Final 45th Ward neighborhood assembly set for Sat, Nov. 21, at Jefferson Park Library
Editor’s note: The final neighborhood assembly in which feedback on capital projects for the 45th Ward is being sought will be held at 10:30 am Saturday, Nov. 21, at the Jefferson Park Library, 5363 W. Lawrence Ave.
by BRIAN NADIG
Improvements to the campus park at Hitch School, 5625 N. McVicker Ave., and the installation of pedestrian bump-outs across from the school were among the capital projects that residents recommended at a Nov. 18 participatory budget meeting for the 45th Ward.
About a dozen people attended the meeting, which was held at Hitch. It was one of five neighborhood assembles that Alderman John Arena is holding to get feedback on how to spend most of the ward’s annual allocation of $1.32 million in discretionary funds.
Arena is one of eight aldermen who hold a community vote each spring to determine which infrastructure improvements to fund. Most aldermen decide internally how to spend their discretionary funds, which in recent years have been allocated in the 45th Ward for items such as street resurfacing, playgrounds, trees, pigeon abatement and bike lanes.
Concerns were raised at the meeting that students have been injured because the grass field at Hitch is not level. The field was installed over a parking lot, and pieces of concrete sometimes sometimes pop up through the grass, according to a teacher.
Participatory budget volunteer Michelle Kerr said that a similar recommendation to improve the field was made last year but that it did not make the ballot because the Chicago Public Schools did not provide a cost estimate for the project. Kerr said that parents should work with school administrators to encourage the school system to help create an improvement plan for the field.
Arena has capped at $100,000 the amount of the ward’s discretionary funds which can be used for a capital project that involves another taxing body, such as the school system or Chicago Park District. Based on the community vote last spring, discretionary funds were allocated for campus improvements at Farnsworth and Disney II schools, but those projects are on hold until funds from other agencies become available, said Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh.
Another recommendation calls for pedestrian bump-outs where crosswalks are located on Bryn Mawr Avenue in front of the school. The bump-outs would extend the curb several feet into to the parking lane in an effort to shorten the distance of the crosswalk and subsequently reduce the amount of time students would be in harm’s way when crossing, Brugh said.
Several parents reported that when motorists yield to those in the crosswalk, some drivers will use the parking lane to swerve around traffic, cutting off the pedestrians in the crosswalk. "This would make that not possible," Brugh said of the bump-outs.
Another suggestion called for fencing and other improvements to the pedestrian bridge over the Kennedy Expressway at Austin Avenue. Brugh said that it is important that residents campaign for the projects which they want because proposed improvements to the bridge have failed to gain enough support during two previous participatory budget votes.
Other suggestions included adding public washroom facilities to the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave., and the Austin-Foster Playlot Park, 6020 W. Foster Ave., and converting an alley across from the CTA terminal into a pedestrian walkway. The alley is commonly used as a pedestrian shortcut to and from the terminal.
Brugh said that a committee of volunteers will be reviewing the feasibility of the recommendations made at the five neighborhood assemblies and that expos will be held in which details of the projects on the ballot will be available. More information about participatory budgeting is available at www.pb45.org.