By SAMANTHA SMYLIE
Local Alds. Leslie Hairston (5th) and Sophia King (4th) joined the Silver Room Block Party planning committee at a community forum to go over planning for this year’s event.
A week prior to the 2019 Silver Room Block Club event, community stakeholders came to St. Paul the Redeemer Church, 4945 S. Dorchester Ave., and raised concerns about safety, traffic, parking and other issues on Wednesday night.
According to the planning committee, the festival’s footprint will be similar to last year’s event, stretching from Lake Park Avenue to Dorchester Avenue on 53rd Street. There will be a full-size roller rink and basketball court in the Hyde Park Bank Building’s parking lot.
During the evening, about 24 traffic aides will be directing the flow of traffic. Kenneth Pickett, director of operations for the Silver Room Block Party committee, said the festival is facing a shortage of traffic aides due to the volume of festivals throughout the city.
Every year, the party has attracted over 40,000 people to Downtown Hyde Park. To decrease the amount of traffic, the planning committee is encouraging people to take public transportation or to use ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft. On the advice of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and Fire Department, the festival moved the ride-sharing drop off location from 53rd and Lake Park Ave to a location near 55th and Lake Park.
“Will there be a traffic aide at 55th? Last year at 53rd, I witnessed three different accidents there because Uber or Lyft Drivers were making a U-turn and double parking. That is my concern,” said Hairston.
Pickett said a traffic aid will be stationed at the new ride-sharing drop off spot to prevent traffic accidents and they will utilize volunteers in areas where an official traffic aide is not available.
Another concern for attendees was safety for residents and businesses. Aldo Rojas, general manager of Chant, 1505 E. 53rd St., asked about security for businesses inside of the festival’s footprint since he and members of his staff were physically assaulted in previous years.
In response to his question, Pickett said: “We can’t be responsible for each business’s security. We strongly suggest controlling the crowd coming in. To address this, we will have roaming officers that are watching the businesses.”
The festival is coordinating security efforts with No One Before Us Protection and Security LLC — the same agency that secured this year’s Chosen Few’s Picnic and Hyde Park Brew Fest — for security within the festival’s footprint. There will be two officers at each entrance gate, there will be security detail at the food court and hotels with a total of 74 officers. For security outside of the festival, the planning committee said that CPD will be patrolling the area.
If there is a problem during the Block Party, Picket said that they will create an emergency number for residents and businesses.
One attendee raised concerns about being able to make phone calls during the festival which was a problem he had during the Chosen Few’s Festival and Picnic that took place over the July 6 weekend.
To which Hairston replied, “There is an additional fee that comes with [adding cellphone towers] and you got to have six months lead time in order for them to come out and make the connection. Local festivals don’t have the same kind of sponsorship as Lollapalooza, it’s still difficult to attract that level of sponsorship to get AT&T or somebody to come out.”
With only a week and a few days, it does not seem possible for the planning committee to secure more cellphone towers.
This year’s Silver Room Block Party theme will be “For the Greater Good” and will take place on July 20 from noon to 9 p.m.