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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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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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Workers Sue Day Labor Agency

Day laborers have filed a class action lawsuit against a second temporary agency – with “many more planned,” organizers say – charging widespread violation of the new Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Services Act and minimum wage laws.

Five workers are individual plaintiffs in a suit filed August 1 against Ron’s Staffing Services, Inc., which has branches at 4700 W. Diversy and 2413 S. Western. Also named are client companies of Ron’s including the Chicago Park District’s Soldier Field, Paper Source, and Ashland Cold Storage.

Under the new law, the plaintiffs could be awarded up to $500 for each violation, said their attorney, Chris Williams of the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative Legal Clinic.

The suit charges that Ron’s workers were not paid for all hours worked, and that weekly compensation was routinely split into multiple paychecks so the agency could avoid paying overtime; that illegal transportation charges to worksites were deducted; and that required employment notices and pay statements detailing assignments, pay rates, and hours were not given as required.

Without the required paperwork, workers “had a hard time proving it when they were shorted in pay,” Williams said. The employment and payment statements are “a very real issue that means money for people.”

Even today Ron’s fails to provide required work and pay notices, said Ari Glazer of the San Lucas Workers Center, 2914 W. North, which organizes day laborers who work through employment agencies. “They just don’t want to be bothered,” she said.

Soldier Field and Ashland Cold Storage were charged with failing to provide day laborers with work verification forms, and Ron’s and Paper Source were charged with retaliation for terminating one worker when she complained about safety concerns.

A day laborer at San Lucas said he had been shorted on pay and stranded at suburban worksites with no way home late at night during three years he worked for Ron’s. “You have to be [at Ron’s] every day at 4 a.m., and you’re lucky if they send you out once or twice a week,” he said, complaining that dispatchers discriminate against African Americans and Puerto Ricans. He said that after deductions he would make $35 or $40 for eight hours of “very heavy work.”

Ron’s is one of a “large proportion” of agencies that are “just ignoring the law and doing things the way they always have,” Glazer said.

Earlier this summer San Lucas workers with Workers’ Collaborative Legal Clinic representation filed suit against Staffing Network for violating the day labor law passed last year.

San Lucas and other day labor organizations in the Coalition for Day Labor Enforcement are planning further legal action against day labor agencies “until they start obeying the law,” Glazer said.

The groups will also continue pressure on client companies, she said. “They shouldn’t be using agencies that are so abusive and have such histories of legal violations.”

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