parks – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop Chicago Community Stories Mon, 05 Feb 2018 23:03:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 NFL to fund Kelly Park renovation Mon, 23 Sep 2013 20:16:49 +0000 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.”

As an educator, he said, he had to point out to his students the “lesson in good government and good community organizing: when people work together, good things happen.

Bacheda recounted community efforts to raise funds and press elected officials for support — volunteers knocking on residents’ doors, a huge town hall meeting last year, a 5K walk, a flea market and sidewalk sale.

“Two years ago, this seemed like an impossible dream,” remarked Anita Caballero, president of BPNC’s board.

“It’s been 40 years since there was significant investment in the park,” commented Reschly.  With population shifts, baseball diamonds were no longer heavily used, and bleachers were broken and never repaired, she said.  Drainage problems caused large pools of standing water throughout the park for days after heavy rains.  “The park has not been kept up,” she said.

Since the campaign was launched, existing drains have been cleaned out and a new sidewalk installed, but Reschly said residents will continue to push for a full renovation of the park, including a new drainage system, new playground equipment, and other features.

The neglected park has been a magnet for gang activity, Reschly said.  A renovated park will attract families and provide alternative activities for young people, she said.

A full restoration would cost an estimated $3.4 million, she said.

“These grants and commitments [announced Saturday] are important, but they only take us some of the way,” said Caballero.  “We need all of our elected officials to step up and secure the rest of the money we need for the project.”



Facing anti-violence cuts, Brighton Park proposes a community plan (7-26-12)

Brighton Park: vigil for gun victims – and call to action (1-21-13)

Brighton Park: vigil for gun victims – and call to action Mon, 21 Jan 2013 22:05:46 +0000 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.

Along with individual counseling, the counselors ran anger management and life skills workshops, and when BPNC surveyed teachers on the results, the vast majority reported a significiant decrease in classroom behavior issues and increased class participation and homework completion, Reschly said.

At a community rally last summer, several young people testified about how youth programming had helped them turn their lives around.

State funding was maintained for parent engagement and youth employment programs, but they operate only in the summer, leaving no state resource for anti-violence work in the neighborhood through the school year, she said.  “With 27 people shot last year, that’s a problem,” she said.

“The focus right now is on gun legislation and that’s important, but we need youth services too,” Reschly said.  “Seriously addressing violence has to be a community effort and it has to involve positive opportunities for young people.”

Community members continue to press the park district for renovation of Kelly Park, Reschly said.  “We were very disappointed that Kelly Park didn’t get any of the NATO legacy funding” handed out by Mayor Emanuel in recent months, she said.

Brighton Park is the most “park-poor” area in the city, she said.  “Given the fact that we don’t have a lot of green space, it’s even more important to maintain existing facilities, so youth and familes can benefit from them.”


Related: Facing anti-violence cuts, Brighton Park proposes community plan

King tribute raises disparities in public services for South Side Sat, 12 Jan 2013 14:54:53 +0000 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.

Elected officials in attendance will be asked to support a new arts and recreation facility for Bronzeville.

Pointing out that there’s no large, “Class A” park district fieldhouse between the Loop and 55th Street east of the Dan Ryan, SOUL has been organizing for such a facility to be located at 35th and Cottage Grove.  Several area churches and park advisory councils have signed on to the campaign.

Support will also be solicited for a Cook County Land Bank — with a goal of rehabbing up to a thousand vacant foreclosed homes in the next two years — and for a CTA bus route on 31st Street.

The 31st Street route was eliminated in 1998 as a cost-cutting measure.  CTA recently extended the 35th Street bus to cover 31st Street from Kedzie to Cicero on a trial basis.

The Bridgeport Alliance, a member organization of SOUL, has been working to restore the entire line, said Shani Smith.  Currently there’s no bus service for Bridgeport and Bronzeville between Cermak and 35th Street, a mile-and-a-half gap.

NATO/G8 protestors assert free speech rights Wed, 27 Jul 2011 22:01:25 +0000 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.”

“We have to train for mass arrests,” McCarthy told the Sun-Times recently, discussing preparations for the summit.  Protest organizer Joe Iosbaker told the paper he’s hoping for a peaceful demonstration – “we want our marches and rallies to be things that people can bring their children to” – but added, “We intend on having our rights respected.”

“We’re talking about a legal permitted march, and we have the police acting as if we’re going to riot,” said Pat Hunt of Chicago Area Code Pink.  “We consider [McCarthy’s comment] to be a threat – a threat to deny our right of free speech.”

McCarthy was with the New York City police in 2004 when hundreds of thousands of protestors marched on the Republican National Convention.  Police arrested 1,800 people, including many nonviolent protestors and nonparticipants, holding them in the three-block-long Hudson Pier Depot for days, until a federal judge ordered their release.

Only a handful were charged with any crimes.  Numerous lawsuits resulted.

In Chicago, a lawsuit is still pending from the arrest of over 800 nonviolent protestors and bystanders on March 20, 2003, at the time of the invasion of Iraq.  Since then peace groups have often struggled to get parade permits.

In one case organizers were arrested while holding a press conference on Michigan Avenue stating that a planned march had been moved due to lack of a permit.  In another case the city sued protest organizers after the city’s license commission agreed to issue a permit for a march in Pilsen.

In its letter, the Working Group raises the issue of costs for the city, pointing out that Pittsburgh spent $18 million on security to host the G20 summit in 2009, while closing highways, city streets, trains and bus routes around the summit.

Next year’s event is likely to cost more, they say.  (Moving the National Restaurant Association from McCormick Place that week is already costing $2 million, Greg Hinz reports.)

McCarthy’s comments came on the same day Emanuel threatened hundreds of layoffs of city workers in an attempt to save $10 million.

NATO and G8 exemplify agendas of militarism and austerity that “we feel are unjust,” said Hunt.  “We want to be there to present alternatives for more just ways of dealing with the problems we face as a world.”


[ADD]  McCarthy said he would be studying the experiences of Pittsburgh and Seattle, which hosted the World Trade Organization in 1999.  In Seattle, police declared a 25-square-block “no protest zone” and “deploy[ed] chemical weapons, rubber bullets and clubs against protestors and bystanders alike,” according to an ACLU report (pdf).

There were “hundreds of improper arrests, detaining for days people who would never stand trial.”  There were widespread reports of excessive force. “The demonstrators were overwhelmingly peaceful,” according to the report.  “Not so the police.”

While tens of thousands including labor unions and environmentalists protested, several thousand committed nonviolent civil disobedience, and (according to the ACLU) “several dozen people commit vandalism,” businesses reported losses of $20 million due to police closure of downtown Seattle.

Complaint: Olympic bid discriminates Thu, 01 Oct 2009 18:46:22 +0000 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 Wed, 19 Aug 2009 21:15:20 +0000

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? Sun, 09 Aug 2009 06:00:00 +0000 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.”

The group urges Chicago 2016 to use the Chicago Park District’s South Lakefront Framework Master Plan as a basis for restoring the park” and cites London’s plan for its Olympics, “taking brownfields and adding new parks” instead of “damaging existing historic park resources.”

NAOP executive director Iris Gestram said Chicago 2016 president Lori Healey has not responded to their letter, which was sent in April. Chicago 2016 did not respond to inquiries for this article.

At a recent community meeting at the Washington Park refectory, Chicago 2016 legacy director Arnold Randall was asked if the Olympics planners would consider an alternative site for the stadium. He said that while planning is “a work in progress,” siting the stadium in Washington Park “is part of the bid. That’s the plan and that’s the policy and that’s not going to change.”

Some think that means it won’t be addressed before the host city is chosen in October, however.

“Nothing is hard and fast,” said Erma Tranter of Friends of the Parks, pointing out that London made dramatic changes in its venue siting after winning the 2012 bid. She said Olympic planners have told her “we have some flexibility…we can change some sites.”

The money spent burying stadium infrastructure in the ground — millions of dollars spent on water, sewer and electrical lines — will be wasted in Washington Park and could spur development at other sites, she said.

“They’re spending millions of dollars on things nobody is ever going to use” after the Olympics, said Jonathan Fine of Preservation Chicago. “It’s a complete and total waste of money.”

Advocates point to the USX site on the south lakefront, where a large residential and commercial development has stalled for lack of financing; or the 92-acre, 15-block site where CHA’s Robert Taylor Homes were demolished — 1800 units of mixed-income housing are planned for the site, and so far 181 have been built; or the former site of Comiskey Park.

Tranter points out that the city owns about a third of the extensive vacant tracts to the west of Washington Park. “They have options,” she said.

Other U.S. cities that have hosted Olympics have added parkland, but Chicago’s plan doesn’t, she said. “A $5 billion budget and not a square inch of new parkland,” comments Fine. Tranter adds that Chicago is last among the nation’s largest 20 cities in park acreage per person.

Chicago 2016 plans to leave 5,000 or so of the stadium’s 80,000 seats to serve as a neighborhood concert and sport facility which “can be expanded to host major international athletic events” and “will be the centerpiece for the revitalization of the Washington Park area,” according to the bid book. The ampitheatre will be four feet deep and surrounded by six-foot berms.

For some years, some residents have wanted a festival site in the park to handle summer events (others fear the noise levels that will result). The park’s playing fields were not the location envisioned, however. At the recent community meeting, residents discussed the best location for the festival site — though no one from Chicago 2016 or the park district suggested the question was open for discussion.

Olmsted’s original plan had a concert and parade ground in front of the parks’ Refectory, which is now a parking lot across Garfield Boulevard from the meadow. That’s the best place for a festival site, Tranter said.

Fine argues that the ampitheater is just the concrete foundation of the stadium, and its main function is to lessen the enormous cost of removing concrete. Indeed, the temporary stadium will require many tens of thousands of tons of concrete to be poured into — and removed from — the historic park.

London’s 2012 Olympic stadium (which is now projected to cost twice as much as estimated in the city’s 2005 bid) features permanent and temporary seating, as does Chicago’s. Its foundation consists of 4,000 concrete columns, with permanent seating attached to 12,000 concrete terrace units weighing as much as ten metric tons each. Over that goes a concrete upper tier and a hundred 3,500-ton steel terracing supports for the temporary seating.

George Rumsey of HPKCC worries that “when it’s over they’re going to look at it and say, why should we tear it down? It would be perfect for the Bears.” (The team has the smallest stadium in the NFL, and Soldier Field could be downsized to the concert venue long desired by the powers-that-be. Or the Washington Park facility could be turned over to the University of Chicago, which already administers Midway park and which has been buying land west of King Drive.)

“They say they’re going to downsize it, but what if they change their mind? What guarantees are there? None,” he said. “It’s a land grab, taking over our park with no accountability — and there’s no accountability on what’s going to happen afterwards.”

Chicago 2016 did not respond to repeated requests for information regarding the source of funding for restoring Washington Park, relocating pools from the aquatic center to other parks, restoring Jackson Park’s $500,000 track, or converting the open-air velodrome in Douglas Park into a year-round recreation center. Those costs don’t seem to be included in projected construction costs; $400 million for the stadium is obviously a low-ball figure.

“It’s very unclear” where the money is supposed to come from, Tranter commented. FOTP’s principles for Washington Park state: “Funds must be budgeted to dismantle the stadium.”


As far as track: A serious commitment to providing track and field opportunities for Chicago youth would require better facilties, most crucially an indoor facility; a commitment by the schools and the park district in order to reach all ages; and a significant increase in the hours for which school track coaches are compensated, currently far less than for other sports, said Bill Gerstein, an educator who spearheaded the fundraising drive for the Jackson Park track.

Chicago 2016 has dangled the possibility of turning the National Guard Armory near Washington Park into the city’s first public indoor track facility — a longstanding proposal of sports advocates. But no commitment has been made.

Chicago 2016′s “legacy” group World Sports Chicago touted a summer track and field program in May which they said would serve 3,500 kids; in July the Tribune reported that 300 had participated. (Most WSC events appear to be Olympics-boosting rallies for children who are already attending park district camp or public school.) Inquiries yielded no response.

Continued: Architectural Legacy

Summer in Rogers Park Fri, 05 Jun 2009 21:09:16 +0000 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.”