Turning trash into treasure: New Eastsiders give back

by Stephanie Racine

What started out as a regifting event turned into something much more. 

In December, a group of Parkshore residents had an idea. Resident Jonni Miklos and social director of the Parkshore, Charlene Roderick, met to discuss how to give back for the holiday season. Miklos noted that people who moved from the suburbs to the Parkshore, 195 N. Harbor Drive, had a lot of stuff, but less room to store it in a downtown Chicago condo. 

“Someone’s trash is somebody else’s treasure,” Roderick said.

From Dec. 4-7, Parkshore residents brought down items they no longer needed for others to purchase.

“People brought things out in droves,” Roderick said.

All the proceeds went to The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. 

Roderick and Miklos were hoping about $2,020 but Parkshore residents raised $6,146. 

“I cried when I saw it was [that much],” Roderick said.

Residents said the event went beyond the money being raised—it gave residents a sense of community.

“People were talking about this building coming together,” resident Russ Fahrner said.

It was more than just getting together for a glass of wine—it was staying engaged with one another over the course of a few days, he said.

Resident Barbara Thomas felt the residents came together as a team.

“Together each accomplishes more…Team,” she said. “I felt as if I had a family of people who cared.”

Residents did everything they could to support the event, according to Roderick. If they didn’t have items to donate, there was a box for monetary donations. If they were unable to donate, residents volunteered their time to work the event. 

Miklos believed people were so enthusiastic because the event was supporting a greater good.

“Everyone was committed to contributing to make a difference,” Miklos said.

One person who was especially thankful was executive director of Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Doug Schenkelberg.

“We appreciate it when people choose to support our work,” Schenkelberg said. 

Schenkelberg was unaware the money was being raised and thought it was “wonderful” that Parkshore chose his organization. Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is an advocacy organization that seeks to prevent homelessness. Approximately 86,000 people are homeless in Chicago.

Members of the Parkshore Board met to present Schenkelberg with their check on Jan. 24. Roderick thanked the board for their willingness to come together as a community.

Overall, residents hoped that this event would start a precedent. 

“Other buildings ought to take this on,” Roderick said.

To learn more about Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, visit chicagohomeless.org.

Alonzo: Doorperson of the Month

by Mat Cohen

For Alonzo, there’s nothing better than a great football game, jazz music and his family, which includes the people at 400 E. Randolph.

“Everyone is special at 400 E. Randolph,” he said. “I make sure they feel special. I try to make the family at 400 feel as I would want to feel.

“I like my jazz music, love my sports and family is automatic.”

Alonzo is a versatile employee for the building. He spends time in the package room, working in receiving, greeting people at the front desk and checking guests in at the workout space.

“Multitasking at 400 E. Randolph makes the job very fulfilling,” he said. “You can tell that you can make a difference with someone.”

Making a difference among people’s lives has been ingrained in Alonzo’s heart from his childhood.

“Helping people has to be from your heart and if it’s not genuine, they’ll know,” he said. “I get it from my parents, my mother and father.

“They said if you live good through your heart, your blessings are unlimited.”

Alonzo has given away coats and shoes to the homeless on lower Wacker Drive outside his post in the receiving room. He’s warm and welcoming to every resident and believes the world would be a better place if everyone took a little time to give.

“It could be a conversation, you could even sit in silence with someone,” he said. “Look around, we all have something to give.”

“Me giving comes from my heart, it’s not an act. Helping people should be from your heart.”

Before getting the job at 400, he did some manifesting to create his reality.

“The job found me,” he said. “I passed here thousands of times and I just always said that it would be a nice place to work, and it just worked out. It was meant to be.”

Alonzo has given a lot to 400 E. Randolph, but isn’t too keen on recognition, except for when he won track medals in Grammar School.

“I’m just a low-key guy, I’m glad about it, but it’s just shocking,” he said about being selected as Doorperson of the Month.

There’s no doubt he deserves the recognition, but he wants to make it clear the building deserves recognition of its own.

“I don’t know if they made it a landmark, but 400 is iconic,” he said. “Because it was built before a lot of these other buildings. That sounds like I’m bragging about 400, but we set a high standard to go above and beyond.”

Traffic congestion something to get used to

by Mat Cohen

At the New Eastside CAPS meeting, which is now the first week of the month, community members discussed traffic clogs, pedestrian safety and an increase in construction in the neighborhood.

A resident said that due to the construction of three new condos in the neighborhood, there are construction vehicles speeding in and out of New Eastside, where she likes to walk her dog.

“We need a plan because construction is only going to increase,” she said. “There’s no regulation, no signals, no signs—they’re speeding in and out.”

She also stated that the construction is creating a place where the homeless are gathering—on the steps at the end of Randolph Street going up to the middle level.

“I don’t feel the homeless are a problem, but people are starting to gather,” she said. “I’m feeling really uncomfortable where I used to feel safe.”

The CAPS team said they would give the area special attention moving forward.

A man at the meeting asked about strategies to deal with traffic jams occurring on the middle tier of the neighborhood, as well as cars running through stop signs.

With rideshare popularity in the area compounding normal rush-hour traffic, the CAPS team said congestion would have to be something to get used to. Not helping the problem, they said, is the fact that many rideshare drivers from outside the city are not used to driving downtown, but come because they make more money with downtown rides.

Another issue residents discussed was safety in Cancer Survivors’ Garden, a strip located to the east of Maggie Daley Park.

One resident, who said she had been followed in the gardens one morning walking her dog, asked about the patrol presence in neighborhood parks.

The CAPS team said there’s always one patrol car designated for all the parks in the district.

Residents were urged to continue to call so extra patrols could be directed. The CAPS team reminded everyone to call 911 if they witness something is happening on the spot, but to call 311 if reporting an incident that happened in the past.

The next New Eastside CAPS meeting will take place Feb. 6 at 130 N. Garland Court.

‘Roe’ examines if a law can change people’s hearts

by Stephanie Racine

Roe v. Wade remains one of the nation’s most controversial Supreme Court decisions. “Roe,” a play by Lisa Loomer showing at Goodman Theatre until Feb. 23, looks into the lives of those who were a part of the famous decision. 

Plaintiff Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe), and her legal representative Sarah Weddington, don’t see eye-to-eye in many aspects of the case and the events that follow. They both wrote and proclaimed conflicting information throughout the years. 

The complexity of the story mirrors the issues regarding Roe v. Wade. When McCorvey is approached by Weddington at age 22, she’s on her third child and too poor and troubled to face the responsibility. She’s happy to help in the fight for access to abortion for women.

Later, McCorvey becomes a born-again Christian, and regrets her part in Roe v. Wade. She actively protests against abortion and claims she was coerced into her role in the case. 

Weddington was 26 when she argued before the Supreme Court. She remains stalwart in her support of abortion access throughout her life. 

The show emphasizes the impassioned opinions from both sides, which culminates in one moment of debaters yelling over each other in a cacophony. The moment is brought to silence by a young girl, painfully lamenting at the complex steps a woman has to experience to inquire about abortion in current times.

“Roe” is sharp in its commentary and storytelling. Characters address the audience in sidebars with heartfelt asides and monologues, explaining their motivations, the consequences of actions and their true feelings. 

One moment in “Roe,” asks if a law can change people’s hearts. The response is that it can start to.

“Roe” is at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., until Feb. 23. Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased at GoodmanTheatre.org/Roe, by phone at (312) 443-3800 or at their onsite box office.

The crust is crucial: l’Aventino brings next-generation Roman pizza to Streeterville

by Doug Rapp

When Adam Weisell would return to Rome after growing up there with his United Nations-employed parents,  he often heard about a new style of pizza. 

People would tell the budding chef about pinsa (pro- nounced “peen-sa”). 

“I’d go eat it and think, ‘This is delicious,’” Weisell said. He was used to the wide, thin-crust Roman pizzas but pinsa had a different crust—a crispy exterior with an airy texture, moist and fragrant inside.

Weisell loves pinsa so much that after nearly two decades cooking for others, including Mario Batali, he’s opened his own restaurant, L’Aventino Forno Romano, 355 E. Ohio St., featuring this “modern play on a very traditional Roman pizza.”

“Chicago is such a pizza town and yet there’s a style that’s vastly underrepresented here,” said Weisell, who has cooked in mostly Italian restaurants in New York City, San Francisco and Chicago, including Eataly.

“Pinsa hasn’t come across the U.S. in a big way and I’m hoping to be part of that,” Weisell added, noting that oval flatbread pizzas are popular throughout Italy and Europe. 

Open since late November, l’Aventino has three levels that seat 48, a full-service bar and patio that will open for warmer weather.

“It’s a little funky,” Weisell said. “It reminds me a lot of a Roman restaurant.”   

The menu features several pinsas, with a variety of top- pings and vegetarian-friendly options. Weisell said the crust  is made of soy, wheat and rice  ours and takes 48 hours to ferment, which increases its  flavor and digestibility.

“The reception has been overwhelmingly positive,” Weisell said. “Once people are in the door and eat it, I think most people are hooked.”

Weisell said l’Aventino, named after one of the seven hills ancient Rome was built on, has gotten a lot of foot traffic from people coming in out of curiosity.

“One of the appeals of the location is that people are going to be constantly walking by on their way to the (Northwestern Memorial) hospital or their way home from work,” he said.

Weisell said he’s pleased with how his  first restaurant is going.

“At the end of the day, this is dough with sauce and cheese on it, so it is not that different,” he said. “It’s just a slightly different style.”  

Thinking of becoming a landlord?

New laws add complexity to going at it alone

by Urban Real Estate

This past November, the Cook County Board of Commissioners adopted a set of rules known as the Just Housing Amendment, which went into effect December 31, 2019. Essentially, the tenant screening process is two-steps: First, the assessment of the tenant’s ability to pay – then, their criminal background check. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the ordinance will open the door to people with criminal records who apply for housing.

The board voted to approve the new rule 12-4, which is an amendment to the county’s existing housing ordinance. “Now, apartment owners will not be able to consider criminal backgrounds of applicants until after they already have qualified through a credit check or other screening,” TheRealDeal.com reports. The new effort does not apply to sex offenders, who still can be rejected.

“Renting out a home requires a prospective landlord to abide by federal, state and local laws, often which they are not familiar with,” says Michael Emery, senior partner and broker with New Eastside real estate brokerage Urban Real Estate. “Fair housing laws serve as reminders and requirements that everyone be treated equally. The cost of not doing so can be catastrophic to the average homeowner trying to go at it alone and save a brokerage fee, rather than have a professional manage the process.”

Laws change regularly, as do penalties. Reminders of this come from such as the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (RLTO) which not only prescribes what the penalty for not paying a tenant interest annually on a security deposit held is (and how it legally should be secured) but also what the interest rate is, and when it should be paid out. 

“Being a landlord in the city of Chicago has its benefits, but the ultimate value comes in retaining the services of a real estate broker to manage a process that can be tedious, cumbersome, and ultimately have legal and financial ramifications if handled poorly,” adds Emery.

Contact Urban Real Estate today, at UrbanRealEstate.com or call us at (312) 528-9200 to help you prepare for an upcoming rental, or help evaluate your current leasing situation.

Local charities left short-handed after season of giving

by Jacqueline Covey

The Chicago Help Initiative gives free meals to guests who are in need. During the holidays, there is no shortage of volunteers, but post giving-season, this organization, like many non-profits in the area, becomes short-handed.

Executive Director of Chicago Help Initiative Doug Fraser sees an increase in volunteerism around Christmas each year, but he said that’s not when it’s needed. Between now and February, he’s calling on Christmas-time aides to  re-sign up with the organization. New volunteers are  always welcome, too. 

Every Wednesday, volunteers provide sit-down dinners to 130 guests and 70  take out meals as part of the Chicago Help Initiative free meals program. The idea is that providing a dignified experience fulfills a sense of place for participants. Before dinner, some guests take advantage of classes in  technology, creative writing and art facilitated by  Catholic Charities at their community center located at 721 N. LaSalle St.

“We are all a community, we all have each other,” said Sandra Dillion, a student in the knitting group. “We  share our ideas and our thoughts. If we get stuck, we are here to help each other out.”

The first dinner was in  2001 when Catholic Charities opened their space for  a weekly gathering with food donated from local restaurants. A speaker  mini-series was added,  then social and health services were brought in and  over the years relationships have been built between long time volunteers and guests.

“We have volunteers of all ages and backgrounds, some of whom have been  coming for years,” said Brigid Murphy of Catholic Charities. “There are lovely  relationships that have developed among volunteers  and supper guests.”

The organization has created a space built on  respect where social stigmas are broken down. For  a couple hours, guests can  enjoy the simple joy of having a warm meal in a warm  place with friends.

“What we’ve learned is  that if you treat a home- less person with respect…  we can get them off the  streets,” founder and president Jacqueline Hayes said.  “Efforts to help are good, but we fill them up with  such good feelings about themselves.”

As a Chicago real estate broker specializing in retail  leasing along the Magnificent Mile and Oak Street,  Hayes sought ways to  help the homeless population that congregated at  storefronts.

Now, 20 years after the  group began, the organization is still growing largely  as a result of a robust volunteer community.

For more information or to volunteer, contact the Chicago Help Initiative, 440 N Wells St., Suite 440, Chicago, (312) 448-0045  or visit chicagohelpinitiative.org  

Crash victim on mission for safer Michigan Avenue

by Mat Cohen

On Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 10 a.m., Phyllis Mitzen walked with a cane along E. Delaware Place and across Michigan Avenue along with her husband, Michael. 

She’s on a mission to make cross- walks safer. 

Six months ago at this crossing, Mitzen was knocked to the ground by a van which rolled on her leg. She spent 15 hours in surgery, 10 days in the hospital and three months in rehabilitation.

On Dec. 16 she walked with a cane to the corner of Michigan and Delaware, meeting with 20 people and Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT)  official Samadi Malihe, to initiate a discussion about making the area safer. 

One of the women supporting the conversation was Janice Lewis. Her son was involved in an accident 10 years ago in Montgomery, Mich. When Lewis went to the hospital she didn’t recognize him.  He died Jan. 4, 2010.

“It changes lives,” she said. “So anything we can do, let’s do it.”

Since 2012 there has been an average of approximately 75 pedestrian deaths each year in Chicago, according to CDOT. The crossings along the Magnificent Mile between Oak Street and Chicago Avenue make the strip the third highest area for fatalities.

One of the main changes Mitzen is asking for is extended traffic lights to give slower walkers a chance to cross.

The group highlighted that slower people, mainly young kids and the elderly, have to start walking as soon as the light changes to have enough time to cross. But with busier intersections, cars try to get through the lights as late as they can, delaying pedestrians from crossing.

Mitzen serves as the president of Skyline Village Chicago and is a member of the Mayor’s Commission for Age Friendly Chicago. She’s also planning, along with State Representatives, a town hall meeting  in February at Ogden Elementary School to focus on pedestrian safety.

“I think they certainly heard what we  had to say,” she said. “And having (Alderman Brian Hopkins) come certainly  helped. We’re following up with a town hall meeting at the Ogden School and two state Reps. will come. We’ll ask for updates there.” 

She will also be asking for updates on the plan for Vision Zero, a strategy to eliminate traffic fatalities.

“It’s a worldwide initiative for an age friendly city,” Mitzen said. “Chicago is signed on and it’s not clear where they are with the plan.”

For more information on Vision Zero, visit chicago.gov  

Mean Girls musical teaches important life lessons

By Elisa Shoenberger

While many people will be snapping their fingers to the music while leaving Mean Girls, they will also be taking away some life lessons.

“It’s very clear that (though) it is a comedy that there are dire repercussions to being mean—to being a bad person,”  said Danielle Wade, principal actor playing the lead role of Cady Heron. 

Wade appreciates that Cady Heron “starts out one way and goes through all these emotions that we have felt and dealt with in high school or post high school. She faces repercussions for actions too and I think that’s really important.”

The Mean Girls musical is based on the 2004 movie by Tina Fey. It’s the story of  Cady Heron who grew up in Africa and finds herself in the world of high school cliques in the suburbs. She becomes part of the Plastics, a popular trio of girls led by Regina George, and faces some tough challenges arising from her decisions.

The musical has something to offer for everybody.

“There is a character within the show that everyone can relate to—or parts of each character that everyone can relate to,” Wade said. She’s met many people at the stage door that have told her that they saw themselves in various characters.

When Wade was on Broadway, a woman told her she realized that she was Regina in high school and needed to go make an apology phone call to her high school friend.

“On the inside, I was like ‘Regina is very scary, that’s scary to me.’ That was  cool that she recognized that and felt she needed to say something,” Wade said.

 Mean Girls helps people better under- stand issues of cliques and bullying. 

“I think it’s given people language to talk about this problem. When 12 to 13 year old girls refer to ‘Mean Girls,’ we know what they are talking about,” child  therapist and president of Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute Erika Schmidt said. 

Wade hopes that people will take something away from the show.

“The show is goofy and it’s rooted in humor, but it’s really truthful. As much as we joke and are dressed head to toe in pink outfits, it’s an important message for people to hear,” she said.

Mean Girls runs through Jan. 26 at the James M. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph, and will tour across the U.S. throughout 2020.  

Chicagoan ready for round two of roaring 20s

by Mat Cohen

The 1920s was a decade unfamiliar to most. But Wanda Bridgeforth remembers it well.

Bridgeforth saw the Great Depression, World War II and lived in Chicago when the tallest building was eight stories high.

As the year 2020 begins, she’s ready to welcome the changes that a second shot at the ‘20s will bring. 

Bridgeforth, 98, takes a writing class at the Chicago Cultural Center but has more stories to tell that aren’t on paper. 

“My life has been different than average,” she said. “But I’m still a kid at heart.” 

Bridgeforth grew up in Bronzeville and has lived in Princeton Park, the Loop and now Hyde Park for the past 16 years. 

As a kid in the 1920s, Wanda’s family visited downtown Chicago once a year to see the Christmas decorations.

“We got dressed up to come downtown with gloves and hats,” she said. “Once a year we came down to Marshall Field’s to see the tree. Then we went up to the eighth floor to look down on it.”  She said although the Christmas setup is still the same, most things have changed drastically.

“Downtown is so different than what it was,” she said. “ The department stores, the theaters, all the high-rises. Sometimes I just have to suck in my breath and go with the flow. Everything is moving so fast these days with all of this technology. It’s just amazing to me.” 

As a kid, she saw neighbors stick together through thick and thin.

“The Depression came when I was about six or seven,” she said. “That’s when everybody’s life turned upside down. We had a closeness and a strong community spirit that we don’t have now.”

This tightness helped during World War II when her husband was stationed overseas.

“When he went overseas it was 56 days from Chicago to India,” she said. “I didn’t know he was in India, I just knew he was away from home.”

Beth Finke, who leads the writing class, has grown close to Bridgeforth.

“(Wanda) is profoundly deaf and I am totally blind,” she said. “Maybe we connect because both of us acknowledge  our disabilities without letting it de ne us. We both are resourceful and have to figure out ways to do certain things  that others do with their ears and eyes.”

Bridgeforth said there was another reason she was drawn to Finke.

“We clicked immediately,” she said. “Primarily through (Finke’s guide) dog because I love animals.”  

1 2 3 4 14