Quality of Life Hot and Continuing Topics including Parks
by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, a Chicago neighborhood association,
and Hyde Park's premier website hydepark.org.
We work toward an attractive, secure, diverse, caring, and participatory, connected community.
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Writer Gary Ossewaarde
Return links: Home. Hot Topics home. Site contents.
The other Hot Topics Community Issues sections: Accessibility. Affordability. Development Projects. Schools. University of Chicago
Beach pollution/swim bans and how to find out if your beach is safe and open today.
Page on the merger of Police District 021 into 002.
WALK AND ROLL 55th St. sidewalk survey 2012 final report.
2014 street cleaning schedules. 5th ward schedule is all the way down. https://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/streets/supp_info/Sanitation/Street%20Sweeping%202014/Ward4_2014Schedule.pdf
Quality of life is a big and diffuse subject. Hyde Parkers love to complain, especially that Hyde Park as they knew it is going down the drain, while at the same time extolling the community as unique and certainly the best in the world. Best of worlds and worst of worlds. And they've been doing that since the 19th century, or at least the battle over annexation to Chicago and the evolution of many Hyde Parks. Of course, there is real basis for both views. And the emphasis partly depends on one's memories and one's vision of Hyde's future, and what would "fix" things. Short looks at quality issues can be found in Quality and in the Tracking Community Trends pages. Observation: Many of the things that become "news" then quickly dive off the radar are quality issues. So are many things that don't make the news but stand behind what happens or long term trends, like shadows lost in sun. And strongly voiced objection to changes or proposals are often based on expected or feared impact on quality of life or neighborhood or block character.
QUALITY OF LIFE FORUMS- FOR CONDOMINUM + ASSOCIATIONS, KEEPING YOU AND YOUR COMPUTER SAFE- see in Meetings.
See changes to UCPol. Dept. and accreditation standards, release of encounter and proliling info et al- in the Safety updates page.
Statement from Alderman William D. Burns regarding the proposed closure of the 21st District.
Ald. Burns and others had a great deal of skepticism and certainly wanted a voice in how the new beats are drawn and how the force of the two districts integrated or kept in place. On Nov. 30, 2011, Ald. Burns said in the Herald he now supports and seeks to make the change work.
"On Oct. 12 of this yer, Mauyor Rahm Emanuel announced his intention to consoledate three police districts to reduce the total number of police districts from thwnty-five to twenty-two. Included in the consolidation plan was the 21st Diostrict which serves the Hyded Park, Kenwood, North Kenwood-Oakland, Douglas and Gap communities. I initially expressed strong reservations regarding the proposal. In the weeks betweenthe mayor's budget address and final council action on the budget, four community meetings were held throughout the ward where the administration and the Chicago Police Department addresed the community on the consolidation plan. As a consequence of those meetings and the commitments made by the administration I decided to offer my support for the plan. These are the following commitments that have been made by the administration:
- The 21st District will be converted into a Park district field house for Dunbar Park.
- Management of tthe Chicago Police Department wil allow beat oficers and other CPD personnel who currently work in the 21st district to remain in the district - including CAPS beat officers.
- The consolidation of the two districts will result in the deployment of twenty additional police officers.
- The beats of the newly consolidated 2nd district will be realigned will more efficiently align police resources with people, crime, and public safety concerns.
- The Police Department will participate in additional community meetings as the consolidation moves forward next year.
Finally, I have confidence in Superintendent Garry McCarthy's strategies to reduce crime. The Superintendent has a proven track record from both New York City and New Jersey."
Some other "quality" matters that are "hot" at least to parts of the community.
(Have you noticed.... Dog droppings has improved, partly due to enforcement?)
- Some think lack of a trauma center and drying up of medical services in the neighborhood and South Side are hurting South Side development and quality of life. A couple hundred demonstrated at UCMC in October 2010.
- Major change to the focus, plus remodeling of Hyde Park Neighborhood Club has aroused curiosity and some concerns about balanced services to all age groups and needs in the community. The focus will now be exclusively on early childhood, including a new childcare center through teen programs. Ask the Club for its press release and view story in News from Collaborers page.
- Just the basics.... Snow and ice removal, for example. Committees (esp. Older Women's League) are moving on this and working with a revitalized city effort (despite the Mayor's reluctance to enforce ordinances.) The neighborhood did well during the early January 2010 storm. We will post a section on these matter. Meanwhile, see as linked from accessibility, below and from Accessibility Hot Topics. A new report on snow and ice, streets and bikes.
Similar is condition of rail embankments and viaducts-- posing dangers to public safety and health.
February 6, Saturday, 1 pm, program 1:30 pm. Older Women's League Hyde Park presents “PEDESTRIAN SAFETY IN THE CITY OF CHICAGO”, presented by Kiersten Grove and Jerad Weiner of the Chicago Department Transportation. Will include a follow up report from the Snow Removal Task Force. There will also be a report on the first meeting of the citywide Snow Removal Task Force. We hope to ask questions about traffic and condition of the streets and sidewalks as well as progress on our January 9 topics of bicycle safety, transportation, and snow and ice. All are welcome. More information at 773) 643-8403 or http://www.owlillinois.org/ch_hydepark.html. First Unitarian Chris Moore Parlor, 5650 S. Woodlawn (north building).
Residents complained in late 2010 about people loading street garbage cans aong 57th St. with their rubbish from home so the city had to remove them.
- Safe child drop off. Shoesmith School as a test case in 2010.
Herald, June 2. By Daschell M. Phillips. The Kenwood Park Advisory Council and administrators from Shoesmith Elementary School have developed a new pick-up and drop-of system for parents. The new system will address the child safety and traffic congestion -- concerns the Hyde Park community has expressed for more than 40 years. Neighbors said on school days in the morning between 8;45 p.m. and 3 pm. the streets around Shoesmith, 1330 E. 50th St., are clogged with cars. Parents- many who are rushing to get to work or get other kids to different schools - pull up on 50th and 49th streets, which are both two-way streets, and let their children out of the cars. They said kids running across the street, parents stalling or double parking to make sure their children get in the building safely and community members trying to get around the traffic makes the streets surrounding the school, which is connected to Kenwood Park, chaotic and dangerous places. The Kenwood Park Advisory Council (KPAC) invited community members, Shoesmith administrators and the University of Chicago Police Department to a meeting last Wednesday to come up with an orderly way to handle school day traffic.
"I have seen so many bad drop offs it's shocking," said Ellen Rosenberg, wlho lives across from the school on 50th St. "And in teh afternoon its' a nightmare -- traffic is completely stopped." Julie Marie Lemon, vice president fo KPAC who lives across from the school on 49th street, said she's also seen some near-mishaps while watching children dodge traffic to get across the street to the school.
Long time Hyde Park residents Gary Ossewaarde and Margaret Kennedy said the community has been trying to solve the Shoesmith school traffic safety issue since the '70s, but they are hopeful that permanent resources will be put in place to make pick up and drop off a safe process.
Queenola Smith, sergeant with the University of Chicago (U. of C.) Police Department, said for two days she monitored traffic on 49th and 50th streets and noticed one main element missing from Shoesmith that schools such a Bret hart, Ray and the U. of C. Lab School possess. "They have volunteers and parents helping with traffic," said Smith, who regularly monitors Kenwood High School and Canter Middle school. She said teh schools also have crossing guards and "some have two or three depending on the streets the schools are near."
Patricia Watson, principal of Shoesmith, said that the school once had a crossing guard but the guard was cut from five days to three days then removed completely because she was told "the school did not have enough volume." Second District Crossing guard supervisor Dorothy Brown was unable to return calls by press time, but 21st District Crossing Guard Supervisor Linda Heart said evaluations of the number of students crossing the street and the amount of traffic on street surrounding the school must be done by a crossing guard supervisor and a police patrol division officer before a crossing guard is assigned to a school. Sabrina Gates, vice principal at Shoesmith, said after seeking advice from Bret Harte administrators, teh school reached out to teh U. of C. Police department and received temporary use of four, three-leg barricades that it plans to use to direct traffic during drop off and pick up.
The meeting concluded with the group deciding to block the north side of 50th street between Kimbark and Dorchester Avenues with barricades and have volunteers direct parents to drop their children off on the curb near the entrance of the school. The group designated the last three weeks of school June 2 through June 13 for a trial run of this process. During the summer months a committee will be assigned to look into obtaining permanent resources to direct school traffic on both 50th and 49th streets in the fall.
- Elm Park-- to be lost for more parking for Kimbark Plaza? Some neighbors nevertheless are forming a park council and Neighborhood Watch. See Elm.
- 53rd Street/Lake Park. Views documented in 53rd Street page, May 2008 Vision workshop, November 2008 Vision workshop, Development homepage,
State of 53rd Street. Too many vacant properties; too chopped up by open or non retail space; too many one or two story buildings; too many really old and obsolete and not kept t up and unattractive; rent too high; some businesses don't make the looks and service appealing to customers; street scape etc. get fixed up but soon look ground down again; lots of homeless and visitors from other areas, too many franchise or non unique businesses, Lake Park and Harper Court with too low land uses and not used to take advantage of nearby transit as well as opportunities for height, density, larger businesses and (Lake Park) as an auto-oriented street (and in poor shape for drivers or walkers), limited parking.
But counterpoints are often cited--low scale and low pace (with just enough exceptions like HP Bank), local and unusual businesses and restaurants that really know how to niche or take advantage of a very diverse clientele, city designation as a pedestrian friendly and transit oriented neighborhood street. Many of the expenditures of the TIF such as on streetscape, business facade and improvement, and hiring CARA/Cleanslate were intended address concerns about quality.
Likewise demand for enforcement of general neighborhood quality standards were behind complaints by organizations and residents about scaffolding on the Harper Theater or the teardown lots at 53rd McMobil and 53rd Cornell or those that have led to various improvement efforts with the Metra stations, viaducts and raised right-of-way, and some parks They also spurred as various gardening projects around the neighborhood (53rd Lake Park being one). Likewise, some of the arguments to either save or get rid of Harper Court and Hyde Park Co-Op were really about what makes quality.
- Related: demand for more retail range and options. But people disagree strongly about whether increased retail should be in the form of mainly local and small or boutique shops or larger including chain outlets, and over what income levels and tastes the stores should serve and whether the sought customers should be mostly local or distant ("destination spots"). More subtle is the "look" and layout and what sets of customers these should appeal to (including that would make wealthy parents and prospective faculty more likely to choose the U of C?). Many also say at forums and in surveys that Hyde Park lacks enough entertainment, drinking and dining spots, and theaters (live and movie).
- Public Safety. Start with Latest (Safety homepage). There has been a steady year to year drop in crimes, especially violent ones (and likely helped by strong collaboration between city and UC Police), a low rate compared to the majority of Chicago neighborhoods-- but not near the bottom. But enough happens that keeps people wary. This issue is raised often, including what can be done, the suspicion that police resources have diminished and that Hyde Park is considered open for the pickings by people elsewhere. See also CAPS News and Tips, Safety Resources and Tips, and about the HPKCC WhistleStop program. Safety includes also issues with condition of rail embankments and viaducts.
- Property and building stewardship matters. Two measures are being steered to soon-successful conclusion in City Council by Ald. Hairston, Preckwinkle, Fioretti, and Dowell: One to make sure frequently-cited landlords are not also reaping the benefits of city contracts--sent by committee to final council vote, and the other making it easier and mandated to track down and serve owners and agents of vacant lots and properties when they need to be fixed or have safety violations from trash and abandoned cars to drinking and drugs. It is now in a working group to work out concerns such as more burden on Streets and San.
- Parks not being kept up and with insufficient programming for youth and adults; use of parks-- not just pocket ones-- for crime or undesired or illegal activities; homeless sleeping in parks. Charge for parking spaces in Lakefront parks. Insufficient tree replacement. See Elm Playlot issue, above.
Pay for parking on the Lakefront and elsewhere. See in Parking.
The University of Chicago has indicated it seeks pathway and illumination changes for Nichols Park (53rd to 55th at Kenwood Ave.). Nichols is in the TIF district. This interest has been made known to the Chicago Park District. Nichols, like most of the parks in the area has a Framework Plan-- most framework plans have had few of their recommendations implemented. A continuing question re Nichols and TIF objectives is the height and suggestions for at least partial removal of "barrier" lilacs along 53rd St. Some pocket parks like Elm have been fingers as breeders of undesirable behaviors and changes or elimination suggested.
Parks home (and individual parks pages from index there). park budget. park issues. HPKCC Parks Committee.
Our gardens help make this community what it is--and nothing makes for "remarks" faster than yards or gardens or public spaces not kept up. Hyde Park Garden Fair Committee (a committee of HPKCC) seeks to bring the best practices and plants and bulbs to the community through lectures, two big sales a year, sharing plants, and beautification program and commitment to maintaining several gateway garden spots in the community.
- Perceived threats to diversity, especially income diversity. Feeling by some that there is a segment that, perhaps with the University would like to see this to be a more upscale, wealthy community. People disagree over whether there is more or less real interaction between various ethnic and race groups, income levels, geographic sections of the neighborhood, and whether an increasing proportion of residents, especially newer, are less engaged and active in neighborhood activities and affairs. Affordability Hot.
- Sustainability.This of high importance to a segment, especially of UC students and administrative and academic sections, but has had trouble becoming a big thing in the neighborhood as a whole (OWL and Southside Solidarity Network are big on it). This is despite Hyde Park having once been ahead of the curve on the green and recycling movements. Green Hyde Park page. Sustainability Task Force (and documents-and-links page from there).
Related: neighbors are banding together in equivalent of block clubs to take advantage of the new programs that give you points for the recyclable waste in your blue carts (single dwellings so far and in local pilot). The points can be convertible to coupons for stores et al-- or be donated to schools-- Ray School has done quite well from the program (schools have to apply). Visit http://www.recyclebank.com, for schools part add /greenschoolsprogram.
- Feeling by some that the neighborhood needs to revisit is values and goals, or even develop a Quality of Life Community Action Plan as several surrounding communities have.
Neighborhood Goals. Feeling of loss of control, especially to the University or big owners like MAC property and to an overbearing and politicized city government.
The 61st Street Community Garden and Doctors Hospital controversies seem partly of this sort.
- Divergent complaints about too much or not enough density are tied to the two preceding. See Density; High Rises and Condos; some of the proposals linked in Development homepage (especially 53rd Cornell, 53rd Kenwood (McMobil), Antheus (Solstice), Doctors Hospital), and sections in the Development Detail page.
- Healthcare services cutbacks, less access by locals, or placed more at distance, particularly by University of Chicago but also at city and county clinics and Hospitals; perception that overall the South Side is a healthcare desert and alternative clinics are largely substandard or overwhelmed. Meanwhile, Dr. Vokes and others have made astute steps to improve the emergency room and asuage the faculty, as with apointment of Conrad Gilliam a dean for research and graduate education.
Health Delivery page. For perspective see the category in Helpline page section.
- Nonprofit and service agency failures and troubles in the economy and state holdback of funds; allegations that the community wants things but doesn't support them with their money. Some feel that agencies don't cooperate enough. Collaborers in the Community; for perspective: Community Nonprofit Organizations, Community Resources, Helpline, Good Neighbors and Volunteer Opportunities.
- The arts community; Hyde Park as a cultural as well as education destination. We had to throw in one that residents with the University have WON TO THE SATISFACTION OF ALL. (If we can find more spots with low rents, we might even add some galleries and art stores and become a "district."). Arts News. Culture Directory.Arts and Cultural Calendar. Now what about the service sector nonprofits?
- Schools is another topic whose discussion often touches on contribution or not to community quality and whether the "next generation" will keep up quality. Hence there still intergenerational tensions and echoes from time to time the eruption of 2005 over school youth and other youth attacks in the community. See Business, Community and Students.
- General complaints:
Poor and aging infrastructure in sectors, especially sewers and streets (but griping about "constant construction" and surprises with street cleaning (despite new signage with schedule))
Waste cans not empty including in parks
Dead trees not promptly removed and replaced (right)
Motorcycle noise, chronic sources of noise (South Shore Drive 55th south)
Waste blowing on streets, railroad right of way
Lack of a true neighborhood center including good and cheap space for community and group meetings
Not enough accommodation or amenities for pets (dog park, though strongly opposed by many)