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?


kblog said...

I live on 47th and Drexel. I am confused as to what neighborhood this is. I usually tell people that I live in Hyde Park. According to a map that I once saw, Hyde Park ends at Cottage Grove on the West. Someone recently told me that I actually live in Kenwood because anything north of 51st is Kenwood. Who's right? Do you know?

chicago pop said...

Getting dissed for where you live is just ridiculous, no doubt about it, and there's no excusing that.

When I posted on this topic a few weeks ago, I got a lot of comments from people living in Woodlawn who think that the anti-University sentiment is out of date, has done more harm than good to the neighborhood historically, and that University-related development activity in the area would do some good. A number of people also expressed the opinion that the old-school neighborhood leadership that was formed in the conflicts of the 60s no longer reflects the changed situation of Woodlawn.

These are people who are making a go of it right now, not people who fought the fights of 50 years ago. Most of the latter are either dead or left.

When we talk about the U of C's urban renewal plan for Woodlawn, we're talking about a development plan -- it was just a plan, and contrary to the experience of Hyde Park, nothing was done -- that was put on the table and then withdrawn nearly half a century ago.

The upshot is that it's a new day, as is testified by the presence of urban pioneers such as yourself in the new Woodlawn. I think we'd all like to see more stuff happen south of 61st, but I don't know if the polarizing frameworks of the 1960s are the best tools for getting us there.

something new said...

You are correct you do live in Kenwood. Although Hyde Park does extend West to Cottage Grove, it only extends North as far as Hyde Park Blvd (51st Street).