Eastern Humboldt Park
|The second of two meetings I attended (I brought my video camera to both). There were many meetings before I got there, before I became a renter in this neighborhood, my neighborhood.
One of the earlier meetings was hosted in a family's garage down the street. Kids were invited to use markers and other materials to illustrate what they wanted in a play lot. I haven't seen the drawings but I know who has them and they said I could look at them.
At the first meeting I attended park district workers and designers presented two or three play lot concepts to the parents and kids of the neighborhood. One resident of the neighborhood, in preparation for this meeting, spent the day collecting money from other residents to buy hotdogs, chips and pop, which she prepared and served to everyone attending the meeting. Most passers by were also invited to have a hotdog. The food drew more people out of their homes, to the meeting. It revved up the atmosphere and the kids.
The main reason that the neighborhood began working to get a play lot (more than four years ago) was to get a fountain for kids to play in and hopefully solve the somewhat dangerous and otherwise inconvenient problem of kids playing in the fire hydrants on hot summer days. The first designs presented to the neighborhood did not include a fountain. People felt screwed by the park district.
The park district said that there wasn't enough money in the budget to include a fountain. But somebody must have talked to somebody, done some kind of leveraging or lobbying, because the designers ended up going back to the drawing board (so to speak) and added a fountain to the later designs which were approved by the neighborhood residents attending the final meeting. The park district workers said that construction would begin in Spring of 2001!
|A homeowner whose property is next to the proposed play lot expressed some concern about living next to a play lot. Other neighbors tried to convince him that it would be better than living next to a vacant lot. He was reluctant to embrace the plans.
Some area non-profit organizations have targeted lots such as this one for development and low-income housing to accommodate people being forced out of public housing in other parts of the city. These are the same tensions that threaten community gardens in the neighborhood, which are not widely used.
An older friend of mine, a self appointed neighborhood organizer, told of how he used to play in the fire hydrants all the time when he was a kid but that was a different time. The firefighters would open the valves and monitor the kids as they played. Unlike now when the kids (god bless 'em) open the things on there own and play out in the street unattended.
The play lot may solve the fire hydrant problem and may be valuable to the young kids and parents, but as my friend pointed out (the one who used to play in fire hydrants), the play lot does not address the needs of teen-agers in the neighborhood. A lot of the neighborhood residents were adamant that the play lot not be built for teenagers, that it be for pre-teens only. For example, they didn't want a basketball court because they believed that would attract gang-bangers and drug dealers.
Recently in the neighborhood property taxes have increased drastically, so much so that long time homeowners fear they will not be able to afford to live there anymore. They are still enthusiastic supporters of plans to build the play lot.