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NFL to fund Kelly Park renovation

The NFL and LISC are donating $200,000 to construction of a new artificial turf soccer and football field at Kelly Park, a major win in a two-year campaign to win renovation of the Southwest Side park.

Mark Bachleda and Ramon Salazar of Brighton Park Neighborhood Council made the announcement at the first annual Brighton Park Fest held Saturday at Kelly Park by BPNC to raise funds for the renovation.

Hundreds of residents turned out for games and festivities, with booths featuring local restaurants.

Pat Levar, chief operating officer of the Chicago Park District, announced the district would contribute $500,000 in capital funds for the field.  Previously State Senator Martin Sandoval had won a $210,000 state appropriation for the project.

Sara Reschly of BPNC, chair of the Kelly Park Advisory Council, said CPS had indicated it would kick in the balance of the $1.2 million needed for the field.

Brian Richter, assistant principal of Kelly High, exulted that Kelly’s boys’ soccer team, now in the running for its second citywide championship in a row, would have a real soccer field across the street from the school for practice and games.

In 20 years as a teacher and administrator at Kelly, he said, he’d “watched the park continue to deteriorate….We’re so pleased our children are finally going to get the park they deserve.”

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Brighton Park: vigil for gun victims – and call to action

Brighton Park residents will gather at Kelly Park on Tuesday for a candlelight vigil memoralizing 26 deaths in Newtown, Connecticut and 27 people shot in Brighton Park last year – and call for gun control legislation and restoration of funding for youth services there.

Joined by local elected officials, they’ll gather at Kelly Park, 2725 W. 41st, at 3 p.m., Tuesday; in case of inclement weather they’ll hold a brief press conference there and gather inside Kelly High School across the street.

Last year funding for two state anti-violence programs was cut in half; in Brighton Park that meant the loss of five full-time school-based counselors serving Kelly High and seven elementary schools, said Sara Reschly of Brighton Park Neighborhood Council.

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King tribute raises disparities in public services for South Side

A Sunday tribute to Martin Luther King’s legacy will seek to hold elected officials accountable for addressing disparities in public services for South Side residents, including the lack of a major park facility in Bronzeville.

Dr. Otis Moss III of Trinity United Church will keynote the “Call for Accountability,” sponsored by Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, Sunday, January 13 at 2:30 p.m. at West Point Missionary Baptist Church, 3556 S. Cottage Grove.

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NATO/G8 protestors assert free speech rights

With Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy announcing preparations for “mass arrests” of protestors at NATO and G8 summits in Chicago next May, a group of peace, labor, and community activists are calling on Mayor Emanuel to guarantee the right to free speech.

Activists including Rudy Lozano, Kathy Kelly, and SEIU Local 73 president Christine Boardman will deliver a letter to Emanuel on Thursday morning calling on him to “guarantee civil liberties” and issue permits for rallies and marches during the summits. A press conference is planned for 11:30 a.m., Thursday, July 28, on the fifth floor of City Hall.

In a release, the NATO/G8 Working Group points to the city’s “dismal track record of suppressing peaceful protestors” including “a decade-long effort to thwart peace activists’ right to assemble and march to oppose U.S. wars.”

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Complaint: Olympic bid discriminates

Nine community activists have filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice charging the Mayor, the Chicago Park District and Chicago 2016 with racial discrimination in the siting of Olympic venues.

The Chicago Olympic bid puts of the heaviest burden on three major parks in low-income African-American communities, denying residents use of the park over a period of years for venues that will be constructed and then torn down after the Olympics, they charge.  Only one venue is sited in a park in a predominantly white community — the tennis competition will take place on courts in Lincoln Park.

In Washington Park and elsewhere, Olympic spectators will be shuttled in and out of events, with virtually no economic benefit for surrounding communities.  Chicago 2016 developed the siting plans and the Chicago Park District approved them with no input from residents, according to the complaint.

“I think the Chicago 2016 Olympic Committee has stolen parks in low-income African-American neighborhoods because they think we will just be quiet and take it, while white and more affluent neighborhoods wouldn’t tolerate it,” said Michael Johnson, who coaches a youth football team in Washington Park. 

Wealthier areas of the city “would never tolerate extensive shutdowns and construction,” said South Side activist Toni Stith.  Washington and Douglas Parks currently provide the only recreational resources in their respective communities.

While the Olympics have been promoted as a private enterprise requiring no public funding, “think of what they’d have to pay if they wanted to rent these parks for so many years at a fair rate,” said education advocate Don Moore.

Science Chicago in Millennium Park

A remarkable year-long science celebration — which has reached 300,000 Chicago-area residents — goes out with a bang Friday, as Science Chicago holds its final Labfest in Millennium Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Kids and families will participate in hands-on activities, craft projects and games exploring sciences “from astronomy to zoology.” Among the wide range of activities, participants will design, build and race solar-powered model cars, build robots and windmills, and work with an architect to construct a 15-foot replica of the Willis Tower out of Legos.

Science Chicago’s Labfest has travelled to schools, parks and libraries throughout the area over the past year, part of a year-long initiative which started last September and is thought to be the world’s largest science celebration. Science Chicago has included Science Saturdays, with behind-the-scenes tours of research labs, engineering and technology companies and nature preserves, as well as science forums including Junior Science Cafes (upcoming: “Imagining Cures for the World’s Diseases” on August 24 at the Lake Zurich library, and “A Century of Change on the Chicago River” at the Chicago River Museum on August 27).

Funding for the coming year will support Science Chicago’s online efforts, which include a directory of local science and engineering professionals who are available to lead demonstrations and experiments, and a toolkit for teachers.

“Science Chicago has inspired hundreds of thousands of Chicago residents of all ages to awaken their inner scientist and explore the many scientific resources of the region,” David Mosena, president of the Museum of Science and Industry and vice chair of Science Chicago’s advisory board, said in a statement. “It is our hope that cities and organizations across the nation will look to Science Chicago as a model for the development of similar initiatives aimed at inspiring the next generation of American scientists.”

Olympic Legacies: Give or Take?

Chicago’s historic parks and its rich architectural legacy are among the strongest selling points for promoters seeking to attract the 2016 Summer Olympics to this city.

In selling the games to Chicago’s residents, meanwhile, promises of park enhancements and sports programs for kids, as well as affordable housing, have been featured alongside visions of jobs and boom times.

But current plans put great burdens on parks, and they involve the imminent demolition of a major responsitory of the city’s historic architecture (see part two).

In many cases promised “legacy” facilities seem designed not to meet actual needs of current park users but to accommodate the requirements of Olympic planners. In many cases they involve taking away existing resources while promising residual benefits sometime in the future.

In some cases they involve taking away facilities that have been only recently built.

In Jackson Park, an Olympic field hockey venue is planned — on the site of a world-class track and football field next to Hyde Park Academy. It’s one of only three regulation tracks at Chicago schools.

The track and field opened just eight years ago, funded by a community-led drive which raised well over half a million dollars, including support from the National Football League.

“It’s eight years into a minimum 35-year lifespan,” said Ross Petersen, president of the Jackson Park Advisory Council.

Under the current plan, the new track will be bulldozed, along with an adjacent baseball diamond, he said. Chicago 2016 has promised to rebuild it after the games, he said, although a permanent field hockey field facility has also been touted as a possible “legacy.”

The field hockey was moved to the school after the original proposal, using popular soccer fields near a lakefront nature sanctuary, led JPAC to vote against using the park for the Olympics. Petersen said the council is grateful for the site change, but when he asked at a recent meeting whether members wanted to pass a new resolution updating their stance, no one offered a motion.

In Douglas Park, recently rebuilt gymnasiums and a pool serving the Collins Highcampus — reportedly updated at a cost of $30 million — will be demolished to make way for a $37 million velodrome for bicycle racing. Afterwards a pool “may” be moved to the park from the South Side aquatics center, and Chicago 2016 promises to convert the highly specialized, elite outdoor venue into a year-round “multisport facility.”

In Lincoln Park, Chicago 2016 is touting a legacy of 20 new tennis courts after the Olympic tennis venue is taken down. They will replace 20 existing tennis courts.

Washington Park has attracted the most attention. There a $400 million temporary stadium for opening ceremonies and track events, along with a $100 million aquatic center featuring four pools, will be sited on the open meadow that dates to Frederick Law Olmsted’s 1870 design.

The thousand-acre park, listed on the National Registery of Historic Places, comprises one-seventh of the Chicago’s parkland and features 14 baseball diamonds, football and soccer fields, and cricket pitches. Under current plans, it will be closed for at least four years to accomodate the two-week 2016 extravaganza.

The Washington Park Advisory Council has endorsed the siting, although only a few of the 26 conditions it issued two years ago as requirements for its support have been addressed. But a number of community, citywide and national groups have opposed the use of the meadow for the stadium, including the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference, Friends of the Parks, Preservation Chicago and the National Association for Olmsted Parks.

NAOP objects that Chicago 2016 plans “threaten the park’s signature public open spaces and sweeping vistas, jeopardizing [the] integrity, significance and public use” of “a masterpiece of America’s preeminent landscape architect.” According to NAOP, “plans to tear down the stadium following the Olympics are unrealistic” — and even if they are carried out, the new ampitheater and aquatic center would “take a major open space and restrict its use to specific activities, and a much more limited user population.”

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Summer in Rogers Park

Nonprofits, parks, police and local pols are sponsoring a resource fair with information on summer events, summer programs for kids, and volunteer opportunities for adults and teens — Monday, June 8, 4 to 7 p.m. in the cafeteria of Sullivan High School, 6631 N. Bosworth (enter on Greenview).  At 7 p.m. there’s a “safety walk.”



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