7 Blunders: Readers respond
Series: 7 BLUNDERS OF CHICAGO [Chicagoland Final , CN Edition]
Chicago Tribune - Chicago, Ill.
Date: Apr 3, 2006 Start Page: 4 Section: Tempo Text Word Count: 1137
As you can see from the vote tallies on the Tempo cover, many
of you chose a sports blunder as the most significant of our seven. That wasn't
a surprise. What was very surprising, though, was that a lot of long, thoughtful
responses came in about the lowest vote- getter -- the threat of numbing
sameness overcoming the city's neighborhoods.
Thank you so much for putting into words what I've been trying
to get across to my friends and neighbors for years. I have been watching my
personal architectural history erased by what is essentially greed. I see
everywhere in the city more and more of our buildings are disappearing only to
be replaced by what could be called "shower stalls" or "starter castles." Where
there was one house, they shove two. And where there were two houses they shove
In my yard, I used to love to watch the sun set over Horner
Park. That simple pleasure has been taken away from me, and now I look west and
see gray vinyl siding and a hideous garage deck. This blunder can't be
rectified. But it can be arrested.
-- Thomas Gianni, Chicago
Of your seven nominees, only one of them is still in progress:
building neighborhoods of "numbing sameness."
Chicago's history, from Daniel Burnham's plan to the design of
Millennium Park, is one in which architecture plays a big role. Chicago is known
around the world for the quality of its architecture, from the smallest
residences to the Sears Tower.
Neighborhood architecture is what gives Chicago its unique
sense of place and conveys the personality of each neighborhood. Change and
redevelopment are both inevitable and necessary. However, bad architecture is
-- Martin M.
This goes to the heart of Chicago's glaring shortcoming: its
failure to recognize that urban fabric is the lifeblood of all great cities.
When I go to New York and walk around SoHo with its wealth of glorious
industrial architecture, Greenwich Village with its intoxicating Left Bank
ambience, and Brooklyn Heights with its picture-perfect blocks, I come back here
and literally ask myself where is the city? What part of Chicago really lends
itself to casual strolling? I think the best cities strike the right balance
between architectural fabric and architectural monuments.
It's most unfortunate that Chicago has yet to learn what may
be the most important architectural lesson of all: that great architecture is
not enough. This is a city whose trophy buildings have become its consolation
-- David Sikon, Chicago.
Another interesting category was one you might call
"Blunders we forgot to mention." Here are some of those. [emphasis added]
One of the biggest blunders in city history was Mayor Daley's abrupt,
late-night closure of Meigs Field. Ordering the cutting up of the runway in the
darkness of night -- with planes still parked and therefore becoming stranded --
was an extraordinarily arrogant and unnecessary abuse of power.
Where is the continuing outrage? When will the mayor be held accountable
for this gangsterlike action?
-- Rex Shannon, Chicago
I am a pilot. I own a business and two airplanes. When Meigs was alive, it
was easy to pick up and drop off my Chicago employees to and from the east. Now,
even these many years later, when I say that I am from Chicago, I get the "Oh,
how could the mayor have done that" comment about Meigs.
And for what purpose? The universal opinion among the flying community is
that the skies around our town are less safe with Meigs gone. Your list of
blunders proves that stupid things can be done even in the greatest city in the
world, but when wrought by mankind, they can be undone. Isn't it time?
-- Dennis E. Wisnosky,
High-rise public housing
The worst blunder, because it doomed so many people to a
hopeless future, was building the high-rise projects that turned into ghettos
for generations of African-Americans. They were then denied all of the benefits
that the rest of the city enjoys: children safe from drive-by killings,
functioning schools, jobs within their area, supermarkets and discounts stores,
respectful police protection.
-- Betty Jean Thompson, Zion
I believe that two of the worst Chicago blunders were:
1. In the '50s and '60s, tearing down entire Chicago
neighborhoods and replacing them with isolated high-rise ghettos. The failure to
disperse low-income housing throughout the city led to housing conditions that
encouraged crime and gang activity and injured and penalized the people the
housing was meant to help.
2. Another blunder, probably stemming from the same motivation
as above, was building the Dan Ryan Expressway with such a width and with so few
overpasses in an east/west direction, so as to separate the public housing
residents on the east side from the ethnic neighborhoods west of the highway.
-- Gladys N. Bryer, Chicago
I think the 16-story housing project buildings that lined the
Dan Ryan and were plopped in other locations around the city are the biggest
blunder ever. It's hard to even imagine that back when these were planned and
built that anyone would have thought this was a good idea. How could placing
tens of thousands of people into concrete boxes even be considered?
-- Tracy Timberlake, Palatine
As one of the most notorious political blunders of Chicago
history, I would nominate the Democratic election primary victory of two
followers of Lyndon LaRouche.
As I recall, it ruined the age-old Chicago straight-ticket
voting in the next general election. Precinct captains didn't know what to do.
-- Chris Donovan, Oak Park
I think the biggest blunder of all is Block 37. The parcel of
land has remained vacant for decades.
-- Erik Bloecks, Indian Head Park
How could you leave out the decision to tear down an entire
block of exceedingly prime real estate in the heart of Chicago and the let it
sit essentially vacant for 13 years? This goes down as one of Chicago's all-time
(and ongoing) blunders.
-- Bob Faetz, Chicago
Your list fails to note an ugly chapter in Chicago's race
relations: The Chicago City Council Wars. The Vrdolyak 29 is something that
embarrassed us all.
-- Giovanni Benincasa, Chicago
Because of the racism, distrust and selfishness of the members
of the "Vrdolyak 29," Chicago lost the chance to experience what might have been
a real golden age under Harold Washington.
Before he died, he had started to win over some of those
initial enemies and forge a coalition for significant change and improvement to
improve the lives of all Chicagoans.
-- Mark Sherkow, Chicago
[Illustration] PHOTO; Caption: PHOTO: Mayor Richard Daley's
order to tear up Meigs Field three years ago counts as one of the city's worst
blunders for some readers. Tribune file photo by David Klobucar