Many avenues to help the homeless

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

 

Homeless people are a part of downtown.

When walking downtown, every street corner seems to include a cup outstretched, and every awning seems to cover a pile of ragged blankets sheltering a homeless person who may be in need of a helping hand this holiday season.

The Chicago Tribune reported over the summer that there may be over 4,000 homeless people in the city, with 1,500 of those living outdoors. During the winter months and at Christmastime especially, many may feel a need to do something—to offer a sandwich or a few bucks to a homeless person, to donate a few cans to a food pantry or to give their time or money to a charity. But what’s the best course of action?

“I’d like to adopt an all of the above approach,” said Michael Nameche, the director of development for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, located on Lake Street near the New Eastside.

Since 1980, Nameche’s organization has worked to prevent and end homelessness in the city, and Nameche said he’s learned two things—that there is no one solution and that everyone can do something.

“[Homelessness is] a big problem, and so most homeless service agencies will accept help at whatever level someone can give,” he said. “If I were to make suggestions, there are choices. There is no wrong way. That’s the important thing. Some folks choose to donate money and that is very effective because it’s the most liquid of help so it can be addressed toward whatever is needed at the moment…Others like to donate their time and that is also very valuable.”

That said, Nameche compared volunteering to working out: It is most effective if people do it more than once. “When a nonprofit makes an investment in a volunteer, they like them to stick around for a while,” he said. “If you know you can’t sustain it for a while, maybe that’s not the best avenue.”

If you don’t think you can sign on to a long-term commitment, never fear; there are other options. One route, especially for groups like residential buildings and neighborhood organizations, is hosting a drive for clothing, food or money. “Drives for things that are needed are good; however, I think it’s always best to have a conversation with a local nonprofit to come up with someone that you know will be received well.,” Nameche said.

Nameche said sometimes nonprofits get surprised with a truckload of donations they don’t need or cannot use, and it can be hard to turn away someone’s genuine desire to help. “It’s terrible if someone brings you a shipment of hats and scarves if you’ve just got a whole bunch of hats and scarves,” he said.

Nameche said another benefit of talking to a local nonprofit is would-be donors may be inspired to collect things that would have never occurred to anyone. Nameche said donations like CTA passes could mean the difference between a job and unemployment for some homeless people.

“People of very modest means might not have a dime to them, but they might have to get across town to get to a doctor’s appointment or a job interview. Imagine if you have a job interview but you can’t get to it because you can’t get on the CTA,” Nameche said.

He also said a winter or holiday drive is a great start, but organizations that do routine work with local homeless nonprofits could make a real difference in their neighborhoods. This goes for individuals, too. “Much like going to the gym, it’s a good idea to establish relationships with an organization you feel a connection to because it’s doing good in your community,” he said.

Nameche said volunteers and organizations should feel free to shop around to find a good fit.

“Finding a good volunteer gig is like getting on the dating scene; you have to find a good match,” he explained. “Much like dating, you have to be patient, and you have to put yourself out there, and if the first time you contact a nonprofit and they don’t seem to jump on what you have to offer, don’t get discouraged just because it’s not the right fit.”

Nameche said there is something out there for every volunteer. Some nonprofits need volunteers in the evening as tutors, others need help during the daytime and some just need volunteers on the weekends. Volunteering could be a great way to help for retired residents and anyone on a fixed income who doesn’t want to make a financial commitment—especially those who have time during the day.

“If somebody is available during the day, that’s the rarest kind of volunteer,” Nameche said.

He said there are also groups, like his, where volunteers don’t even need to work directly with the homeless population, if that is a concern. Organizations like Coalition for the Homeless need volunteers to do simple office jobs. Volunteers could make a real difference “stuffing envelopes or doing office work so we don’t have to pay people to do that,” he said.

No matter what one does, it all makes a difference, Nameche said.

“Sometimes when people ask, ‘What can I do to help the homeless?’ What they’re asking is, ‘Should I give to people in the street?’ That’s a very personal decision and we don’t have a position on if it’s right to give to people on the street,” he said. “It’s right for some people. Some people carry cash, some people don’t. … Some people like that face–to-face interaction.

“If you’re troubled by seeing people on the street as most people should be, then come up with your own response. Just know that the best thing is to get folks who are in dire need of help connected to professional services. That’s sometimes something you don’t have time for, but you do have time to slip them a couple of bucks. It’s not wrong. But don’t be a cynic and find your response to that issue. It might be buying them a sandwich once a week or it might be volunteering once a week. Everybody has their own pathway, and if everybody did something, then the needle would move.”

Nameche said anyone who wants to get started finding a local nonprofit to get involved with can visit www.volunteermatch.org and see what is available close by. Visit www.chicagohomeless.org to find out more about the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

 

Innovation Awards highlight local tech talent

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

In October, Chicago Innovation recognized a host of Midwestern ideas at the 17th annual Innovation Awards.

Among the recipients, the Bra Lab won people’s choice for designing better brassieres, the Adler Planetarium won the collaboration award for their work with high school students and Ballot Ready won the Social Innovator award for their work on an elections app.

Besides the specialty awards, general Chicago Innovation Awards went to Abbott, Advanced Valve Technologies, Cameo, Ensono, Farmer’s Fridge, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, Sterling, UPshow, Sittercity and Molex. Neighborhood awards went to Above and Beyond Family Recovery Center, Aspire and Lakeview Pantry. Up and comer awards went to Catalytic, Codeverse, Esquify, ExerciseBuddy, GuardianVets, Jlobit, Parker Dewey, PanaceaNano, Truss and Unanimous AI.

The event, at the Harris Theater in the New Eastside, was a chance to celebrate some of the people behind innovative ideas and inventive companies.

The evening was kicked off by Mayor Rahm Emanuel who praised the city as itself an up and comer for technology firms.

“We have more women innovators than any other city,” Emanuel “But that’s only the beginning of where we need to go.”

The mayor explained that Chicago businesses should recruit young talent from the city’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) schools programs in order to encourage kids and to keep talent local.

“If we do that, then to Berlin, Beijing, Tokyo and London I have one word, watch out. Chicago is coming for you,” Emanuel said.

Chicago Board of Election Commissioners seeks election judges

Staff reports

 

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners is looking for Chicagoans willing to serve as judges on Election Day, Nov. 6.

Judges are needed to monitor polling places for the General Election, and are responsible for helping open and close polling places, setting up equipment, administering ballots to voters, helping voters with registration questions, and completing results reports after the polls close.

According to the alderman’s newsletter, “a well-administered election in Chicago relies on good citizens willing to chip in and put in a long day at their polling location.”

Judges of Election are required to arrive at their polling place by 5 a.m. and stay at least until polls close. Judges are compensated $140 for their service of a full-day, and will receive $50 more if they complete election training in advance.

Extra compensation will also be given to those who pick up the Election Judge key envelop the week before the election, allow the use of their cell phone in the polling place on election day, return election materials to a receiving section Election Night, or help with the vote by mail ballots ahead of Nov. 6th.

To qualify, judges must be registered voters in Cook County, be able to speak, read and write in English and perform basic bath.

Anyone who is a committeeman, precinct captain or candidate is not qualified, and judges who share a residence with anyone in these positions must notify the election commission.

A full list of qualifications can be found online. For more information or to apply, visit https://chipollworker.com.

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

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