I was fascinated reading Michael G. Glab’s article “All in the Game” [August 3], about two of the neighborhood personalities involved in talks of Wrigley Field’s proposed expansion.
As someone who worked hard to get neighbors tuned in to our chance to talk about the expansion, I feel compelled to comment. First, the Wrigley neighbors are not fragmenting. As Mayor Richard M. Daley noted, 500 people showed up at the first hearing, more people than the city has seen at any meeting anywhere, including sessions to oppose O’Hare’s expansion or changes at Soldier Field. People are passionate about our neighborhood, understand intimately the mounting problems in Wrigleyville, and they are coming up with creative ways to improve things. (No close place to tow cars? How about booting them. Rampant parking residential sticker black market? Issue them with residents’ names and addresses printed and make the Cubs provide vendor parking. Wild drunks? Provide cops on foot to manage people long after the game has let out. And so forth.)
People understand Jim Murphy is not a legitimate neighborhood leader or spokesman. That is as clear as the vacant buildings he owns on Wilton, behind Murphy’s Bleachers. The ex-vice cop turned multimillionaire, thanks to Wrigleyville real estate, promised a neighborhood talk about problems before the Cubs unveiled their plan, but Murphy never convened a meeting. Then he went on TV and said night games have been good for the neighborhood. He could have never said that if he asked what the people who live here think.
Murphy claims he has revitalized the neighborhood group, which is true. People joined in droves when they learned of his dicey power grab. More than 100 people showed up to his meeting, fuming and horrified that he was our neighborhood president. We appealed to Lakeview Citizens Council to kick Murphy out, but they did nothing.
Charlotte Newfeld did a great job in 1988 making a case for the rights of people who live here. She has spent years trying to get the Cubs and the city of Chicago to honor promises made in the 1988 agreement. Yet that agreement, which vowed aggressive parking, traffic, crowd, and garbage management, had no teeth, no enforcing mechanism. It was based on the honor system, and over the years much of the winded promises petered out.
The mayor ordered neighborhood hearings, thank God. And Alderman Bernie Hansen, who has fought tirelessly on behalf of the rooftop clubs, picked Murphy to hold the first hearing–a move which created a pall of disgust in Wrigleyville.
The Lakeview Citizens Council called for a boycott of Murphy’s meeting, demanding instead a blue ribbon committee (of non-Wrigleyville residents) to negotiate with the Cubs and city. They wanted no hearings at all.
I attended the LCC strategy session and objected to a boycott. The mayor asked for hearings, and the people wanted to speak, Murphy or no Murphy.
Under intense city pressure, Murphy was forced to pay people to flyer the area about the meeting, and that flyer never stated it was a neighborhood hearing. It made mention of only a “Cubs presentation” on a routine agenda. At the same time Murphy’s PR flacks announced a major media event would occur on the same date of the hearing. Clearly this hearing was intended to railroad the community and make it seem that all we care about is preserving Murphy and his posse’s booze industry.
But we in Wrigleyville are realists, regardless of who was in charge of the hearing. The people of Wrigleyville came out in force. They refused to be steamrolled. They would not be silent. I distributed 1,300 flyers, urging people to come, and advertised the hearing in chalk on the sidewalks of Wrigleyville, convinced people would come out and speak, despite the shenanigans. And they did. Bravo Wrigleyville.
Newfeld’s Lakeview Citizens Council hearing, geared toward the greater neighborhood, also had strong turnout.
A lot has changed in Wrigleyville since 1988. Most important, this is now a great and booming neighborhood, not a slum like it was in the 1970s and early 1980s. At the same time, many of the parking lots which used to serve Wrigley fans are gone, now occupied by condos–including the tow lot. What are the Cubs/Tribune going to do to make up for that? They could build a modest parking garage at their huge green lot near Clifton, off Grace Street, but that would cost money.
We know the Tribune wanted to grab for free the Seminary easement land, which includes our community parking lot on nongame days. For months we were trying to get anyone to listen to us about trouble coming with the blue lot, but Murphy and Newfeld had their own agendas. (Newfeld would like to turn an empty lot used for baseball parking at Racine and Roscoe into a park.)
A lot of serious questions have not even been broached. For example, as a 90-year-old field Wrigley has almost no storage. It takes hundreds of truck deliveries, trucks which now park on the extra-wide sidewalks of Waveland and Sheffield. Where will they park after the sidewalks are covered with grandstands? On the street? Couldn’t they build less bleachers within the structure as is?
Now, despite our feuding community representatives, the Tribune and the city are listening. And I, for one, am very grateful to Mayor Richard M. Daley for giving us a chance to speak. Keep talking everybody. Keep talking.
N. Alta Vista