Friday, December 28, 2007

Be Careful What You Wish For

My concern over the lack of retail in this neck of the woods has been well documented.

While I long for the day I can walk to the dry cleaners and fresh produce, with Woodlawn’s track record more of these fine establishments will open somewhere by my house in 2008:

A fast food restaurant
Can a sister get a casual dining restaurant? Even a Chili’s or Bennigan’s would be a step up.

A Currency Exchange
Great---just what we need---a reason why the 1st, 15th and every Friday becomes more dangerous.

A Dollar Store
Unless it’s a Dollar Tree, get to steppin’.

A Beauty Supply Store
As if I couldn’t hit a dead cat with the multitude that already exist. I find it ironic that (at least in black neighborhoods) blacks rarely run a business geared toward black women and most of the money is funneled out of the community. I’m just sayin…

Car Wash
Don’t get me started…

I know attitudes are slow to change and that my alderman is working hard to secure retail opportunities but I hope that new offerings are in the future.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Speaking of University of Chicago and their past plans of urban renewal, the school across the street managed to pull off it’s own mini renewal plan when they expanded their campus some time ago.

Now I’m not sure if the acquisition of the buildings and the land raised a stink when it was being done, but I have yet to hear of any drama.

The campus is undeniably beautiful and a gem of east Woodlawn.

It does give me pause though.

If the school across the street hadn’t had the foresight to expand their campus would my little section of paradise be this nice and quiet?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Big Brothers

So the University of Chicago is attempting to reconcile with the Woodlawn community.

At this point the overtures have been met with mixed results.

From what I’ve seen, the University is talking a good game but it still seems that the true spirit of partnership isn’t there.

But on the other hand the methods of the past haven’t worked either.

When the epic battle between The Woodlawn Organization (TWO) and the University commenced in the 60’s, TWO won the battle but as those of us who live here can attest to, they lost the war.

Not only did Woodlawn lose a great deal of its population but from what I understand a majority of it’s retail as well.

Frankly, since I’m not old enough to remember Woodlawn as it was I have to rely on books, articles and the old timers who were around to see such things.

Nonetheless, things got bad for the neighborhood---really bad.

So while the University didn’t expand their campus further south, the entrenched powers that be turned from social activism to social services.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for helping.

But my version of help is providing a vehicle to affordable home ownership, not affordable housing.

Because as long as you have a landlord, it’s my opinion that you’re not quite the captain of your own ship---I’m just sayin’…

Whatever the case, it would appear that the old way of running things isn’t working.

Abandoned buildings, Empty lots, high crime, few local employment opportunities (that provide a living wage), low home ownership and lack of retail do not an attractive neighborhood make.

So it with cautious optimism that the overtures from the University are being received; if the old ways aren’t working, then perhaps it’s time to look at some new ones.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Big Brother

When I moved to Woodlawn in late 2001 I was unprepared for the disdain I experienced.

Apparently those of us who don’t live in Hyde Park are sometimes on the receiving end of an upturned nose.

Now don’t get me wrong, Hyde Park is a lovely neighborhood.

The University of Chicago concerned residents works very hard to keep it that way.

Have you every noticed the sister of the very pretty girl in high school---yeah I didn’t think so.

I’m sure she knew that she was being tolerated.

You know when your presence is not really welcome.

And so it went when I moved down here.

My first clue was when I called Hyde Park restaurants and with the exception of one, none would deliver to me.

Then I tried to rent out my spare room and thought with such a large student population, it might be best to target Hyde Park.

After plastering the area with flies and pricing the rent reasonably, the calls started to roll in.

Interest was great until I mentioned my address on the answering machine.

I received a lot of calls and a lot of hang ups.

No dice.

The final straw came when I was in the Co-Op and ran into one of my north side dwelling friends who heard that I had moved.

A well-dressed shopper who had overheard me correcting my friend about the location of my neighborhood leaned over and threw in her two cents.

She stated that anything below the Midway (Roughly 59th-60th Street) wasn’t Hyde Park.

During this whole exchange she didn’t even acknowledge that I was standing there.

By that time I started to put it together.

With the rare exception of some parts of Kenwood, those of us who fall out side of the boundaries of Hyde Park seemingly suck.

I knew that Hyde Park was the neighborhood that all others are measured against on the south side; but I didn’t know the rest of us who also happened to live below Madison Street were less than.

Apparently it’s Hyde Park’s world, the rest of us are just living in it.

Despite what you just read, I truly don’t bear any ill will towards my Hyde Park neighbors.

Nonetheless it only took me a few years to determine my neighborhood’s pecking order and I’m a relative newbie.

Can you imagine the effects of living and interacting with 30 or 40 years of condescending arrogance from the University and Hyde Parkers?

Between that and the “urban redevelopment” plan the University tried to implement during the sixties; it’s not surprising that longtime Woodlawn residents have a healthy dose of mistrust concerning the University.

In the University’s defense though, they have made several overtures to try and remedy sins of the past.

Their police force is now regularly seen outside of the traditional boundaries of Hyde Park.

Community input of any southward expansion is taken very seriously.

The University also provides an employee assisted housing program for those who want to move to “outlying” neighborhoods like Woodlawn.

More importantly the University has abandoned its official policy of discouraging their faculty, staff & students going south of the Midway.

The olive branch has been extended.

The gulf is seemingly narrowing.

Or is everyone just smiling politely while still waters run deep?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Let It Snow

It’s bad enough that the school across the street hasn’t thrown in one dime towards the new sidewalk and parkway that they’re legally responsible for.

What's worse is that my fantastic alderman used some of her menu money to make the new sidewalk happen.

So let’s recap, we have a private institution that has slowly but surely expanded it’s campus by shutting down city streets and purchasing buildings for the land.

Nothing wrong with that, right?

The issue is that when the school across the street expanded its campus they also expanded their responsibility for the parkways and the sidewalks of the buildings it purchased.

In short, the school is responsible for the parkway and sidewalk on my street roughly from Stony Island to Dorchester.

If you’ve been a long time reader of this blog, you know that the maintenance of the sidewalk and parkway on the south side of their campus and across the street from my home hasn’t exactly been high on the list of priorities.

It fell somewhere between screw and you.

It shouldn’t take concerned neighbors to point out that the trash and the weeds that come up to their hips might need to be tended to.

Okay, I give---it was me. I was (and am) the concerned neighbor(s).

Nonetheless, it’s not rocket science right?

But that’s all water under the bridge right?

The trash is being picked up (sporadically) and the grass is cut during the warmer months.

To quote Neville Chamberlain, “There is peace is our time.”

Not so much.

Unlike Neville, I’m going to hold you to the spirit if not the letter of your agreement.

Doesn’t common sense dictate that if you cut the grass and pick up the trash that you should also shovel the snow during the winter months?

We have this nice new sidewalk and it was encased in ice and snow during our first winter storm.

I shouldn’t have to even call over to say, “Hey, don’t you think it would be a good idea to shovel the snow and throw down a little salt?”

But I did. And in doing so I broke a promise I made to myself.

I told myself not too long ago that asking the nice school across the street to perform the functions on the south end of their property that they so willingly perform on other parts of their campus didn’t seem to be an effective way of getting things done.

On the other hand placing a call to my alderman’s office is.

So I’m not asking anyone over there to do anything anymore.

They should have the sidewalk and parkway just as pristine and landscaped as they do at their school’s entrance.

If not, I’m getting on the phone.

There are city ordinances regulating and fining owners for not looking after the sidewalk and parkway abutting their property.

If we’ve got to keep our little patch of Woodlawn trimmed, clean and clear so should everyone else.

Apparently there has been a change in the maintenance and groundskeeping department over there so I'm interested in seeing if there's more of a proactive attitude about the south side of the campus.

Being nice has gotten me nowhere with them, time for talking is done.

I was once told that the school was concerned about being a good neighbor. Yeah, and tomorrow I'm going to wake up and fit my high school cheerleading uniform. My ass.

I don’t think they’re going to like me very much by the time it’s all over.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Real Cost

While the fate of the Hyde Park Co-Op is still being decided, the fall out from this dustup has a real price.

If the Co-Op is shuttered, their employees will lose their jobs and benefits with no severance package to speak of.

There’s a happy new year for you.

One would think that the former Co-Op employees would be able to apply for positions at the new store. Rumor has it that either a Treasure Island or Dominick’s is coming to the 55th Street space.

Still it’s an uncertain future for a lot of hard working people.

As I’m going on my fourth month of unemployment I completely understand what these good folks may be facing.

It would have been nice if the former leadership of the Co-Op would have based their decisions not only on the health of the store but on it’s impact of the employees.

25 year lease indeed.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Reporting From Left Field

Did you not love the supreme diss Jesse Jackson, Jr. gave Todd Stroger & William Beavers in the Tribune on Sunday?

Talk about keeping your pimp hand strong.

Surely Congressman Jackson didn’t just come to the epiphany that Todd Stroger doesn’t know what he’s doing.

I wonder what’s the major motivation?

This has all of the makings of classic Chicago political power struggle. I can’t wait for the next shot over the bow.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Whistling Dixie

This is a long post but it’s worth it.

Guess who’s up to his ears in a commercial foreclosure, lawsuit and a possible sale?

That’s right, the effervescent Carlton Knight.

I recently took a trip to the Clerk of the Circuit Court records division after I discovered new legal proceedings against Mr. Knight.

I love the transparency of the legal system in my neck of the woods.

I’m just giving you the interesting parts. For those of you waiting with baited breath for a bullet point by bullet point outline of the failed summons service attempts, I’m sorry to disappoint you.

The following facts were taken from court records filed earlier this year:

A mortgage loan for $1,120,000 was taken out with Westbank in Hillside, IL by Carlton Knight and Chicago Title Land Trust Company (as successor trustee to NAB Bank) under trust number 2-107-0 on October 3, 2003. The 40 unit commercial property is located at 15144 Dixie Highway in Harvey, Illinois.

On April 19, 2007 a foreclosure suit was filed against Carlton and the above mentioned trust for the unpaid balance of the mortgage, legal fees and court costs by Inland Bank & Trust F/K/A Westbank.

On June 13, 2007 Carlton filed appearance documentation declaring his intent to represent himself (ProSe) and the answer Inland Bank’s initial complaint. His response was that there was “insufficient information with which to admit or deny paragraphs 1-3 of the complaint to foreclosure mortgage and therefore neither admit nor deny those paragraphs but demand strict proof thereof.”

Now here’s where it gets fun.

The newly engaged (and one of People Magazine’s sexiest men of 2005) Mr. Patrick Fitzgerald, jumps into the fray by filing his own answer to the complaint.

Why, might you ask?

It appears the Internal Revenue Service AND the city have an interest in the Dixie Highway property in hopes of satisfying both a tax lien AND a judgment.

So Mr. Fitzgerald representing the United States of America for the Northern District of Illinois stated on June 5, 2007 that a lien was placed on the premises “to secure a tax assessment balance of $379,530.72 as of May 18th 2007.”

Furthermore Mr. Fitzgerald had to raise his pimp hand to the mortgage company and the city by stating:

“The United States of America has insufficient knowledge to form a belief as to the priority between its lien, plaintiff’s mortgage and other liens against the subject premises.”

“The United States of America asserts its right of redemption accorded it under 28 U.S.C. 2410 and applicable state statutes.”

“…Further the United States of America prays that if the premises involved herin are sold free and clear of all liens and encumbrances, save the right of redemption vested in the United States of America by statute, the proceeds derived from said sale to be applied to the payment of the liens of the various parties in this cause…”

I wonder if it just would have been easier to quote Ludacris and just say “move, bitch get out the way.”

How hot is that shit?

But never one to take any type of legal proceedings lying down, Carlton filed a response on October 1, 2007 to the plaintiff’s petition to appoint a receiver.

Pimp hand indeed.

According to a receiver is a “person appointed by a court or secured creditor to run a company for a short period of time in a manner that will ensure as much debt is paid back to creditors as possible. Their main purpose is to use a company's assets in a way that will most effectively pay back creditors.”

In his response Carlton stated that the “plaintiff wrongfully assumes that rents are being collected and diverted for personal use. However 17 of the 40 units are currently vacant with less than $6,000 collected for September. All of the funds have been used to pay operating expenses (gas, water, waste disposal) and daily maintenance of the property.”

“The appointment of a receiver would only increase the expenses of a struggling property which is currently under a contract for sale, awaiting final approval and has a back up offer as a contingency.”

Whoo doggies!

Not to be one upped, Inland filed yet another suit---this time in the law division of the circuit court last week on November 28th.

Looks like these kids mean business.

Unfortunately the judge is holding the file in his chambers so I can’t get my hot little hands on it so I can give a good read.

But rest assured when I get a chance to read the paperwork, I’ll be sure to give you every factual relevant tidbit.