Kelly Park – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.12 NFL to fund Kelly Park renovation http://www.newstips.org/2013/09/nfl-to-fund-kelly-park-renovation/ Mon, 23 Sep 2013 20:16:49 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7713 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.”

 

Related:

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)

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Facing anti-violence cuts, Brighton Park proposes a community plan http://www.newstips.org/2012/07/facing-anti-violence-cuts-brighton-park-proposes-community-plan/ Thu, 26 Jul 2012 23:02:36 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6484 Kelly High School’s auditorium was packed Wednesday night by residents of Brighton Park – the neighborhood where a 13-year-old boy was shot on his front porch while shielding a friend earlier this month – supporting a community anti-violence plan in the face of drastic cuts to programs they say have been working.

“Violence is up in Brighton Park, but it’s not up as much as elsewhere,” said Patrick Brosnan of Brighton Park Neighborhood Council.  In nearby Chicago Lawn, killings are up 150 percent, the Chicago Tribune reports.

“The gang issue has gotten more complicated this year,” Brosnan said.  “There are a lot of fights, a lot of shootings.”  This spring there was an average of a shooting each week, according to The Gate.  But BPNC’s youth programs have a lot of success stories, Brosnan said.

State Representative Dan Burke and other officials pledged to help BPNC secure funding from the state for youth leadership and mentoring programs, parent patrols, school-based counseling, and gang intervention programs.

Budget cut in half

Most of those programs are currently funded through two state programs.  The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative provides jobs for 80 young people as peer mentors and 50 parents mentors in each of 20 Chicago communities, and the Safety Net Works program supports existing youth services, including school-based counseling and crisis intervention, to collaborate on broad anti-violence efforts.

But the $30 million funding for the two programs was eliminated in the new state budget.  It was replaced by a $15 million allocation to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Agency for community-based violence prevention efforts.

Organizations participating in the two programs are pressing to keep existing programs operating, said Chris Patterson, NRI coordinator at Organization of the Northeast in Uptown.  “How do you cover 20 communities with half the funding?” he said.

BPNC proposed a plan which would step up programs, including new money to bring CeaseFire to the community.

A better path

The group’s youth programming is “very effective,” said Esteban Salazar, who will be a senior at Kelly this fall.  Before getting involved, “I was on a bad path,” he said.  “I was hanging around with gangs, hanging around with crews, involved with drugs and alcohol, doing violence.”

He’s left all those things behind, and he now plans to study auto mechanics for a year after graduating high school, then go to college for mechanical engineering.

“They teach us to be a better person, and they do it by having fun,” he said of the program.  They’ve volunteered at food pantries and other community sites, visited colleges, met with elected officials.  Salazar was surprised to find himself in a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden recently, he said.

The group also organizes an annual violence prevention youth summit.

Back in school

Others have benefited just as much, Salazar said.  “There are kids who are in school who wouldn’t be without the program,” he said.

Wednesday night, Jacqueline Cruz testified about the impact of the youth mentoring program.  “I was a troubled youth,” she said.  “I would cut school and only want to be in the streets.  But I’ve been attending school every day and my grades are A’s and B’s.  And I even have a job.”

She added:  “We don’t want to see a program that has benefited many of us in a positive way to be taken away from us.”

Mark Bachleda, part of the Parent Leadership Action Network, spoke of going door-to-door to reach out to parents struggling to raise adolescents, and called on elected officials who were present to “help us make a difference.”

Hundreds of at-risk students at Kelly High and seven elementary schools have been helped through school-based counseling, said Janeth Herrera.

Annual gaps

Constant shifts and annual gaps in program funding create huge difficulties, Brosnan said.  “Last year we had to lay off the whole counseling staff [when funding ran out] at the end of June,” he said.  “We found out at the end of August that funding was restored and we had to hire a whole batch of new people.”

Such gaps can have serious effects, said Patterson, a former CeaseFire coordinator.  “We created a ceasefire between two groups of guys who were doing most of the killings” in Uptown several years ago, he said.  “Now since CeaseFire is no longer on the street, they’ve started shooting each other again.”

ICJIA is aware of the work being done by community groups and sensitive to their concerns, said spokesperson Cristin Evans.  “We’re still working with the governor’s office to determine the most effective use of funds, given the reduction in the funding level,” she said.

An unsafe park

The biggest demonstration of support Wednesday – the audience erupted in chants — was for BPNC’s campaign to restore Kelly Park, across the street from the high school.  “Where are our representatives?” asked Silvia Torres, contrasting the $3 million project to the $30 million TIF subsidy for a plaza at a downtown riverfront development.

(It may be worth noting that the city funding for a wealthy Loop developer is twice the amount of state funding now budgeted for scores of community organizations fighting to keep young people alive.)

Kelly Park’s playing field is studded with rocks and concrete and a portion of it with poor drainage “becomes a swamp in the spring,” said Sara Reschly, BPNC’s Safety Net Works coordinator.  And it’s laid out in a baseball diamond, while the high school needs it for football and soccer.

Kellly High has a championship soccer team, but has had to travel a mile away to McKinley Park to play.  But that’s “not safe for all the players,” because it crosses gang boundaries, she said.

Last year one team member was jumped and beaten while walking with his family in the parking lot before a game, she said, and at another game, a “masked person” threatened to kill the team members and the coach if they came back to the park.

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