...And That's My Opinion©

By Sandy Goldman

The Rogers Park Community Curmudgeon


A Spin Doctor For Rogers Park?


I took a ride to Indian Boundary Park a few days ago to investigate the rumor of the renovation of the duck pond. It was true. There was an artists’ plan posted along the side of the pond detailing the new Indian Boundary Lagoon. Most of the work has been completed. Some work is pending.


The plan shows a prairie, a marsh with stone outcropping, a savanna, and a stone ravine. Soon there will be a walking path around the pond.  There are still about 100 ducks in the pond and at least twice that many kids in the park and the play area.  The wonderful, imaginative play equipment was added a few years ago; although sadly the zoo seemed to be empty, the rest is much the same as it was when my kids were young—some forty years ago. 


“Looks pretty good doesn’t it?”  a voice said from behind me. I turned and there was the female half of the couple who live on Eastlake terrace. She was still blond and still good-looking (see earlier column “Couple At the Bar”). She was there with a friend and they were both wheeling euro-style baby carriages.


“You know,” she continued looking out at the park and the play area,” There are many places like this in Rogers Park. There are the play lots at Sam Leone Park, at the beach at Green leaf, and the Howard Street Beach. There is the new play station, basketball court and softball field at Gale Academy. Some are better than others but they all serve their purpose.


“That’s all very true” I responded, “But no one is telling anyone else about it.”


“Not unusual!” she came back, “No one seems to be telling anyone anything about Rogers Park. Since I moved here about four years ago the only news—most of the time —seems to be bad news.”


“Au contraire.” I thought my use of a French phrase would make an impression on her because of her New Trier High School background. “There is the Rogers Park Builders Group which often promotes Rogers Park and there is—and there is— now just who IS spinning Rogers Park? Who IS shouting from the treetops? Who else is there?” I pondered. Who IS working, not to benefit their own organization, but to promote Rogers Park as a good place to live, work, play and raise a family.  Some groups try, but their self-aggrandizement gets in the way. 


“There was,” I said, “ the recent article in the Chicago Tribune Real Estate Section—“


Her friend, interrupting me in mid-sentence, said, “Factual, but neither compelling nor convincing.  It would not motivate anyone to move into the area. The numbers were there but the spin was not. Furthermore what does that mean “Restless in Rogers Park” except curtsy alliteration! Restless means agitated, or uneasy, or unquiet, or without rest. Argentina is restless. Peru is restless.  Ireland is restless. Until it became destructive the Middle East was restless. And furthermore, even though it is the heraldry of the new millennium, no matter the type – income, racial, ethnic, education, gender or sexual orientation—diversity is neither the be-all nor the end-all. It takes more than that to be a neighborhood!”


“You see” my blond friend said, “It gets difficult doesn’t it? Who is reporting that 26 of 54 units on the site of the former Shell station near the cemetery are already sold at prices ranging from $300,000 to $850,000 and it is still only a hole in the ground? Not even the Tribune article. The only reference I have seen was in the newsletter of the Rogers Park Builders Group, and it has a limited distribution; besides, that’s like preaching to the choir.”  They also report that there are to be new condos north of Howard and 65 condo units at Greenleaf and Sheridan”


“Bricks and mortar,” cut in a passerby who had stopped to listen.


“Oh come now,” responded the former Wilmette resident, “It begins with brick and mortar and preservation of existing housing stock and then it moves on.


“Yessssss” I said, warming to the subject, “ to restaurants—and coffee shops—and outdoor cafes—and concerts in the park—and an Artists of the Wall festival—and an Old Glory Parade on Labor Day—and summer camp at San Leone Junior Guards—and a full- scale field house at Greenleaf with a gym and meeting rooms for winter and summer programs for all ages—8 to 80 years old.”


Now we were beginning to draw a crowd as several park visitors stopped to join in.


“I hear everything you say,” said a young man with close-cropped hair and earrings in both ears. ”But I still don’t feel safe at any of the CTA El stops. In fact, rather than walk from the Howard Street El Station to my house at Touhy and Sheridan, I will take the bus. I come here to Indian Boundary to walk or jog because my perception is, that it is safer here than there.”


“I understand,” I said, “That is the her point—that that perception is incorrect. No one is working to eliminate that perception in the minds of the citizens of Cook and Lake counties. It is just like selling cheesecake. We all know what goes into a cheesecake, but we all believe that only Eli’s cheesecake is perfect—spin!”


“No one is selling Rogers Park,” I continued. “As she says, most of the time the only news is bad news.  Sometimes in fact the news media get the locations wrong and events are incorrectly reported to have occurred in Rogers Park, but that is another issue.”


Having now gathered a crowd she continued, “You see there are dozen of community groups in Rogers Park— and there is the Forum 49 Web Site—and the Rogers Park/CAPS list server—and hundreds and hundreds of personal E-mails and Web sites—and an untouched field of possible volunteer and professional expertise in videography and film and creative writing just waiting to be tapped and asked to help, if only some organization or group of people would respond to the challenge and take control. Perhaps a web site devoted to Rogers Park as a destination community—as a place to buy a house—as a place to have lunch or dinner—as a place to loll on the beach or swim in the water—as a place to sit in an outdoor café—to see some attractive gardens—or just watch or play baseball, football, soccer, tennis—or just walk along the beach in the park. There are, I know, many local grant writers who might be able to work on funding such a project.”


“Wait a minute,” our friend with the two earrings chimed in, “What about the crime issue?”


“Crime,” I responded, “is a very sad fact of life everywhere in the world.   We must always be vigilant—on guard and aware of our surroundings—cross to the other side of the street if necessary—stay out of known pockets of danger—stay away from isolated areas—report suspicious happenings. There is a Community Alternative Police Strategy (CAPS) Outpost at Glenwood and Morse and another in the Gateway Center at Howard and Clark.”


“Use the neighborhood," I continued,” It is as Commander David Boggs (24th) said at a community meeting recently—‘if you use the neighborhood, you’ll never lose the neighborhood.’ Crime in the 24th District is down 22% in the first 5 months of 2001. There are 627 fewer incidents.  We need to promote the community to and for all people. The people and the police must have respect for each other.  We must encourage civility or we shall perish.”


“When my husband and I talk with fellow workers at our respective law firms and mention we live in Rogers Park “she told the assembled group, now numbering about 14 people, “Their response is ‘ROGERS PARK— what’s there except good transportation? Why not Forest Glen—or Sauganash—or Buck Town—or Wicker Park—or Roscoe Village?’”


“Well,” I replied, “Those are the up-and-coming communities which are getting a lot of good publicity—spin!”


“Commettre de s—my point.” (I knew that my earlier French would arouse her passion.) ”Exactly ”she repeated in English.  (I think the repeat was for my information.) ”My point completely. We must/should/need to publicize and promote our community. Where is the positive spin? It is not enough to convince ourselves if we are to survive as a viable area we must get the message out to others.”


And then she stopped to take a breath and everyone clapped!!


You know she IS right!! (Do we have our heads in the sand??)


...And that's my opinion.

And I'm Sandy Goldman

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