February news

AL HODZIC NAMED BLU AQUA EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR

Al Hodzic, New Eastside News’ December Doorperson of the Month, continues to earn high neighborhood honors.

Al Hodzic

At a January 24 company party, Hodzic, 22, learned he was named Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel’s 2016 Employee of the Year.

“I feel like the man of the year,” Hodzic joked. “I wanted it, but I was humble about it.”

Hodzic says he heard rumors he’d been nominated, but didn’t believe the hype until he received a teardrop-shaped trophy at the party.

“It’s really cool to be recognized for my work,” Hodzic says. “And I love all the people I’m surrounded by.”

NEIGHBORS FILE COMPLAINTS OVER WANDA AFTER-HOURS NOISE

Seven complaints have been lodged with Alderman Reilly’s office since December over after-hours construction noise at the Wanda site, according to office spokesperson Martha Donnelly.

“[The developer and construction team] were warned,” says Donnelly. “We let them know [they could] face very big fines.”

The Wanda Vista Tower

According to Donnelly, a city ordinance is in place banning loud construction work between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. Seven years ago, Ald. Reilly helped pass a law, upping noise violation fees from $1,000 to $10,000.

“When we get complaints we take them very seriously,” says Donnelly.

Neighbors living over the Wanda construction site report various issues with nighttime noise, from construction dragging on past 8 p.m., to machinery starting up in the early morning hours, around 2 or 3 a.m.

“They started doing extra work around midnight or 1 a.m.,” says a Shoreham resident, who wished to remain anonymous. “For some reason there’s a bunch of noise.” The resident says he contacted McHugh Construction and 311. 

“The noise of taking down Wacker Drive is huge,” adds a Shoreham neighbor. “It’s not healthy to have noise like that.”

HARBOR POINT, 400 E. RANDOLPH BYPASS SPRINKLERS

A new city ordinance has exempted both Harbor Point and 400 E. Randolph Condominium from installing sprinkler systems, after both buildings passed a rigorous inspection. The Sprinkler Installation Ordinance, which went into effect in January, allows pre-1975 residential high-rises that pass a “Life Safety Evaluation” (LSE) to bypass putting in sprinklers. Harbor Point was built in 1973 and 400 E. Randolph in 1963.

“These buildings did what they had to do,” said Department of Buildings spokesperson Mimi Simon, adding that buildings who passed met both Department of Buildings and Fire Department standards.

Harbor Point Condominium

According to Simon, 400 E. Randolph passed the inspection in March of 2016 and Harbor Point (155 N. Harbor Dr.) in August of 2016. City data indicates that 400 E. Randolph had failed a previous Life Safety inspection in November 2014, and Harbor Point had failed an inspection in December of 2014. The fire department was unable to confirm whether there had been any recent fires at Harbor Point or 400 E. Randolph.

The current inspection included a review of the buildings’ two-way communications system, elevators, smoke detectors and stairwells.

While Simon called the 18-category inspection “intense,” fire safety advocates say buildings without sprinklers may still be at risk.

“A sprinkler system is like a 24-7 fireman in your living unit,” says Michael McGreal, owner of Firedyne Engineering, a local fire safety consulting company. “Sprinklers are the number-one best mode of fire protection that any building can have. Not having that [is] to their disadvantage.”

A report from the Illinois State Fire Marshall’s website says a fire in an unsprinklered high-rise is “far more likely to result in casualties and property damage than one in a sprinklered building”; the report recommends all high-rises install sprinklers. Sprinklers are individually activated by heat from a fire, not smoke. The heat typically shatters a glass tube containing a buildup of water. McGreal says sprinklers contain about “80 to 90 percent” of high-rise fires.

Despite the potential risks, George Rodarakis, a 36-year resident of 400 E. Randolph, says he feels safe.

“I think this building is more than protected,” says Rodarakis, adding that the smoke detectors add to the feeling of security.

Representatives from both Harbor Point and 400 E. Randolph declined to comment on whether or not the buildings will install sprinklers in the future.

SHEN YUN COMES TO NEW EASTSIDE

Chinese troupe Shen Yun will touch down at the Harris Theater February 11–19, bringing with it a compelling spectacle — and a hint of controversy.

Founded in 2006 in New York City, the nonprofit Shen Yun says its mission is to “revive traditional culture” through its performances. Its present show, whose 2017 tagline is “Experience a Divine Culture,” features dancing, music and light acrobatics while exploring China’s 5,000-year history. On its website, the troupe openly affiliates with Falun Gong (also called Falun Dafa), the popular Chinese spiritual movement involved in demonstrations and protests around the world.

“Practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual meditation practice, prominently perform with Shen Yun,” says a Shen Yun press release. “Moreover, the show depicts . . . the violence perpetrated against Falun Gong practitioners and their peaceful resistance.”

Shen Yun claims that the Chinese government has “attempted to pressure” theaters to cancel Shen Yun performances, “stalking Shen Yun performers during tour,” and tampering with Shen Yun vehicles. Both Shen Yun and the Harris Theater declined to comment on the matter.

Banned in China, Shen Yun has more than 100 U.S. performances scheduled for 2017, according to its website.

Tickets $70-180, showtimes vary. visit www.harristheaterchicago.org for more information.

MARIANO’S, CVS ADD SHOPPING BAG TAX

Now may be a good time to go green at the grocery store.

Beginning February 1, Mariano’s added a 7-cent city bag tax to each paper and plastic bag at checkout, joining retailers across the city. Certain bags are exempt from the tax, including liquor bags and pharmacy bags. Mariano’s double paper bags will cost a total of 14 cents. Of the tax, Mariano’s will keep two out of the seven cents, while the rest will go to the city.

“Like any change, communication is key,” says store director Megan Gleeson. “[The change] is not within our control.”

To help ease the burden, Mariano’s is offering customers a 5-cent credit for each reusable bag they use. Mariano’s reusable bags cost between $1 and $6, Gleeson says. Two weeks before the tax went into effect, Mariano’s shoppers seemed open to the idea.

“We’d be more inclined to use the reusable bags already in our closet,” said Amanda Mountain of the Shoreham. “It’s probably better for the environment.”

“[Taxes] are already high,” said Mountain’s friend, Elena Pitt, of 222 N. Columbus. “It is what it is. What’s a few extra cents?”

CVS at 205 N. Columbus also confirmed it will be adding the tax. Bockwinkel’s declined to comment.

SALVATION ARMY RESUMES PICKUP / INCREASES FREQUENCY
OF LAKESHORE EAST PICKUPS

The Salvation Army says it will resume monthly pickups from New Eastside beginning in February, after sporadic service since May. It also will increase its regular routes into New Eastside, giving neighbors more opportunities to shed unwanted items.

“We reserved space in our routing so we can get there on a much more frequent basis, up to four times a week if needed,” says Salvation Army administrator John Aren. “We can get there more often than we ever had before.” Aren says the increased service will cut down the wait time for pickup, which can sometimes run up to two weeks.   

The service will occur the first Saturday of every month, from 9 a.m. to noon, on Lower Field Boulevard near South Water Street. The Salvation Army will collect clothing, accessories and furniture at the pickup. Residents from all buildings are welcome to donate items.

Neighbors who would like to arrange individual pickups should call 1-800-SATRUCK, or log in at www.satruck.org.

Donations are tax-deductible.

— Tricia Parker, Staff Writer

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