No block parties until after Labor Day
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
Residents can officially forget about block parties this summer and add them to the list of canceled events in the city for safety reasons due to the pandemic.
Northwest Side aldermen have announced that based on recommendations from federal, state and city health officials, the city Department of Transportation has voided and will not issue any block party permits through the end of the summer, or Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7.
The city has previously announced that block parties were prohibited through June 30, and allowed people to apply in July to begin having the parties after July 15. A resident of the block usually requests a permit to close the street through the alderman’s office and CDOT approves it and the office distributes it.
"Prior to the virus hitting several months ago we had many residents applying in order to get the complimentary jumping jack, but then CDOT said that these were pulled also," said Chris Vittorio, 41st Ward Alderman Anthony Napolitano’s chief of staff.
"We had about 40 requests prior to the rules being changed by CDOT. So we notified everyone that they weren’t doing anything until June 30 and then on July 1 and 2 for parties after July 15 we had about 40 more, so a total of 80 were canceled for this year," he said.
Vittorio said that the ward office usually gets about 300 requests for block party permits, with some parties being held annually for decades.
"We are just not in a position to have them and we respect the authority of the CDC and health officials.
"We were hopeful that we could get something off the ground, but you run the risk of having more than 50 people gathering and that creates its own set of problems," Vittorio said. Under Governor J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan, Phase 4 does not allow gatherings of more than 50 people. Some suburbs, such as Skokie, allow block parties, with several restrictions.
In the 45th Ward, a staff member at Jim Gardiner’s office said that they only had about a dozen permit requests, but that was because residents knew that parties would likely be canceled this year.
In the 39th Ward, Alderman Samantha Nugent’s chief of staff Erika Wozniak Francis said that 28 block party permit applications have been canceled. The ward usually has more than 100 requests for block parties during the summer, she said.
"Folks have been understanding about it. We’ve made sure to tell them in person that they wouldn’t be able to have their block parties this year. I know it feels like the entire summer has been canceled," Wozniak Francis said.
"The alderman is sad that we can’t have block parties because they are a great way to bring the community together, but at the same time we have to follow the CDC’s recommendations," she said.
Kimberly Hansen, a legislative aide in 36th Ward Alderman Gilbert Villegas’ office said that only 10 applications were submitted for block parties this year.
"In comparison, we had 97 applications last year with about 15 jumping jack and fire truck requests. We’ve received quite a few calls asking if they can apply, the answer originally being of course after July 1. Subsequent callers are unfortunately being told no with the newest city update of September. Those total calls have been about 20 to 25. "While the callers have been a mix of frustrated and disappointed, they have been very understanding as well," Hansen said. "Safety must come first."
Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) said that the ward usually gets 200 requests for block parties and that this year it was only 10.
"Nobody is applying because they kind of knew back when they were told that block parties aren’t allowed," Sposato said. "I understand that some people will still have them and I’m not going to be the block party police. If the cops show up and tell you don’t block the street then don’t block the street but I’m sure it will still happen. It’s all a moot point now."