Streeterville police focus on noise in Sept. CAPS meeting

Sgt. Anthony Dombrowski addressed a CAPS meeting in September. Photo by Elizabeth Czapski

Sgt. Anthony Dombrowski discussed theft, ridesharing and street performers with residents at the September Community Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meeting in the 001st District.

 

According to Dombrowski, pickpockets are very effective, and theft made up more than half of the district’s crime from Aug. 10 to Sept. 13.

 

Dombrowski said pickpockets tend to go to crowded locations such as a restaurants where people aren’t focused on their personal safety.

 

Theft, he said, is better than robbery, where violence can occur.

 

Thieves also target people whose valuable items are visible.

 

“You should try to be as circumspect as possible with your personal possessions,” Dombrowski said. “I would say 50 percent of our robberies are because people are exposing their cell phone.”

 

A resident asked about fake Uber and Lyft drivers in the city.

 

Dombrowski said fake Ubers and Lyfts are most often out during the late night and early morning, looking for intoxicated people to victimize. During the day, real Uber and Lyft drivers are victimized when drivers open their car doors and people come into the car and steal items, he added.

 

Passengers should look at the car’s stickers and verify the driver’s identity before getting into the car, Dombrowski said.

 

Dombrowski said he doesn’t think fake Uber and Lyft drivers are a big safety concern as long as the passenger is taking common sense precautions.

 

A resident raised concerns about the bucket beaters downtown. The resident said they bought a decibel meter and measured 100 decibels near the bucket beaters, which they said could harm hearing.

 

Dombrowski said dealing with this issue is challenging. “The municipal code is very clumsy and very difficult to enforce,” he said. The noise is irritating to many who live and work in the area, but at the same time, the bucket beaters receive a lot of monetary support from people downtown, he said.

 

Dombrowski said people who are not affected by loud street performances think it’s “charming.” He said the solution is unclear, but being able to quantify the level of noise is “wonderful” and suggested the resident contact the Environmental Protection Agency.

 

“These different lifestyles, these different activities are clashing with people that wanna live a normal life in downtown Chicago. Where’s the balance in that? I don’t know,” he said.

Streeterville officers vow to crack down on drug sales, seek help from residents

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

 

On Thursday, CAPS police officials told Streeterville residents they were cracking down on drug dealers and buyers in the area.

 

Officer Thomas Baker said officers are trying to make cases against drug distribution networks as opposed to people merely carrying illicit substances. However, he said, police need assistance from residents.

 

“Our biggest thing is, we obviously need help from the community, especially when you guys see everything,” Baker said.

 

The police action comes amid community concerns that drug activity is getting worse. One resident said open sales along Chicago Avenue are becoming problematic. Baker suggested forming block clubs and said police could help.

 

“We can train you, if need be, if you have a community room available,” he said. Baker explained block clubs could create email and phone trees to channel information to police regarding problematic areas. The result, Baker said, would be safer communities.

 

“We will train you to harden the target, to make it more secure for yourself and others to walk through and be safe day and night,” he said. Hardening a target means making an area safer.

 

A private security officer in the audience said drug dealers are selling to students, starting fights and criminally trespassing on the property of the Chicago Avenue McDonald’s where he works. He said despite arrests, drug sellers return after light sentencing with little consequence.

 

Baker said police would soon hold meetings with the city attorney to find ways to more effectively stop drug sellers from loitering near a methadone clinic in the area.

 

Sergeant Christopher Schenk said residents safely taking pictures of drug deals and illicit activity could help arresting officers.

 

“I don’t want you to put yourself in harm’s way,” Shenk said. “I have to say that. But if they have photos or anything they can take, or information that could help us out, that would be great.”

 

He said there have been photos that have helped investigations.

 

An audience member asked if students buying the drugs were being arrested. Without buyers, she pointed out, drug dealers would not be on the street.

 

Schenk said officers would arrest anyone who violated the law.

 

“Whoever breaks the law, and if there is a victim who can sign complaints or if there is an ordinance we can sign, we are more than happy to (make an arrest). Justice is blind,” Schenk said. “I don’t care if you are Caucasian, African American, Asian — justice is blind.”

 

The officers added that anyone who has crime tips or would like more information can contact law enforcement for non-emergency situations at 312-742-5778 or CAPS.018district@chicagopolice.org.

 

The next CAPS meeting is set for 6 p.m. on Oct. 4 at 115 W. Chicago Ave.

 

Sgt. Christopher Schenk addresses the Streeterville CAPS meeting Sept. 6.

New Eastside News launches Streeterville paper, Streeterville News

Staff report

Published September 5, 2018

The New Eastside News, a free monthly Chicago neighborhood paper, is launching a Streeterville paper this month.

Since 2012, the New Eastside News has been providing hyperlocal news to New Eastside and the Lakeshore East neighborhood. Publisher Elaine Hyde, a former resident of New Eastside, said she plans to continue that tradition with a Streeterville print newspaper and website.

“We provide news so relevant and useful to the local reader they just have to read our paper to know what’s going on around them,” Hyde said. “It’s not the sensationalist click bait we see so often now.”

The Streeterville News will be an upbeat source of information for newcomers, introducing them to area bars, restaurants and entertainment. Local news coverage will also provide value to longtime residents.

The newspaper will include popular features such as Doorperson of the Month, CAPS reporting, business profiles, reader contests and neighborhood news. The free publication will be distributed in residential mailrooms, grocery stores, retail establishments and hotels.

“It’s time Streeterville got a dedicated local news source.” 

For information about New Eastside News and Streeterville News, contact Elaine Hyde at 312-690-3092 or elaineh@neweastsidecommunity.com

Reilly seeks feedback on Aon project

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) is looking for feedback on the redevelopment of the highest floor of the Aon Center into an observatory and restaurant.

The project will turn the highest floor of the Aon Center—in the heart of New Eastside at 200 E. Randolph St.—into an attraction projected to draw more than two million visitors annually.

The proposed space will be accessible by a glass-enclosed external elevator on the Northwest corner.

Reilly co-hosted a community meeting with the Chicago Loop Alliance earlier this year at The Mid-America Club to discuss plans with residents. More than 100 community members attended.

“Neighbors raised concerns related to increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic, privacy and safety,” Reilly said in an emailed statement.

Reilly unveils revised designs for Lakeshore East

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Published August 30, 2018

More green space and three towers are planned for sites IJKL in Lakeshore East.

A year after the initial proposal was unveiled for Lakeshore East development, Alderman Brendan Reilly and developers met Wednesday with the New Eastside Association of Residents for an informal discussion of revisions and updates on the project.

A rendering of planned green space with meandering path on the IJKL lots in Lakeshore East. Rendering courtesy of bKL.

The project will develop land parcels I, J, K and L, located from 197 to 302 North Harbor Drive and from 452 to 500 East Waterside Drive. Representatives of the Lendlease Development Inc. development team and the Lakeshore East LLC development team were present Wednesday evening.

The big takeaway Wednesday was residents can expect to see a larger park area developed and one less tower. Initially the master plan called for four towers, and hotel space. Now the hotel is scrapped in favor of condominium space.

Tom Weeks, a representative for the development team, said he believes the new plan is an improvement.

“I think we have a better plan tonight,” he said. “Had you asked me that a year ago, I would have been skeptical of that. Hopefully you agree, and if not, you can talk to me tonight.”

The plan includes 127 percent more green space and the elimination of a grand staircase, replaced with a meandering path. Developers said the plan is currently about half green space and that should improve pedestrian and bike traffic through the area. The green space will be developed and maintained by private developers but it will be a public park, similar to Lake Shore East Park.

“We wanted it to be universal access. We wanted it to be universal to all,” said Tom Kerwin, an architect from bKL.

For the most part, residents’ concerns and complaints on Wednesday were focused on traffic and safety, both of which Alderman Reilly said the development group would continue to address.

Upon news of the larger green space, several residents complained of drug use and homelessness in nearby parks. Reilly suggested residents call 911 and be willing to make an official complaint if they see illegal activity in parks. The proposed green space will have a camera system and a funnel to direct pedestrians through surveillance areas, he said.

“You’ll be able to get eyes east and west,” Reilly said. “We will know who’s going through the neighborhood.”

Last summer Reilly introduced construction plans to the NEAR group and since then, his office has been receiving feedback.

Reilly has not signed off on the project and Wednesday’s meeting was intended to show how resident feedback has been incorporated into the designs.

“Negotiation have been many, many, many hours long,” Reilly told the audience at the start of the meeting. Those negotiations, Reilly said, stemmed from community concerns.

 

A rendering of the IJKL development in Lakeshore East. Rendering courtesy of bKL.

“I don’t know if you’ve read, but there’s a story about the municipal race and it’s suggested there’s a habit that I drive developers crazy,” Reilly said. “And while I cringed a little bit, I realized it’s part of doing my job.”

Reilly told the audience he must also work for business interests.

“If we have to say no, I’ve failed in my job because I’ve failed to find the middle ground and move the project forward,” he said.

One objection he would not entertain was that of residents who complained the new development would block views.

“I can’t protect your view,” Reilly told a woman. “That’s not the role of an alderman and that’s not how development works in a big city. If you want me to protect your view, I’m not your guy.”

Another concern involved pedway development. Several residents on Wednesday asked about forcing developers to build an underground pedestrian walkway but Reilly said that wasn’t going to happen.

“I don’t have the jurisdiction to assign a $10 million dollar obligation for a pedway system,” he said.

Following the meeting, Reilly said he thought the discussion went well and while he does not expect to have any more public meetings on the development, his office is still taking resident concerns.

Reilly can be contacted through his website, www.ward42chicago.com.

 

Grant Park Advisory Council gets new leadership

By Jesse Wright

Published August 2, 2018

Those hoping to find out why former Grant Park Advisory Council (GPAC) President Bob O’Neill was suspended from the board earlier this year didn’t find out at the recent GPAC meeting, hosted by the Chicago Park District July 10.

 

A lawyer for the Chicago Park District refused to talk about O’Neill, who was not in attendance, except to say he is threatening a lawsuit. “The party is represented by counsel and they are considering litigation,” said Park District attorney Dorothy Carroll.

 

GPAC is a public body, consisting of a group of elected officials overseeing the park. The group helps determine infrastructure initiatives and programing in Grant Park. O’Neill told New Eastside News he began serving as president of GPAC around 1998, but Carroll made it clear at the meeting that as far as the Park District is concerned, he is history.

 

Carroll said GPAC would survive without O’Neill. The Chicago Park District plans to hold public elections to elect a new president and council later this fall. “Bob [O’Neill] isn’t the council. The president is not the council,” she said.

 

When reached by phone, O’Neill said he isn’t going anywhere just yet and claims the park council is violating the GPAC bylaws by seizing de facto power. He and other GPAC members had already held a meeting July 9 at a South Loop condo, attended by about 30 people. They plan to convene another meeting in early August and to eventually hold their own election.

 

“I am still the president,” O’Neill insisted in an interview. “They came and said I was removed from GPAC. Well, that violates our bylaws and our guidelines.” O’Neill said the ostensible reasons for his ouster—a lack of insurance for a roller hockey program—were made up. He said he had insurance and offered proof several times to the park district, and alleges they ignored it. O’Neill blames a small group of people who strongly opposed his work as the culprits who caused his suspension, though he did not name them.

 

O’Neill’s GPAC had at least one defender from another park advisory council. At

the July 10 meeting in the Maggie Daley Fieldhouse, Bob Ziegler, a board member

of the Lincoln Park Advisory Council, also said he believes the Park District ignored

GPAC bylaws. Carroll repeated that the park district had the law on its side. This didn’t satisfy Ziegler, who at one point walked in front of the Park District’s table and tried to address the whole room. “You can’t pick and choose which bylaws you want to follow. You need to follow the process,” he told the room.

 

Two aldermen who represent the area, Ald. Sophia King (4th) and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), were present at the meeting and spoke on other topics. Toward the end of the meeting, the Park District authorities announced an election to be held in a few months time. The next meeting is set for September, though an exact date has yet to be determined. It’s not clear who will run for the new GPAC committee.

The local group Keep Grant Green, which is assisting with the election of new officials, accuses O’Neill on its website of ruining the park for locals by allowing the park to host too many big, commercial events which prevent locals from using the park in the way they would like.

One such event is Lollapalooza. O’Neill said he is instrumental in negotiating and supervising reforestation efforts by the organizers of the City’s  revenue-generating music festival, raising questions of whether his suspension would affect the post-festival cleanup.

 

Chicago Park District spokesperson Jessica Maxey-Faulkner downplayed any relationship between C3, the Lollapalooza promoter and GPAC. “As a good steward of the parks, I believe that C3 has partnered with GPAC on initiatives in the past, but the Advisory Council standing does not impact the permit or operations in any way,” she wrote in an email.

 

That show will go on, and Grant Park will be cleaned up and restored, GPAC or no GPAC. Anyone who has been to at least two GPAC meetings this year may run for office and vote for a new president and council. Assuming those same constituents show up at the next meeting, they may well be able to vote in a new council and president who align more with the views of Keep Grant Green, the Park District and the aldermen.

Lakeshore East’s Vista Tower continues to rise, reaches midway-milestone

By Julie Whitehair | Community Contributor

Published July 4, 2018

Development of Chicago’s burgeoning Vista Tower is speeding along—the sky-scraper reached its halfway mark in June with the construction of its 50th floor.

The jewel in Magellan Development Group’s portfolio, is set to stand nearly 1,200 feet tall with 101 levels on East Wacker Dr. in Lakeshore East. This height would push it past New Eastside’s Aon Center as Chicago’s third-tallest skyscraper, behind the Willis Tower, 233 S. Wacker Dr., and Trump International Hotel and Tower, 401 N. Wabash Ave.

Chicago architect Jeanne Gang envisioned a unique, geometric shape for Vista Tower involving three separate towers or “tubes” of stacked frustums set side-by-side in varying heights. Curbed Chicago reported the first of the three tubes has been topped off already, and that a blue-green glass exterior will be added to the project ahead of its opening in 2020.

As construction continues on the building, its developers have set up webcams for architecture enthusiasts and anyone curious to watch the latest construction of the Vista Tower. The webcam can be found on the Vista website, vistatowerchicago.com/webcam.

Construction on the reported $1 billion building began in September 2016. Once opened, Vista will be a mixed-use tower featuring a hotel and high-rise residences. About 44 percent of the 396 Vista condos—a lower figure than originally announced because some buyers combined multiple units—have already been sold, the Chicago Tribune reported.

To combat swaying from winds, the Chicago Tribune reported the tower will have water-filled tanks atop the structure to slosh and counterbalance the winds as well as an empty “blow through floor” for the wind near the top.

Proposed Aon Center Observatory will put tourists over the edge

By Stephanie Racine | Staff Writer

Aon Center will soon be able to flaunt its jaw-dropping views with an observatory, glass elevator and “pod ride” that is coming to its 82nd and 83rd floors.

On May 14, The Chicago Loop Alliance and Alderman Brendan Reilly met with community members at The Mid-America Club to discuss plans for an observatory to cap the Aon Center tower located at 200 E.Randolph St.

Representatives from developers 601W Companies, architectural firms SCB and The Hettema Group, and engineering consultants Kimley-Horn and Associates presented designs for the observatory, highlighting the effect the family-friendly attraction will have on Chicago’s tourism industry.

“[The observatory] would also have a very positive impact on the area,” said Mark Karasick, managing director of 601W Companies. “We commissioned a study which found that more than $900 million in direct economic impact will be generated over the next 20 years due to this venture.”

Slides shown at the meeting detailed how the new observatory will transform Aon Center into a world-class destination and help maintain the building’s financial health and iconic real estate status.

To get to the top, visitors will take the external glass elevator—which will be the tallest in the U.S.—traveling at 1,200 feet per minute. The elevator will be accessed via a separate entrance pavilion on the east side of the building that takes visitors down escalators to a walkway at lower level three near Lower Randolph Street, according to SCB design principal Martin F. Wolf. Once at the base of the elevator and on the way up, “views will be quite spectacular,” Wolf said.

Visitors will experience floor-to-ceiling views with interactive multimedia attractions, along with other activities, snacks and drinks, according to Phil Hettema, president of The Hettema Group. They can also check out the Sky Summit pod ride which will lift visitors seated in a see-through capsule over the south edge of the building.

“You will get an absolutely unforgettable view of Millenium Park,” Hettema said. “We just want to give you an experience that’s unlike anything anybodyhas ever seen.”

Many of the residents at the meeting voiced concerns about the tourist attraction’s impact on traffic in New Eastside.

Peter Lemmon from Kimley-Horn and Associates shared the results of a traffic study and proposed widening sidewalks by the pavilion entrance along Columbus Street by 15 feet to accommodate the increase in foot traffic, re-striping crosswalks and establishing a dedicated bus zone. Both Reilly and Lemmon assured residents that options to improve traffic in the area, both related and unrelated to the Aon Observatory, are being considered.

More information about the Aon Center Observatory can be found at aoncenterobservatory.com

Published June 3, 2018

Balbo Drive renaming proposed

By Taylor Hartz Staff Writer

The decades-old debate to rename Balbo Drive gained attention at a Chicago City Council meeting last month, when two aldermen proposed an ordinance to rename the street after Ida B. Wells.

On May 23rd, New Eastside Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Ald. Sophia King (4th) held a joint press conference alongside other elected officials, community leaders and groups to announce the change of name for the Loop street. Other elected officials, community leaders and groups joined in the announcement.

Rather than honoring Italian aviator Italo Balbo, the aldermen introduced the idea of recognizing Wells, an African-American investigative journalist who brought attention to the lynching of African-Americans in the 1890s.

Wells joined other African-American leaders in calling for the boycott of the World’s Columbian Exposition 1893. She died in Chicago in 1931.

“Balbo is to be named after an individual whose advocacy and life’s work will continue to have an historical impact that is timeless,” said a joint statement from the aldermen on May 23.

If the ordinance is approved, this will be the first time a street in Chicago has been permanently renamed since South Parkway was changed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in 1968, according to the aldermen’s statement.

The street, which runs from Lake Shore Drive to State Street between Harrison Street and 8th Street, will also be the first in the Loop to be named after an African-American woman.

Published June 4

Chicago police using ‘Nextdoor’ for community outreach

By Stephanie Racine

 In an effort to improve communication with the public, Chicago police are now sending updates and posting messages through the online forum, Nextdoor.com.

On April 5, Sergeant Anthony Dombrowski, the community policing sergeant with the first district, announced on Nextdoor that he would be using the resource as a community outreach platform “to build community, improve quality of life and work together to make your neighborhood safer and stronger.”

Nextdoor is an online forum and social networking application made up of neighbors and community members who are vetted by submitting their addresses and phone numbers to the Nextdoor website—if you don’t have a valid New Eastside address, you won’t be able to join. Since posts can be limited to a certain neighborhood or district, New Eastside has its own message board where only members of our community can post or see messages.

Messages from first district officers will only be visible to Nextdoor users who sign up to receive them. Dombrowski also assured users in his post that interactions between members would not be monitored by police—only the comments on CPD’s posts will be visible to them.

Dombrowski used the platform again on May 1, to announce a reduction in crime in

the area. “During the month of April 2018 the 001st District had 40 percent fewer robberies and 20 percent fewer burglaries than compared to April 2017,” Drombrowski

wrote.

In his initial post, Dombroski emphasized that Nextdoor is not to be used in an emergency, and residents should still turn to 911 in a crisis. Non-emergency tips should be directed to the anonymous website CPDtip.com, or by texting 274637 (CRIMES). CPD will be monitoring Nextdoor infrequently and any other issues or questions should be directed to the CAPS office CAPS.001District@chicagopolice.org. Inquiries made by New Eastside News via Nextdoor were not returned.

Published May 9, 2018

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