50 Wards in 50 Weekdays: 32nd Ward’s Chris Zachary wants bike trail to connect the city

June 6, 2012

(WBEZ/Sam Hudzik)
Bucktown's Chris Zachary is out for a coffee break.

“I live in Bucktown, neighborhood of Chicago, just outside the city,” Chris Zachary explains at the start of our interview.

Hold up. Outside the city? Bucktown? What does that make Schaumburg? A foreign country? Is Indiana in outer space?

“I guess we’re part of the city,” Zachary adds before I can interject. “But it feels a little bit outside and it’s very nice.”

 

Okay, that’s better. Though, it should be noted, Zachary moved to Chicago five years ago from Manhattan. With that context, maybe it makes sense that he sees Bucktown as, well, suburban.

“The Bucktown area tends to be a little more – at least from my perception – older professionals,” Zachary says when asked how it differs from other well-off North Side areas. “But then, also a mix of kind of local folks who have been here a long, long time. People who move from other cities have located here.”

Zachary, 45, may have lived in Manhattan, but he’s originally from Michigan. He moved to Chicago to be closer to his family, but – alas – they’ve spread farther out since. Still, there are some big pros to his new city.

 

“I found [Chicago] to be about half the cost of New York City,” he says. “It’s all perspective, right? You talk to people who move here from St. Louis and such and they’re, ‘Oh, my goodness. This is so expensive.’”

“And then you move here from New York City and you’re like, it feels like everything’s one big half-off sale. You’re like a kid in a candy store. You want to buy everything in sight if you can.”

Starbucks Coffee prices don’t fluctuate all that much, though. Zachary had just left there when we chat. He's  accompanied by his girlfriend, Ella, and two dogs, Charlie and Howie.

It's the morning, around 8:30 a.m., but Zachary’s not in a big rush because he’s not commuting anywhere. He works from home, and travels quite a bit, in the biotech industry. The business side, not the medical side.

“They don’t let me get near any patients,” he laughs.

From where we’re talking, the proposed Bloomingdale Trail is about two blocks away. It’s an old railroad embankment the city plans to turn into a recreational trail. When I ask Zachary what top issue he wants elected officials to address, he’s got it ready to go.

“Here, if you wanted to get to the…lakefront…you’re kind of meandering through a lot of different streets,” he explains. “And if there was a way eventually to work that project or some other way to get to the lakefront in an easier fashion, then you’d have that sense of connection. You could get down to the beach."

It appears that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is already headed in that direction. He announced earlier this year the city was moving ahead with Bloomingdale Trail, thanks in part to some big corporate donations.

So how about Emanuel? How does our Michigan/Manhattan transplant think Chicago’s new mayor has done? Zachary begins his answer with a confession.

 

“I’m a Republican,” he says. “So I guess I’ll put that on the air. I’m the one in Chicago.”

“I’m pleased with the job [Emanuel’s] done so far,” Zachary says. “He seems to be willing to kind of take on some of the special interests, which I think is really important in that position.”

That said, he is “not real thrilled” with Emanuel’s plan to catch speeders near parks and schools using traffic cameras.

“It just seems like kind of a backdoor way to kind of collect revenue from folks who really can’t afford it in these difficult times.”

“I do everything I can not to drive,” he says. "The folks who can’t avoid it, I think eventually they’re going to go by [a speed camera] and they’re not going to be real happy about it."