July 4, 2008

NOH Park Councils Meet With BCG

Members of the three North of Howard Parks Advisory Councils sat at the table with April Janney, Senior Vice President of Operations, of the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago. Since the Gale Park Advisory Council was deliberately excluded from any prior conversations with her, we asked to meet with her. Attending with Ms. Janney was Mr. Sanchez who would be in charge of the programming at the building if the Boys and Girls Club operated the Park District Building. Some of us had serious questions about their desire to move here and how their possible relocation to the 1610 W. Howard building would work for a whole community.

Ms. Janney stated that as part of their strategic planning, Rogers Park had been on their sites for about a year. Janney explained that most of their clubs are in partnership with schools or CHA projects. As the demographics of the CHA projects change with the de-concentration and rehabbing into mixed-income neighborhoods, the BGC client base also changes. In other words, they are always looking to expand and their focal points are poor neighborhoods. They are unsure when, or if, the BGC at Lathrop Homes would cease to exist or when, or if, the lease would be terminated by the CHA.

But she referred to receiving a “couple of calls about Rogers Park”. An Advisory Council member mentioned that there are already five not-for-profit youth programs in the immediate north of Howard area with outreach into the schools extending south to Sullivan High School, but there are no NPF’s listed as serving youth south of Sulivan (Pratt).

Janney mentioned their affiliation to schools and remained focused on NOH. She also stated there are other neighborhoods in Chicago that meet the criterion for the home of Lathrop BGC. Other neighborhoods she mentioned were West Garfield Park and Humboldt Park. When asked about their proposal to the Park District, she stated it was not available except to the legal entities of the Park District and the BGC while it is in the negotiation process.

When asked about the breakout of BGC in Chicago she responded that there are 32 clubs. In the Chicago area there are 8 ‘free standing’ clubs. These are either located in CHA owned properties or rented by the Boys and Girls Club.

There are 23 clubs that are school based working in conjunction with local schools in the neighborhoods. That adds up to 31 but is conclusive that BGC are more school based than ‘free standing’. They are partner-operators of these facilities, offering programming for youth after school, generally from 2:30 – 6:00, and activities for Junior and High School students from 6:00 – 9:00 pm. Once a club member, a student may attend any BGC in Chicago.

Regarding gangs and turf: Ms. Janney, stated they were very aware of the issue, work around this issue in the clubs. Whether youth are gang members or known to associate with gang members as club members they still have to abide by club rules. There have been instances when turf problems surfaced. Rather than excluding certain kids, one night would be set aside for X gang and another night for Y gang. She also mentioned ‘lock downs’ if there were immediate safety issues with gang members. There are times when affiliates or gang members of different gangs could co-exist in the same building without issues.

Both Janney and Sanchez responded to questions on the interaction between existing agencies and the BGC. Current Howard Area NFP youth programs could schedule their meeting dates or activities e.g. Boys and Girl Scouts into the BGC calendar with Mr. Sanchez.

When asked about the compromise concept of the Gale Annex to serve both the BGC and thus save the annex the response was mixed. The compromise idea presented was for BCG to serve grades 1-8 in the Gale Annex and schedule programming for older youth with the park district in the new public park district building at 1610 West Howard. That way the 1610 Howard public facility would serve both the BGC and still remain a public building. Ms. Janney stated that a school based club can only serve students of that school. She did mention that allowing non-students was at the discretion of the principal. Club membership allows admittance to any member from other clubs in the city and that’s a policy she stressed.

The Park District Facility at 1610 W Howard is intended to be a pilot project for the BGC. In other words, this will be the first time BCG is attempting to partner by signing an agreement with the Chicago Park District. However this works out, it may lead to them operating additional CPD facilities. Mr. Sanchez outlined his role in the new building as the facility manager, overseeing planning, staffing, etc. He mentioned his visual concerns with the Howard Street area noticed during his walk through the new building earlier in the day. He outlined his plan to meet with the 24th District and improve the Gale Park and Howard Street demeanor.

On the subject of adult activities: As previously stated, their busiest hours would be after school – 2:30 PM to closing at 9:00PM. Just as with any park district public building, they would have down time from opening time until the after school activities began. During summer there would be less downtime, just as with any park district public building. All adult or community events would be approved and scheduled by Mr. Sanchez. He used the example of a birthday celebration. He would appropriate the space and the time and require a list of invitees to ensure that only those on the list were allowed into the area allotted to the activity.

Both Ms. Janney and Mr. Sanchez stated they were not aware that a Park supervisor and other personnel had been interviewed and hired for the new building at 1610 W. Howard.

On the subject of management: From what we understood, the building at 1610 Howard would be Lathrop BCG II, while the current Lathrop BGC will remain at Lathrop Homes until the rehab there is determined. The current board of directors at Lathrop would serve both sites but residents of the Howard area community could serve the board as non-voting committee members. The boards job is mainly to secure funding and is the outreach to corporations for financial support.
My personal take on it: The new NFP on the block, i.e. BGC, would get a brand new building while the old NFP’s who have operated in storefronts and schools will be replaced or struggle to continue as before. If they have a need, they’ll get permission from BGC to use the space – similar to a park district run building.

The neighborhood gets one more NFP, the park district collects rent from a private entity in a public building, and we will continue to be charged taxes for said public building. If the neighborhood wants anything, the ‘board’ will decide if we get it.

Ms. Janny is doing her job – she’s a director of an organization. Her job is to sell herself, her product and services – I don’t fault her. But the non-resident intruders who sneaked around and courted the BGC without community input or approval have added one more insult to an already injured neighborhood. Moore created the 30 year extension of low-income housing in behind the scenes negotiations with his supporters. Knowing there will be a 30 year need for this new kid on the block, Moore can embrace it, and say, “ ‘why not here?’ I’ve created the perfect demographics for such an entity AND my friends on the board get to make all the decisions. Just how much better could it get?”


T. Mannis said...

Toni, What is the date of this meeting?

Bosworth said...

Ginderske said "The most important thing was that [board members] wanted to make sure that wherever Cotter goes, they wanted to make sure there was stable diversity. That the neighborhood wouldn't gentrify two years later."

So Mr Ginderske, those of us NOH that work hard, pay our property taxes, take care of our buildings, work to clean up the neighborhood and make it safe and more enjoyable for all are once again smacked in the face with more guaranteed poverty. Don't bring anything into the neighborhood that may help 'gentrify', which is your choice of words for cleaning up the area and reducing crime. We don't want anything in the area that can benefit all it's residents. We only want what's best for this pocket of poverty created by this alderman. That explains why we can't get a decent store on Howard Street or at Gateway Centre. It might 'gentrify' the area and he'd lose all of his votes.

Toni said...

The meeting was July 2

Toni said...

from the mailbox:

"Rather than excluding certain kids, one night would be set aside for X gang and another night for Y gang."

Huh? She didn't really say that did she? Is she nuts? She legitimizes gang membership/affiliation by giving each one of them a special day of their own at the facility? That's an insane idea.

And how would that work here? Let's see, I guess every day will be "GD Day" because the place is smack in the middle of their territory. What, are they going to have an "LK Day" just to make sure they include those guys and girls too? How does one think that might work out on some hot, summer Saturday night on Howard?

This thing is nothing less than a backroom theft from the community.

Toni said...

Janney was using the one night for X and one night for Y as an example of one way they deal, or have dealt, with gang problems in other clubs.

As for effectiveness, that remains to be seen.

mcl said...

You've got to be kidding!

mcl said...

"To often we excuse those who are willing to build their lives on the shattered dreams of other human beings."
RFK, April 5, 1968

Toni said...

There should have been a community meeting to get the temperature of acceptance or non-acceptance.

That, however might not have worked in their favor so this is how manipulations work.

The Park District is setting itself up for a 'win win' situation. They collect from taxpayers and they collect rent from a private entity in a public space.

I haven't seen tax dollars being used to build a brand new facility for an existing NFP...why this particular one? Some have been here for decades. Could it be some favors, connections and some spite?

And, I'm sure the existing NFP's are going to have to say 'oh its a great idea' because they know better than to disagree. They know the consequences of disagreeing in this great democracy.

tom who has lived here too long said...

Wow. Another experiment NoH to see if we can buck the trend of failed high density low income projects.

It seems to me, that the CHA in the rest of the city has wised up and has started to decentalize, dedensify (hope that's a word) their housing because it has been such a failed mess.

Somehow, the powers that be, who have successfully kept the gentrification in check NoH, now see one more opportunity to demoralize those who have fought to create a civil community NoH against the tremendous odds that poor urban planning has created.

Howard Street is looking as crappy as ever despite the huge investment at Gateway and the private developers NoH.

I find it interesting that Mr. Sanchez notices the sorry state on Howard and thinks a meeting with the 24th district would fix the "demeanor" of the street. Hell, if he can do that, give him the CPD facility and the school. I suspect that in other nieghborhoods, the alderman "fixes" those demenaor sorts of problems by using his clout with the police. I don't think our alderman is inclined to mess with the demeanor that is a direct result of his terribly failed urban planning.

I, too, am shocked by the suggested BGC gang approach... I taught on the west side of Chicago at Providence-St. Mel in Garfield Park for 4 years back in the late 70s... I remember the principal saying that he was the only gang-banger in that school. Gang affiliation of any kind at Providence-St. Mel resulted in immediate expulsion from the school. I guess BGC takes a kinder, gentler approach to gangs.