park land, and only park land, is truly baffling. This is the work of F.L. Olmsted, it is historic, at the edge of a nature sanctuary.

It is sad there has been no communication between the foundation, the president, his many representatives, with any park advocacy organization, or any group advocating for a CBA, or any community group period. I have made over a dozen attempts. I get the feeling they don’t want to dignify us with a response. This does not bode well for the future of the OPC. How does partnership begin? Even the Olympics proposal came with a CBA; It is nothing new, they have been in use for years.  We have issues with the height of this central tower, which was 180 feet tall.  Now it’s up to 235 feet.  They are moving in the wrong direction.

There has been no environmental impact study done on this. The foundation should work with Friends of the Parks, set up meetings in the community. There has been no community input on this, and that is both unfair and unethical.

This is not going to be like any other museum in the park. Four buildings, one 22 stories tall. Twenty acres of campus. Removing Cornell, $176 million in road work. This is a total redesign of Jackson park. And there will be costs to the taxpayers, beyond road work, as well.

This is opposite what Obama did in office. This idea is the product of a backroom deal. My hope is the judge will see this, for what it is. Parks belong to all citizens. They need to be preserved.

 

Sincerely,

Ross Petersen