Illinois couples now option for collaborative divorse

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

(Published on March 15, 2019)

Divorce may not be easy, but in Illinois, the process can be less burdensome when couples use a process known as collaborative divorce.

Collaborative divorce is different from litigation and mediation. Through the process, a team of professionals trained in collaborative law, including attorneys and divorce coaches, come to an agreement outside of court. A judge ultimately signs off on the agreement, but the focus is not the amount each party can get.

“It is an interest-based process and focuses on the goals of each individual,” collaborative attorney and mediator Rita Ghose said. The goal is not necessarily what the parties are entitled to legally, but is about what is most important to each side.

“Each party signs an agreement that is binding to commit themselves to the collaborative process and not bring it to court,” Ghose said. If one of the parties decides to break the agreement and litigate, new attorneys must be hired. The entire process is private and not a part of public record.

“We have been working on collaborative law in Illinois for about seven or eight years,” attorney Carlton Marcyon said. The process has been law for just over a year and advocates say it’s working out well.  

“Collaborative law is beneficial to litigants, it’s faster, less costly, and there’s less consternation between parties,” Marcyon said.

The collaborative law process can often lead to better communication between spouses and can be better for any co-parenting endeavors, according to Marcyon.

“The collaborative process is the most supportive way to go through a divorce,” divorce advisor Karen Covy said. “Everyone is on the same page to serve your goals, not the attorney’s goals.”

To learn more about collaborative law, visit collablawil.org

Sweetwater Tavern and Grill reopens after repairs

(Published March 14)

By Jesse Wright

After being closed for months for repairs, Sweetwater Tavern and Grill reopened its doors on March 8.

The popular New Eastside bar and grill, at 225 N. Michigan Ave., was packed by 5 p.m. that day and longtime fans said they were happy to have their favorite spot back.

“I had come here about a dozen times before it reopened,” customer Ken Goncharoff said.

In the two months since the restaurant closed, construction crews added stainless steel accents, more seating options, including more bar seats, and an updated ceiling.

But Goncharoff said he didn’t notice most of it because his favorite parts of the bar are unchanged.

“To be honest, it looks the same,” he said. “The bar looks different and the ceiling looks different, but I love the atmosphere here. That’s why I come here, and that hasn’t changed. I liked it before and I like it now.”

Sweetwater is gearing up for a massive St. Patrick’s Day patio party March 16.

The bar and grill will open at 9 a.m. and will offer green beer, bagpipes and Irish food, including corned beef Reuben, shepherd’s pie and corned beef poutine.

For more information, visit sweetwatertavernandgrille.com.

The Joffrey Ballet’s Winning Works Showcases Diversity

March 11

By Stephanie Racine

The Joffrey Ballet presented its ninth annual Winning Works showcase over weekend, March 9 and 10 at the Edlis Neeson Theater, located inside the Museum of Contemporary Art. Winning Works featured four choreographic competition winning ballets—all by ALAANA (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, and Native American) artists. 

Líneas, choreographed by Edgar Zendejas, is an intricate and stunningly complex piece. Groups of dancers clothed in simple white costumes, weave in and out with one another, as individuals and smaller groups momentarily break from the crowd. The modern presentation is juxtaposed with a classical composition, filled with strings and piano. Tommie-Waheed Evans’s Coup de Grâce is futuristically dynamic and frantically beautiful. Flashing lights, frenzied pas de deux, and drums bring a sense of doom. The ominous atmosphere is ultimately overcome by the dancers uniting together.

Vessels Bearing focuses on rice and the rice bowl being an essential part of Asian culture. Xiang Xu’s ballet uses rice bowls to enhance the production. Dancers bow to the bowls in a circle around a soloist in an unassuming nude leotard. The bowls are slid around the stage, adding to the musical arrangement. Bowls adorn the stage, as the dancers leap around them. To conclude, the soloist moves in a hypnotically robotic way as she exists. Give the People What They Want, by Marissa Osato,  explores humanity’s societal expectations, and how it can be a struggle to conform. Patterned-clad dancers perform together in unison with big smiles on their faces. A soloist struggles against what is expected of her, turning her costume inside-out while she violently moves across the stage. The others attempt to help her to no avail, but ultimately turn their clothing inside out as well. 

To learn more about The Joffrey and Winning Works, visit Joffrey.org/winningworks.

SHE SAID YES!: The Maggie Daley marriage proposal heard ‘round the world

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Bob Lempa wanted to do something big for Peggy Baker, his longtime girlfriend.

They’d been dating for years and he knew she was special and he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. It was just a matter of finding the right time and place to ask her to marry him.

So, one snowy morning, armed with twine, some stakes and a snow shovel, he went to work in Maggie Daley Park, first marking out the letters and then shoveling.

Six hours later, the words “marry me” were written across the snowy canvass of Maggie Daley Park.

“I had no idea whether security would kick me out when I started doing this,” Baker said. “But they were supportive. I wasn’t writing something negative, it wasn’t something political and it wasn’t a commercial.”

It was painstaking, Baker said.

But it worked.

After he wrapped up, Lempa called Baker. It was a day after Valentine’s Day and he had told her she’d be getting a card.

“At four he called and said, ‘Did you get my card yet?’ and I said, ‘no’ and then he said ‘look out your window,’” said Baker. “I knew it was for me and I saw the message and my co-workers overheard and they started congratulating me and giving me hugs. They clapped and cheered. I met Bob at the park and the park district people were there and I got to say yes officially when I went down there.”

Lempa caught more than Baker’s attention though. Since the public proposal caught the attention of downtown, Lempa said he’s seen his name pop up in stories around the world.

“I wasn’t doing it for the publicity, although I thought I might get some,” Lempa said. “But it is all across the States and it hit Mexico, Spain and New Delhi.”

Baker said she’s thrilled to be part of a good news story.

Prior to the engagement, Baker had been thinking about a fun vacation as a way to shake up her winter.

“I was thinking a week ago, I need to plan a vacation or something exciting,” she said. “Who knew how the week would go? So many people are reaching out and this got so much attention. It is amazing. I was on TV this week! So many people are talking about it.”

Lempa said he certainly doesn’t mind.

“I was looking to hit a homerun and I hit a grand slam,” he said.

The couple hasn’t set a date for the wedding yet, but Lempa said they’re thinking about sometime over the summer.

A look behind the dye

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Dyeing the Chicago River green is a downtown tradition that spans decades.

Plumbers with the Plumbers Local 130 union began using dye for spotting water leaks and river pollution in 1962, after Mayor Richard M. Daley sought attractions to draw crowds downtown and to the river—which at the time wasn’t developed.

Pat McCarthy, a recording secretary with the Plumbers Local 130 union and the boat coordinator, said volunteers still prepare the dye and sift it by hand into the water.

“We use about 50 pounds of dye,” he said. “It’s a powder and it starts off [as] an orange color. We sprinkle that into a quarter mile stretch of the river.”

The group dyes the same stretch of the river every year—the section separating Streeterville and the New Eastside starting at either Wabash or State Street and following Wacker to the lake. The exact portions of the river that will be dyed are announced closer to the day of.

The dye—whose exact formula remains a mystery—is harmless to fish and other living organisms in the river, and McCarthy said it only lasts a day or a day and a half.

It’s a messy job that leaves volunteers covered in color.

“There’s a lot of cleanup on the boats afterward,” he said.

McCarthy works to coordinate the St. Patrick’s Day parade in addition to his river duties. It’s a busy, dirty and long day for him, but he doesn’t mind.

McCarthy said he’s proud to be involved in the events because he’s a first-generation American. His parents emigrated from Ireland, so being involved with an Irish holiday in the city that adopted his family is a special experience for him.

Buildings go green to show St. Patrick’s Day pride


By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Green river. Green beer. Green buildings. Is Chicago the greenest city in the world?

For the seventh year in a row, the nonprofit group ShamROCK Chicago says yes. ShamROCK Chicago is the nonprofit that works with downtown buildings to go green—to light up at night in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

Blair Ciecko, director of branding and communications for the group, said the project is a fun way to promote Irish culture.

The tradition of greening landmarks comes from Tourism Ireland, a nonprofit that works to spread Irish pride around the globe, and dates back 10 years. Chicago’s joins cities worldwide, including London and Sydney who also participate in the greening initiative

Ciecko said the Chicago project is also a bit of competition with Boston—a city famous for its Irish roots.

This year’s greening kicks off March 11 with an event at a Chicago Blackhawks game.

“Prior to the game, in the atrium, were going to flip a big switch to turn the building green,” Ciecko said.

She said building owners are receptive to the celebration and the greening has grown since it started. This year, Ciecko said residents can expect nearly a dozen buildings to go green, including Willis Tower, Soldier Field, the Broadway in Chicago playhouses. Last year Navy Pier joined in and the iconic Ferris wheel lit its spokes in green light.

Ciecko added she hopes the lights get people in the spirit of the season, because even without Irish heritage, there’s a reason to celebrate.

“There’s no political aspect or donation aspect,” she said. “It’s a good way to let everyone know it’s St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago.”

“Take some selfies and post them on our Facebook page,” she said. “Or Tweet them at us.”

The greening will run from March 11 to 17.
To find out more about the group, visit shamrockchicago2019.com.

Area businesses lend a hand to help Girls Scouts sell cookies

By Angela Gagnon, Staff Writer

Girl Scouts are busy selling their famous cookies all over downtown Chicago while partnering with local businesses that provide warm spaces where scouts can sell extra boxes through the end of March.

Troop 20461, from South Loop Elementary, recently sold cookies at Pinstripes in Streeterville on a blustery Saturday morning. Troop co-leader Angelica Prado helped set up, and fourth grade troop members Mia Prado and Katie Boone sold to Pinstripes customers.

“My favorite part of selling Girl Scout cookies is asking people to buy our cookies,” Mia said. “Even if they say no, they know who we are and they can tell more people about the cookies.”

“I like selling Girl Scout cookies because it teaches me to set a goal and try to complete that goal,” Katie added.

“The girls decide on a cookie goal and work to reach that goal,” Katie’s mom and troop co-leader Aimee Boone, said. Troop 20461 set their goal for each girl to sell 100 boxes of cookies.

At the end of cookie season, the troop can decide what to do with their share of the profits, which is about 90 cents per box.

A portion goes to a charitable donation of the troop’s choice. Troop 20461 will be donating to Mercy Home for Boys and Girls this year. They also vote on something fun to do as a troop, as a reward for all the hard work they do during cookie sales.

Girl Scouts will set up booths at select locations until the end of March. Troop 20461 will be back at Pinstripes, 435 E Illinois St., March 24 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

On March 2, they will be selling cookies at Sod Room, 1454 S Michigan Ave., from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

“Inviting them to sell at Sod Room helps shift the ownership back to the child,” Sod Room owner Cynthia Valenciana said. “That’s hard in today’s climate, and there’s so much power in that.”

For a list of cookie booth locations, dates and times, visit the Girl Scouts’ website, girlscouts.org, and use the “cookie finder” to locate nearby booths.

Tough and hearty, the tradition of tulips along Michigan Ave. celebrate city’s spirit, history

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

All along Michigan Avenue, flower boxes sit, topped with a layer of pine boughs and inches of snow, ice and street salt.

They are as gray as winter skies.

But, buried within the boxes are bulbs—thousands of tulips and hyacinth bulbs—ready to erupt into a riot of color just as soon as the mercury allows.

The seasonal routine began in the early 1990s, an initiative of Mayor Richard M. Daley and business leaders on Michigan Avenue as a way to spruce up the busy thoroughfare. In the decades since, the flowers have become nothing short of a national phenomenon.

In 2016, the American Society of Landscape Architects awarded the city and the Michigan Avenue Streetscape Association its Landmark Award for 20 years of Magnificent Mile blooms.

Chicago Department of Transportation spokesperson Mike Claffey said the flowers have found fans in cities far and wide. CDOT is now in charge of the planting program.

“Many cities have reached out to CDOT for background on how to launch a similar planting program—including New York City and San Francisco,” Claffey said in an email. “When Gavin Newsom (now governor of California) was mayor of San Francisco, he asked for and was given a tour of Chicago’s tulips on Michigan Avenue and he asked a number of detailed questions about the program.”

Maintaining the 2.3 miles of Michigan Avenue included in the program is a big job.

Claffey said each November the city plants 110,000 bulbs on Michigan from Roosevelt Road to Oak and the southern section where the planters are bigger, from Roosevelt to the river, includes 78,000 grape hyacinth.

Over eight days in November, a 10-person crew of A Safe Haven workers plant the bulbs. A Safe Haven Foundation employs at-risk youth, veterans and people recovering from substance abuse. This year’s tulip varieties are show winner, margarita, orange emperor, double negrita, apricot impression and pretty princess. Later, the beds are covered with pine boughs to protect the bulbs from extreme cold.

The flowers must be chosen carefully, as not too much can survive Chicago’s winters which can be downright arctic, even without polar vortices. But, Claffey said, when the bulbs bloom, usually in early April, it’s a treat for Chicagoans.

“They represent the spirit of Chicago,” Claffey said, adding that the city’s motto is urbs in horto, Latin for city in a garden.

“It’s a way to celebrate another winter is over in Chicago and the toughness of the city,” he said.

By May, however, it is over and the city replants the planters with summer selections. But the bulbs live on.  

“They’re transported to the Garfield Park Conservatory where each year the public is invited to pick up a bag of tulip bulbs in late May for the low, low price of zero dollars,” Claffey said.

Joshua Harris is the New Eastside doorperson of the month

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Joshua Harris has worked at the Aqua at Lakeshore East for 10 years, starting his job just a year after the building opened. Harris said he got in because a friend, one of the building’s first employees, thought Harris would be a good fit at the 225 N. Columbus Dr. residence.

So far, so good. He said that he’s enjoyed the last decade, “It’s like a vacation coming to work. And actually, the time has flown by. Someone asked me the other day how long have I worked here, and I said seven or eight years, and my partner said, ‘It’s been 10 years,’” Harris said.

The building is a mixed-use facility with rental apartments, condos and a hotel sharing the space, so Harris interacts with all kinds of people; office workers, residents and visitors looking for the front desk at the Radisson Blu hotel, next door.

Harris said the residents are mostly families and older folks, so there isn’t too much chaos but says that wasn’t always the case.

“It used to be a really big crowd that would go out on the weekend,” Harris said. “When the building first opened, it was a lot of college kids and everybody went out and partied, but the building changed, and it’s an older crowd and everybody slowed down.”

Besides his work as a doorperson, he operates an extermination company with his father.

“My father, he’s been in the extermination business for 30 years,” Harris said. “And he’s moving on, and so I’m taking over. [Being a doorperson] is only eight hours, and there are 24 hours in the day.”

Which isn’t to say Harris doesn’t have a fun side. He enjoys photography and golf, when he can find the time. Harris’ favorite golf tip?

“Rule number one, keep your head down and let the club do the work,” he said.

To nominate your favorite doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com with the door person’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card to Mariano’s.

New Eastside News news briefs

Staff reports

Sweetwater to be open in time for St. Patrick’s Day

Sweetwater Tavern and Grill, 225 N. Michigan Ave., a popular local eatery, will be open in time for March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day, according to the restaurant’s website.

The bar and grill has been closed since Dec. 23 for extensive renovations.

“It’s exciting to be able to take what we have learned from our more than 15 restaurants over the years and apply it to one of our most successful restaurants on Michigan Avenue,” Angela Zoiss, Vice President of Marketing for Bottleneck Management, said in a press release. “Sweetwater’s renovation will breathe new life into the space and kick off our 10th anniversary as a Chicago hot spot with a fresh new look.”

Bottleneck Management has added an additional 10 years to Sweetwater’s lease, for a total of 15 years in the dynamic space in the heart of Michigan Avenue.

New Eastsiders can now shop at a brick-and-mortar Amazon store

In February Amazon opened a brick-and-mortar store Amazon Go at 111 E. Wacker.

The cashier-less store is the first Amazon store in the New Eastside, but it joins several other locations around the city.

Besides not having cashiers, the store is cashless, too, and customers pay by scanning items with their cellphones via an app. There are no lines and the store offers a variety of food and snack items.

New 311 app easier to use than phone system

In December the city launched a 311 app—a phone application allowing users to more easily report on small issues such as potholes and graffiti in their areas. The app upgraded the previous system, launched in 1999, that depended on a telephone call and paperwork.

Since the system launched, it’s garnered national attention, with Wired Magazine calling it “a huge win for public works.”

Closer to home, the system is also receiving praise. Neighborhood leader Richard Ward said in February the new system is helpful, easy to use and provides added benefits to New Eastside residents.

“The home page of the website has an overview of the program and nine broad categories of service request areas such as seniors, health and animals. ‘View-all’ presents nearly one hundred specific issue topics like graffiti, lights out and potholes,” he wrote in an email.

Ward said the New Eastside is nearly graffiti-free because of eagle-eyed residents calling the previous system. Now, residents can use the new app to report graffiti or other maintenance issues.

To find out more about the app or download, visit 311.chicago.gov.

Ad seems to indicate a new residential building is coming

A magazine advertisement by CA Ventures could indicate a new, large residential building is coming to the New Eastside.

In January, Real Estate Alert, a real estate trade magazine, ran an ad from developers CA Ventures featuring a large building at Lake and Stetson, the 40,600-square-foot lot that was supposed to be the home of the Mandarin Oriental hotel and luxury condominiums before that plan failed two years ago.

However, CA Ventures won’t say what the ad means and whether they will develop the property.

“We don’t have anything to share at this time,” said Mimi Simon, a spokesperson for CA Ventures with Taylor Johnson Public Relations.

The ad includes other existing properties developed by CA Ventures around the country.

New WTTW11 program to highlight Midwest history

Take a nostalgic family road trip throughout the Midwest when “Chicago on Vacation with Geoffrey Baer” premieres on WTTW11, Chicago’s PBS station, and online at wttw.com/vacation at 7:30 p.m. on March 5.

Inspired by his family adventures, Baer sets out in a 1973 Chevrolet Impala station wagon (the same car his family drove) to visit favorite tourist destinations and discover hidden history throughout the Midwest. Stunning archival film and home movies take viewers back to a time when road trips were routine for families looking for an affordable, drivable getaway.

Highlights of Geoffrey’s 2,000-mile road trip include:

  • Touring Lake Geneva with two teenagers that deliver mail by jumping off a moving boat
  • Meeting an all-female ice-fishing group from Wisconsin’s Northwoods
  • Discovering a renewed interest in the “Black Eden” of Idlewild, Mich., a popular spot for African Americans when segregation during the Jim Crow era limited vacation options
  • Visiting the once-booming Jewish resorts in South Haven, Mich., previously called the “Catskills of the Midwest”

Local news drives newspaper readership, study finds

A large study by Medill’s Local News Initiative discovered in February that local news still matters to readers and it may save newspapers.

The study analyzed subscriber data from three metropolitan news websites in an attempt to see what content most attracted readers. The intention is to provide newspapers with a guide to improving community service and to shore up financial sustainability as the media landscape changes.

The study showed that rather than viral stories, readers want quality local content.

“This research illustrates a sea change in the relationship between local news organizations and their readers,” Tim Franklin said in a news release.

Franklin, a senior associate dean at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, heads the Medill Local News Initiative, a project that includes this study and other research to help local journalism overcome the industry’s loss of readers and revenue. Medill partnered with three news organizations — the Chicago Tribune, The Indianapolis Star and the San Francisco Chronicle — that provided 13 terabytes of anonymous reader data for the study.

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