Residents complain of bicyclists, skaters on city sidewalks

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

New Eastside residents at the September CAPS meeting complained of bikes and skateboard riders on city sidewalks.

“It seems as if there are more bicycles and skateboards on the sidewalk,” a resident said. “I’ve almost been run over a number of times. People may not be aware they’re not supposed to be on the sidewalk.”

Skateboards are banned on the sidewalk and streets and while bikes can be ridden on city streets, they’re prohibited from sidewalks. Police Sergeant Anthony Dombrowski said riders could be reported to 911 if they are caught in the act. Meanwhile, one man said cars and delivery trucks parked illegally in striped areas present a danger for pedestrians and cyclists.

Dombrowski suggested residents check out the city’s Vision Zero initiative. This is a broad plan to make the city’s streets safer for pedestrians and riders. The project is aimed to give better access to pedestrians and bicyclists.

“It is, I think, a worthwhile project,” Dombrowski said. “It’s why we have increased protected bike lanes because of vision zero. The goal is to have no fatalities, which is why they call it vision zero. But it takes time to build up the infrastructure.”

He said the city is improving it slowly and while the plan might frustrate some motorists, he said cars aren’t going to go away entirely.

Residents also complained about dangerous motorbike drivers. Dombrowski agreed they are a problem.

“The motorcycles are a real problem,” he said. “They’re worse than cars.” 

Dombrowski said motorcycles can speed away from cars, meaning the drivers are hard to catch safely.

Overall, Dombrowski said crime is down in the neighborhood, although he was reluctant to call it a trend.

“The only way to get good data is to have a long trendline,” he said.

Dombrowski said most of the reported thefts are from visitors, not from residents.“For the residents, it’s extremely low,” he said.

Teatro ZinZanni brings European-style Cabaret to Chicago


(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger

Love, Chaos and Dinner.

That’s the tagline for Chicago’s newest cabaret show, Teatro ZinZanni. This dinner and a show aims to deliver on all three.  A variety of performances include circus acts, clowning performances and song and dance numbers through a multi-course dinner, catered by the Goddess and the Grocer.

Founded in 1998 by Norman Langill, Teatro ZinZanni is inspired by the European cabarets. Langill said he wanted to “create an intimate relationship with the artists.” Teatro ZinZanni currently has shows running in Seattle and San Francisco. 

The show takes place on the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel, 32 W. Randolph St., in a space discovered in 2017 when the hotel was doing renovations. Langill had been looking for the right place in Chicago for ten years and when the former Masonic temple was found, “it was a natural,” for the show. Langill said. Now the space is renovated to become the “Spiegeltent ZaZou” described by ZinZanni press as a “Belgium mirror tent filled with unique, historic touches.”

The three-hour show has a show within a show feeling as the antics of its performers and wait staff start before the show officially begins. Performers wander around dressed as wait staff and cooks and interact with the customers between the official acts and during the dinner courses. 

“The food and the waitstaff have to be integrated in the experience. They are the support cast for the evening,” Langill said. “It has to be integrated and seamlessly connected to the show so there is only one experience you are having, not two.”

The “hosts” of Teatro ZinZanni are The Caesar, played by Frank Ferrante, and sultry singer Madame ZinZanni, performed by Rizo. They are accompanied by a live band with music reminiscent of Édith Piaf and jazz classics. “Lady Rizo is a force of nature.” 

Rachel Karabenick, a circus performer who attended the show, remarked. “Her voice, her poise, her humor—everything about her performance was simply stunning. I’d say she is one of the best performers I have ever seen live.”

The cabaret presents performers from around the world along with local artists from Chicago. Samuel and Sylvia are local performers known as Duo Rose who perform on doubles trapeze. 

The show will continue through the end of September and a new show “Decadent Delights” with a diner theme will begin in October.

Though upper building delayed, GEMS grows academically

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

While the new GEMS World Academy’s new upper school building will not be ready by the start of school, GEMS head Tom Cangiano said plenty of other new classes and programs will debut this school year.

The new building will add classes and gym space for students. Initially, the school planned to open the new facility this fall, in time for the 2019/2020 year, but Cangiano said the space will instead open later over the winter, in early 2020.

Nevertheless, the school’s high school program is getting underway with 40 students registered. While the building nears competition, GEMS students are attending courses in the Gleacher Center, at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, across the river.

With the high school program underway, the private school is on the cusp of achieving its International Baccalaureate certification as an IB World School, meaning the school will be able to offer a diploma program, the first private school in the state to offer such a program.

Matt Arado, the associate director of communications for GEMS, said the program encourages student creativity and collaboration and, increasingly, an IB diploma is seen as a boon among universities.

“More and more colleges look very well on IB diploma graduates as opposed to other non-IB kids of programs,” he said.

Cangiano said GEMS is also strengthening its curriculum. The school has always encouraged courses and students to explore the city and now he said those lessons are being formalized.

“Our whole idea is we talk a lot about global citizenship,” Cangiano said. “We’re trying to make sure our kids really understand the region of Chicago, its environmental concerns, the economy and how the city government works.”

The program will incorporate lessons from pre-kindergarten through the high school level and cover six topic areas.

“I hope students understand an urban system and all its complexity and I think that’s politics demographics, environmental concerns and other nominal issues like infrastructure, and that they have a good understanding of that,” Cangiano explained.

He added that by the time the students graduate, he expects they will understand the various challenges facing a city as well as some solutions for those challenges.

This year the school is on track to meet its goal of 450 students. By late August, Cangiano said the school had enrolled around 410 students, with several weeks to go before the year started. This is an increase over last year’s goal of 365 students.

The school is welcoming 15 new faculty to the campus and, this year, even Cangiano is teaching a course. Cangiano’s background is English, and he’ll be teaching ninth grade English this year.

Among the books on his reading list are standards like Romeo and Juliet, Antigone and the Odyssey, though he is also including “Trumbull Park,” a fictionalized account of the racial strife facing black people in Chicago during housing integration. Cangiano said the book choice is part of the school’s effort to teach Chicago.

The school is currently accepting applications for all grades through 12th grade for the 2020-2021 school year and there are limited seats available for the current year. The school’s public open house will be Oct. 26 and for more information, visit info.gemsworldacademy-chicago.com.

Falling for Chicago

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Sheetal Balani

The end of summer doesn’t mean the end of adventure in Chicago

Monday, Sept. 23 means the end of summer. 

But don’t panic. 

For some, this transition from summer to fall can be bittersweet. The warmest days of the year are behind us, school is back in session and the Chicago rooftop scene will soon announce their dreaded last call.   

But there are a lot of positives too. For those that are team #PSL, pumpkin spice everything will ubiquitously pop up on menus everywhere.  

And with that, I share my list of favorite activities in and around Chicago this time of year, as well as what I’m looking forward to this Fall in particular:

  • Bengston’s Pumpkin Fest officially opens its doors on Sept. 13. Choose the perfect pumpkin, eat hot apple cider doughnuts, get lost in the corn maze, and take a wagon ride.  https://pumpkinfarm.com/
  • Fall Fest at Lincoln Park Zoo — If you can’t make the trek out to Bengston’s, I recommend Fall Fest. Fridays to Sundays from Sept. 27 to Oct. 27, watch live professional pumpkin carvers sculpt 400-pound pumpkins into elaborate goblins and ghouls. https://www.lpzoo.org/fall-fest
  • Chicago Gourmet celebrates all things food and entertainment.  Chicago celebrity chef cooking demos, mixology seminars, book signings, and lots of amazing food and drinks in Millennium Park, from Sept. 24 to 29.  https://www.chicagogourmet.org/
  • Highly anticipated RPM On The Water is slated to open fall of 2019.  This newest installment from the RPM team will deliver panoramic views, in addition to their seafood-centric menu, on the Chicago River … yet another reason to love The Chicago Riverwalk!  http://rpmrestaurants.com/rpmonthewater/

For me, this transition to fall simply means back to the structure.  As much as my family and I enjoyed every bit of the summer, we all are looking forward to getting back to our routines — the anticipation, and excitement of moving forward with the new season.  

New Eastside Doorperson of the Month: Jerome Bell, Park Shore

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

For the last 21 years Jerome Bell has worked at the Park Shore as doorman and he said he has no plans to go anywhere anytime soon.

“It’s a great building,” Bell said. “The residents are great, it’s a classy building, it’s luxury and it’s an all-around great place to work.”

Bell said the building helps inspire him to deliver great service.

“First of all for me, I try to offer a type of service I would want if I lived in a building like this,” he said. “I try to stay professional at all times. You just have to offer good service. Service is key.”

Bell said he started at the building shortly after it became a fully condominium building. When he arrived, he said the residents were mostly on the older side, though these days he said there’s a mix of older and younger residents.

Park Shore is off North Harbor Drive, a quiet street without through traffic, so most of Bell’s day is spent looking after residents and not policing the area.

“It’s pretty quiet,” Bell admits. “It’s not as busy as it would it if it were out on a main street. It’s kind of hidden.”

Not that Bell is complaining. The building boasts some of the best Lake Michigan views in New Eastside, and most of the building’s 480 or so units are filled, meaning Bell and the other doorpeople stay busy looking after residents and their guests.

“You have to multi task” Bell said. “With it being busy, if I’m at the desk, you gotta watch the doors and answer the phones you gotta hand out keys and you gotta know who belongs here and who doesn’t belong here. So you gotta be very observant.”

While the street may be quiet, Bell said the building does get the occasional foot traffic from visitors who are looking to get to the Navy Pier.

“You gotta let people know its private property and there are no access points to Navy Pier,” he said. “You gotta tell them how to get there from Harbor Drive.”

When not at work, Bell said he enjoys spending time with his family, riding his bicycle and watching television. He loves sports—go Cubs, he says—and he has high hopes for this year’s Bears outfit.

“I think the Bears could make the Superbowl this year, if we could stay healthy,” Bell said. “We just gotta get Mitch (Trubisky) a little more accurate and if we can do that, We’ll be OK. This team has more weapons than the U.S. military.”

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 CAPS meeting draws noise complaints

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright 

Chicago police assured New Eastside residents city officials are working on a legislative solution to noise caused by street performers.

One resident said he couldn’t talk inside a Starbucks at Adams and Michigan because of the noise from sidewalk performers beating on buckets while asking for money. He said when police asked the drummers to leave, one of the street musicians swore at the officer.

“It aggravated the heck out of me,” the man said.

A representative from Alderman Brendan Reilly’s office said the alderman is reviewing legislation to crack down on street performers.

“He’s working to make sure it’s good, clear legislation,” she said.

CAPS Sgt. Anthony Dombrowski added that sometimes people do not respect the police. He said on one evening in early August, a team of officers went to close the skate part at 9 p.m. but a teenage boy and a homeless person declined to leave.

“They didn’t care, they said, ‘we’re not leaving,’” Dombrowski said. This degenerated into a physical confrontation and the 15 year old hit the officer with a skateboard. The boy and a 30-year-old man who “appeared to be homeless” were both arrested. Both people pushed and spit on officers, Dombrowski said.

“Nobody was seriously hurt, two individuals were arrested including the 15 year old,” he said. “The point is, people don’t listen to us even when it’s clear. There was a sign right there that said the park closes at 9 p.m. … They presented a united front even though I don’t believe they knew each other.”

Dombrowski said protesters recently blocked Lake Shore Drive, and he said the protests could get more frequent as the 2020 federal election draws closer.

In addition, a woman who identified herself as a census employee said the coming 2020 census is still looking for workers, and she asked residents to check out job listings online at 2020census.gov/jobs.

The next CAPS meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 12 at 400 E. Randolph.

The votes are in and the best month of the year is … September

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Jon Cohn

In an unofficial tabulation of informal voting done by this column—with apologies to runner-ups May, November and December—the month of September has won Best in Show as the overall most enjoyable month of the year.

If you are reading this column in the month of publication, you’re living the good life (at least we hope so).

Why does September deserve the top month nod?

There’s the consistently pleasant, if not gorgeous, weather. Throw in Labor Day weekend, Jazzfest, baseball playoffs, start of the football season and the fact that summer tourists have mostly left the city streets—and you have a winning combination. Did we mention the beautiful weather?

September radiates like the smiling bride walking down the aisle, as beautiful in the beginning as she is at the end.

The minor dissent (there’s one in every crowd) could come from school-aged children who equate September with the whole back-to-school thing. Admittedly, that could be put a damper on the celebration.

But we press on.

Another key takeaway is the reminder that summer is not over. Not by a longshot. Remember, the gorgeous weather we experience now is payback for the lousy April and May weather. Soak it up and enjoy.

If you feel the season went by way too quickly and you didn’t get to all the things you wanted to do, fear not. There’s still time to hack away at the summer wish list.

If you didn’t get to that Wisconsin weekend getaway, a boat ride, a ball game, the Navy Pier excursion, the beach visit, a camping trip, cookout or any of the other myriad of summer activities, there is still time.

But don’t wait too long. Halloween candy was just spotted at your local grocery store.

Get to know a CEO: Joanne Smith, CEO of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Q: To start with, could you tell me a little bit about your background? I know you went to undergrad in Michigan; did you grow up there? When did medicine begin to interest you and at what point did you decide to focus on rehabilitation? I noticed by the time you did your residency, you were already practicing in the field of rehabilitation, and I’m curious what professional challenges appealed to you in the field.

A: Yes, I grew up in Michigan and went to undergrad and medical school there. My sister was a nurse, and I considered that path, but ultimately decided to become a doctor. Nursing is highly structured, and I needed to interact with patients in a way that was less process-based and more discovery-based. So I went to med school. I’ll never forget assisting an orthopedic surgeon on a visit to a free clinic during my elective rotation in physical medicine and rehabilitation (PMR). Patients there gifted me with insight — I realized they didn’t want conformist solutions, they wanted better outcomes. They want to live their best, happiest and most independent lives. This insight would drive my calling and my career.

Q: Did you immediately notice the problems with rehabilitation medicine—the ones you would later come to address through Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, or did your opinions and views change over time?

As someone with a scientist’s drive for solving problems, early on I saw a lack of research advancing this field. However, now we are living in a time of momentous, rapid convergence of the sciences, technology, biologics and engineering. As leaders, it is incumbent upon us at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab to harness this synergy. Thus, my vision was born to structurally and philosophically compel collaboration between medicine and science. Our success, which is already apparent in helping patients achieve better outcomes, is not only raising the bar for our field, but also for the practice of medicine.

Q: What inspired you to get an MBA? Being a physician is notoriously time consuming and stressful and it’s a passion for most doctors. Why get into the business side of things? More specifically, what interested you in being a CEO?

A: I didn’t plan to earn my MBA, but when I was a young physician at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), my mentor asked me to serve as a medical consultant for the University of Chicago Hospitals. There, I got a bird’s-eye view of the business and operations side of medicine. I observed that leading physicians in acute “cure-based” medicine did not always understand the rehabilitation work of the post-acute sector. This experience led me to the MBA program at University of Chicago Booth School of Business. As a physician, I loved treating my patients, but as CEO of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, I know that I can have a much greater impact, not only for our patients, but also for the people who need us all over the world.

Q: In addition to being a CEO, I understand you’re still on the medical faculty at Northwestern’s school of medicine. Where do you find the time to do all of this? What keeps you in academia? I would assume there’s more than enough to fill the days as CEO of the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab?

A: We are doing what no one else is doing, and thus have a responsibility to be a resource to the world. It’s a privilege to share our ever-growing expertise and discovery, and that’s why I speak frequently nationally and internationally before thought leaders in healthcare and beyond.  

Q: The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab has long been noted as one of the world’s leading providers of rehabilitation services due, in no small part, to your view that medical providers should dismiss the prefix dis- in disability and focus instead on helping the patient function in a way that makes sense to them as opposed to forcing patients to conform to expectations/social preferences of those around them. This seems nothing short of a radical idea, considering until very recently, people with severe disabilities were literally hidden away from public view in various way, though often with the best of intentions. Is this indeed as radical as it seems?

A: Yes, it’s a radical idea. Even more radical is our model that integrates doctors and therapists together with researchers in the same space so that “cross-pollination” can lead to greater innovation. Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is the first-ever translational research hospital in which clinicians and scientists collaborate side by side with patients 24/7. In our revolutionary model, we have shifted the focus from the process of rehabilitation to the outcome — ability. The result? Better, faster recoveries for the patients we serve.

Q: Of course, this was the topic of your Aspen Ideas Festival essay and you mentioned changing the vernacular in medicine and in treatment settings (and I understand that’s why the lab was renamed the AbilityLab, as opposed to the former Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago) but this issue seems bigger than a CEO or a physician or even a research hospital. It seems like you’re trying to change public opinion, or the opinion of everyone who isn’t or has never been through rehabilitation. Is this indeed the goal?

A: Our biggest goal is advancing human ability. Ability is function. That’s why we’ve invested so significantly in speeding discovery and innovation — all focused solely on helping patients achieve better outcomes, faster. The world is watching and taking note.

Q: If so, that seems perhaps a bit Sisyphean and maybe even more ambitious than leading one of the world’s best research hospitals, though I’m guessing you wouldn’t agree with that?

A: Patients and families don’t come to us for the status quo. They expect more from us, and everyone here — from clinicians, scientists and staff to executives — is passionate about helping others by solving big problems. I’ve never shied away from a challenge, and that attitude is part of our culture. It’s no accident that we invented the world’s first thought-controlled bionic arm, among many other advancements and innovations. Every one of our scientists works on projects that will directly benefit one (or more) of our patient populations.

Q: I ask because from an outside perspective it seems like public option of people with disabilities seems almost regressive at time. Last year the House passed the ADA Education and Reform Act, which would have significantly weakened the ADA and made it harder for people with disabilities to get access to public facilities and to sue violators. What did that mean for you? What does that say about public opinion of people with disabilities?

A: I keep a quote by Goethe close at hand: “The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.” We need a new vernacular. Our language evolves as our society grows more informed, compassionate and inclusive. We are not waiting for that change to happen, we are driving it. Actually, our patients are driving it.

Q: How would you suggest doctors and other advocates change public perception and public opinion?

A: Focus on what people can do, not what they can’t. At Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, we’re harnessing the power of science and best-in-class clinical care to advance human ability.

Q: Finally, getting back to the day to day at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and maybe ending on a more positive note, is there any new research that looks promising you’d like to share? What do we have to look forward to?

A: Two years into our novel experiment of embedding science into the clinical environment, we’re taking advantage of a convergence of disciplines and discovery to leapfrog our understanding of the human brain. We are using multiple modalities to exploit the brain’s potential. By focusing on outcomes, we’re getting closer to finding cures for today’s most vexing brain injuries and diseases.

Filini introduces lobby sushi as part of plan to revamp its kitchen

(Published 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Longtime fans of Filini Bar and Restaurant may have noticed some recent changes.

Since April, Filini, 221 N. Columbus Drive, has been helmed by executive chef Leonard Ventura, a veteran chef with experience in Texas and California.

Ventura added a sushi station to the Radisson lobby and introduced dollar oysters on Friday and Saturday with half-off martinis as well as a sundae cart during the summer months.

The sushi bar moved into the lobby in July and Ventura said it’s been a hit with visitors who enjoy watching the proverbial sausage get made.

“It’s something I always did at different hotels,” Ventura said. “I saw it was always successful.”

The sushi bar has something for everyone and Ventura said he’s not through tweaking the menu. He plans to add new breakfast items and he’s making an effort to source more local produce.

“We’re always looking for more local and sustainable food,” he said.

This can be hard in the Midwest, with long, cold winter months, but Ventura said he’s sourcing what he can from nearby farms.

“Towards winter I do more pickling and add more heavier items,” he said. Ventura is also looking into local meats, and said he plans to add a smoker in January.

“We want to get beef and different types of meat like lamb,” he said. “I’d like to start to make my own sausage as well. In Texas, I did my own bacon and sausage and smoked hams.”

Ventura is looking to beef up the craft beer selection. In the coming months, he said the restaurant will unveil a 20-tap craft beer selection featuring 18 local beers in addition to standbys like Budweiser and one signature beer.

“We have a company that’s brewing a craft beer for us now that will be featured here,” Ventura said. “Brickstone Brewing will make the beer.”

Ventura said he’d also like to get a rotisserie oven in the kitchen and he has plans to hire a baker, so all the breads will be done in-house.

These are long term plans, but in the months since Ventura has taken over, changes to the menu have drawn more diners.

“Since last year we’ve more than doubled our reservations,” Ventura said.

For more information, visit Filini online at filinichicago.com. 

You’re move: Residents have fun at board game night

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

A group of New Eastside—and nearby—residents have come together to form a board game night. The group meets monthly in the party room at The Tides, 360 E. South Water St.

New Eastside resident Ishmeet Lamda started the game night by reaching out to neighbors on the social media application NextDoor. She was excited to discover many people in the neighborhood like to play board games.

“I’m an extrovert who likes to socialize and also love to play board games,” Lamda said. 

New Eastside resident Jeffrey Molsen regularly attends. 

“The neighborhood board game night is great because it allows me to meet new people through sharing some of my favorite games and getting the opportunity to try out new ones,” he said.

A typical board game night includes a warm-up game to account for any latecomers. Short games, such as Uno or Iota, are played. 

“We then either split into groups and play, or we all come together and play cooperative games which are super engaging,” Lamda said. Those games, like Pandemic and Avalon, are more strategic and take a longer time.

Lamda’s favorites to play at game night are Stone Age, Iota, Hanabi, Uno, and Code Names.

Molsen said his favorite is Fluxx. 

“The rules start simple, and you just have to do what the cards say after that,” he said. “However, it can quickly devolve into delightful mayhem.”

The board game club welcomes all new members.

“It is a pretty flexible and happy-go-lucky group,” Lambda said. 

Plans are put together on NextDoor. Lamda posts information about meetings. The next planned meeting is 6 p.m. on Sept. 6. Lamda asks interested parties to RSVP on NextDoor.

[Board Game Night members rounding out the night with Uff-Da and free massages from (name) photo by Stephanie Racine]

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