To the editors:
I was pleasantly surprised to see the Reader’s feature on the Maxwell Street Market [July 27]. Increased public awareness can only help our efforts to save the market. It is the oldest continuously operating open market in the USA. Its neighborhood, Jew Town, was not a term coined by postwar immigrants from the south, and is not derisive in its origin, though the name certainly would tend to give that impression in this day and age. The name is found on turn-of-the-century maps, along with Italian Town, Greek Town, and German Town. Jew Town was where the Jews lived–and there really is no more and no less to it.
Much has been said lately about the virtues of free market economics, with eastern European developments being cited as major evidence. But where is my free market? I ask the question literally. If I want to sell something, where can I go to sell it? I need places like the Maxwell Street market, where I can have thousands of potential buyers instead of perhaps a hundred at very best if I hold a garage sale.
Your front page banner asked a lot of the right questions, but never answered them. Does UIC need the land? No it does not. UIC was designed to be a campus primarily for students from the greater Chicago metropolitan region. Our urban region is not growing markedly in population, so why should this campus be in need of more extensive facilities? If there is any legitimate need for the U of I to expand, it should occur at U of I at Champaign-Urbana. This community is almost entirely dependent on the university economically, so any expansion would certainly be more beneficial to that community than it possibly could be to Chicago.
I find it truly difficult to believe that Larry Lund finds the present market “too strung out.” Anyone can see how crowded the market can be at times just from looking at the photo on your front page. I would really like to know when the last time was that Larry Lund came down to buy or sell at the market on Sunday. The present market is often far too crowded for those of us who are actually at it, yet this “expert” wants to crowd us still further because he thinks it will be exciting for us to be packed together like sardines.
Vendors come out to the market on Saturday night and stay at it overnight in order to get good table space. With a smaller market, they will have to come even earlier to compete for the good spaces. Yet our expert Mr. Lund wants a smaller market. Does he plan to sell anything at this wonderful shrunken market? Does he personally plan to show up by 8 PM Saturday and stay overnight to get a good space? If not, then I feel he should abandon his pretense at expertise on the matter, and leave the decisions on the size of the market to the people who actually intend to participate in the market’s activities.
If we have any sense of wanting to encourage free open marketplaces and family-based business efforts, then it should be obvious to anyone who has ever participated in it that Maxwell Street Market needs to expand considerably. The present market area plus the smaller “new” market area might be barely adequate for the market’s needs.
I have been told that a university trustee explained his support of the expansion proposal on the basis that he had taken an oath to advance the interests of the University of Illinois. Apparently he perceives the interests of the university in a classical imperialist fashion, in which expansion is seen to be a virtue in its own right. Where does UI’s inherent need for expansion end? Would it be in the interests of UI to gobble up the entire city? The entire state?
The university’s alleged need to expand is a function of its own bureaucratic system, and does not reflect the legitimate interests of the university itself, let alone the interests of people involved in the Maxwell Street Market, the people of Chicago, or the people of Illinois.
The university wants to tear down the Maxworks Cooperative sometime between 2000 and 2030, in order to put up yet another parking lot or garage–in an era in which we are rapidly running out of fossil fuels and desperately need to reestablish viable public transportation.
If this is the best planning our ivory-towered academics and planners can provide for us, then I think we would be better off to close down the UIC campus altogether, and convert it into a great big shelter for the homeless.