WBEZ | devon ave. http://www.wbez.org/tags/devon-ave Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Video: For Pakistani-American, more unites than divides two countries and cultures http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-01/video-pakistani-american-more-unites-divides-two-countries-and-cultures- <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-June/2011-06-01/pak-usa-flag.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><strong>Produced by Adnan Rashid</strong></p><p><u>Editor's Note</u>:</p><p><em>The recent killing of Osama bin Laden has refocused American attention on the delicate and complicated relationship between the governments of Pakistan and the United States.&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>But that's a familiar state-of-affairs for thousands of Pakistani-American residents living in the Chicago area, who often must navigate the politics and cultures of their respective homelands.</em></p><p><em>Adnan Rashid spent the month of May in Chicago at WBEZ as a visiting fellow as part of the <a href="http://www.icfj.org/">International Center for Journalists </a>international <a href="http://www.icfj.org/OurWork/AsiaPacific/PakistanUSExchangeProgram/tabid/1719/Default.aspx">exchange program for U.S.-Pakistani journalists</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>Rashid himself is no stranger to the impact of political conflict or the war on terror.&nbsp; He's a life-long resident of the <a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/pakistan/northwest-pakistan/swat_valley/index.html">Swat Valley</a>, and as a radio journalist, spends much of his time focusing on the humanitarian impact of the conflicts in the Af-Pak region.</em></p><p><em>During his time in Chicago, he wanted to understand first-hand the experiences and perspectives of Pakistani-Americans here, and he produced the following video, which chronicles the immigrant experience of one Chicago man and his family.</em></p><p><iframe src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/24485987?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=b30000" width="500" frameborder="0" height="375"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 01 Jun 2011 16:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-01/video-pakistani-american-more-unites-divides-two-countries-and-cultures- Long-awaited Devon garage remains closed, despite political hoopla to the contrary http://www.wbez.org/story/50th-ward/long-awaited-devon-garage-remains-closed-despite-political-hoopla-contrary <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/forweb1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In the election rush last week, I fell behind on reading the free local, ethnic papers that I usually pick up every week from stores along Devon Avenue. I finally got around to picking them up on Thursday, and to my surprise, found that I had apparently missed a big story on Devon Avenue&mdash;perhaps the biggest it&rsquo;s seen in years. &ldquo;Alderman Stone opens major parking complex on Devon Avenue,&rdquo; <a href="http://www.indiatribune.com/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=5216:alderman-stone-opens-major-parking-complex-on-devon-avenue&amp;catid=25:community&amp;Itemid=457">touts</a> the India Tribune. Another local publication, <a href="http://www.hiindiaweekly.com/">hi India</a>, plastered a photo on the cover of its <a href="http://www.hiindiaweekly.com/show.aspx?pageID=1&amp;edition=02/18/2011">Feb. 18<sup>th</sup> issue</a> of Stone cutting a red ribbon in front of the garage, flanked by the project&rsquo;s developer, Mohammad Tariq Siddiqui.</p> <div>To understand why this is such a big deal, you have to rewind several years. Devon Avenue shoppers used to have a choice of several city-owned, metered lots when they patronized businesses along the street. But by 2006, Chicago had sold those properties to private developers. This particular lot, at Rockwell and Devon, was among them. In 2005 Siddiqui was awarded a contract that came with millions of dollars in tax increment financing. His design for the six-story complex would include retail space on the ground floor, condos above, and more than 230 parking spots.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>That was more than six years ago. In the meantime, Devon Avenue merchants have complained the parking situation has only worsened. They lost the city-owned lots, they&rsquo;ve seen parking meter rates increase, they feel that ticket enforcement is more aggressive than elsewhere in the city, and they&rsquo;ve watched the city restrict parking on more and more side streets to local residents only. Few merchants were happy to see the city sell the lot at Rockwell and Devon, but now they&rsquo;re just impatient to have it finished. &ldquo;Once they open, it will be no problem,&rdquo; said one business owner, who, like others, believes easier parking can help redress some of the difficulties brought on by the economic downturn.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>But here&rsquo;s the thing: the day I saw the headlines announcing the garage&rsquo;s opening, it was actually closed. In fact, the part of Rockwell Avenue that drivers have to turn onto to enter the complex was blocked off with a &ldquo;Do Not Enter&rdquo; sign. I went back a few days later to find that sign was gone, but I went inside the garage to take a gander, and the gate arms were up. There were a couple of cars in there, but construction materials still lay about. A bobcat machine blocked the exit. As I wandered out, I ran into Siddiqui, who confirmed that, despite the announcement to the contrary, the garage wasn&rsquo;t actually open and it might not be for a couple of weeks. So what was that hoopla about, a week before the election? &ldquo;It was just a ribbon-cutting,&rdquo; said Siddiqui.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Greg Brewer has a different take. &ldquo;They did the same thing four years ago,&rdquo; said Brewer, who just came off a second unsuccessful bid to unseat 50<sup>th</sup> Ward Ald. Bernard Stone. &ldquo;They had the big groundbreaking about two weeks before election, and then it just sat there.&rdquo; Brewer headed a lawsuit against Siddiqui in 2007, in which residents claimed the development violated local building covenants. The suit failed in court, and Stone blames it for delaying the project. Brewer dismisses that claim, saying that the group only sought an injunction for a couple of months.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Brewer isn&rsquo;t the only one that thinks the ribbon-cutting was just a politically-motivated charade. A business owner on Devon, who asked to remain nameless for fear of reprisals by city inspectors, sounded jaded when he talked about the whole thing. &ldquo;The alderman, he wanted to show it,&rdquo; the business owner said. &ldquo;Before the election, he wanted to show it.&rdquo; Stone tallied 38 percent of last Tuesday&rsquo;s vote, putting him in a runoff with challenger Debra Silverstein. Silverstein garnered 33 percent of the vote.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Stone and Siddiqui both deny shenanigans. &ldquo;It has nothing to do with the election,&rdquo; said Stone. &ldquo;I didn't set the ribbon cutting, the owner set the thing.&rdquo; Siddiqui says he set the time for the ribbon-cutting months ago, but that last month&rsquo;s blizzard kept the project from completion. &ldquo;The weather has created all kinds of time drama,&rdquo; said Siddiqui. &ldquo;This was planned because all the people that were willing to come (to the ribbon-cutting), they could come that day.&rdquo; So&hellip; keep your eyes open? Parking may (or may not) soon come to Devon.</div></p> Tue, 01 Mar 2011 17:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/50th-ward/long-awaited-devon-garage-remains-closed-despite-political-hoopla-contrary Neighborhood retailers pin hopes on new city leaders http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-mayoral-election/neighborhood-retailers-pin-hopes-new-city-leaders <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/web pic.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&nbsp;While Chicago has given away millions of dollars in incentives to lure corporations like Boeing and United Airlines, most residents look elsewhere for signs of the city&rsquo;s economic health. For many Chicagoans, it&rsquo;s not what happens downtown that matters &ndash; instead, it&rsquo;s the quality of stores and services in their neighborhoods.&nbsp;Their voices could get louder, now that Chicago is choosing a new mayor and many aldermen. Those communities that have seen their business corridors decline in recent years are hoping that a new city hall can give them a leg up.</p><div>One of those communities is Devon Avenue on Chicago&rsquo;s far north side, where Ann Kalayil grew up and still lives. On the holiday of Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights, the street was filled with cars and people buying groceries in the many ethnic fruit markets.&nbsp;But Kalayil pointed to a South Asian clothing store where she used to work part-time as a teenager. &ldquo;This is one of the oldest clothing stores on Devon Avenue,&rdquo; said Kalayil, &ldquo;and it's empty. We used to have a tremendous amount of people coming to shop on Devon Avenue.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Kalayil co-founded the <a href="http://saapri.org/">South Asian American Policy and Research Institute</a>, which did a <a href="http://saapri.org/pdfs/developing-devon-full-report.pdf">study </a>in 2008 about the troubles facing the Devon Avenue retail corridor. She said that weekend holiday foot traffic may indicate that it&rsquo;s a thriving business community, but the reality is quite different. &ldquo;I still think you walk into a store during the week here, and they'll say they have no business,&rdquo; said Kalayil. &ldquo;Traditionally they have depended on customers coming here on the weekends, and that hasn't been happening. Then, of course, now you have the rise of unemployment, and people are not spending money.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>There are also other signs that business is struggling on Devon, said Kalayil.&nbsp;She said stores are turning over more quickly than she&rsquo;s ever seen, and properties are sitting vacant longer than they used to.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Walking through the cluster of Indian and Pakistani clothing, food, and electronics stores, Kalayil stops at a gaping hole along the south side of the strip. &ldquo;This looks to me like (a) war zone,&rdquo; Kalayil said. The charred, littered, and graffitied lot is where a building burned down four years ago, and has sat empty ever since. &ldquo;This is actually symptomatic of what's happening here on Devon Avenue,&rdquo; said Kalayil. &ldquo;Why is there this, this... it's not even an empty lot.&nbsp;It's literally a big hole in the the ground, that's unused, and it's smack in the middle of one of the most busy sections of Devon Avenue.&rdquo;&nbsp;Despite this, Kalayil feels optimistic the street can bounce back, with strong leadership and a vision.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But further west on Devon, others have given up hope.&nbsp;Avrom Fox, owner of the Jewish bookstore <a href="http://www.alljudaica.com/">Rosenblum&rsquo;s</a>, decided after years of waiting for Devon to improve that his business would be more viable in the northwest suburb of Skokie. &ldquo;I don't have any confidence that Jewish Devon has any future,&rdquo; said Fox, referring to the nickname that the street once had when its stores overwhelmingly catered to Chicago&rsquo;s Orthodox Jewish community. &ldquo;I think the street is done. And I think we have to move on,&rdquo; said Fox.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Rosenblum's had a 40-year history in Chicago, and Fox said he wishes it could have been longer. But he said he&rsquo;s jaded after waiting for others to join him in trying to keep the street clean and vibrant. &ldquo;I can tell you that it's been a lot of talk, and a lot of advocacy, but at the end of the day, all you have to do is look at the street, and see what it looks like,&rdquo; said Fox. &ldquo;The city can't be proud of the way it looks, can't be proud of the huge vacancy rates, can't be proud of the fact that the streets are dirty, that there's garbage all over the place.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Fox blames a lot of people are to blame for Devon&rsquo;s decline, but he points a finger partly at city government. &ldquo;I think the city should recognize that Devon Avenue is a historic shopping district which needs to be beautified so it can be reinstated and maybe someday become what it was more than a generation ago,&rdquo; said Fox.&nbsp;He thinks fewer Jewish business would have fled Chicago if the city had acted sooner in offering them large grants from tax increment financing districts. The grants can be used to make capital improvements to stores. They&rsquo;re available now to Devon Avenue merchants, but Fox said they're too little, too late.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Amie Zander understands Fox&rsquo;s situation, though as Executive Director of the <a href="http://www.westridgechamber.org/">West Ridge Chamber of Commerce</a>, it&rsquo;s her job to keep businesses here.&nbsp;Zander helped start the Devon Avenue Special Service Area, a business taxing district that cleans the street and removes snow. She said it has helped improve the look of the street, but Zander says she needs more help from the city. &ldquo;I think that we're forgotten a lot. We're way up on the North Side,&rdquo; said Zander.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Zander points to rusty light polls and crumbling sidewalks, and lamented that Devon Avenue hasn't had a streetscape in more than twenty years. She said the local alderman, Bernard Stone, should have pushed harder for one. Stone contends the city hasn't given him the money.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Beyond infrastructure, Zander said she feels that far-flung retail corridors are not on the city&rsquo;s radar the way downtown is. &ldquo;You hear a lot in tourism about come to see Navy Pier. Well, that's great. But what about going into the neighborhoods?&rdquo; said Zander. &ldquo;We've had very little assistance from city hall on really designating us as a tourist attraction and telling people about it.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Zander, Kalayil, and Fox note that city hall is not entirely to blame for Devon's struggles.&nbsp;They say the alderman, business owners, residents, and community organizations haven't worked together on a common plan to save the street. Joel Bookman with the Chicago office of <a href="http://www.lisc-chicago.org/home.aspx">Local Initiatives Support Corporation</a>, a non-profit neighborhood development group, believes all those ingredients are important.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Bookman cites Chicago&rsquo;s Chinatown and Little Village neighborhoods as good examples of where residents and businesses work together to make their retail strips enticing and accessible to shoppers. But Bookman feels City Hall can lay a foundation for that development by improving streets, sidewalks, trees and benches. And in this recession, Bookman hopes the city will get even more involved by trying new things, like encouraging skittish banks to start lending again to small businesses.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;We have some very active, bustling, vibrant commercial districts that are the heart of our communities,&rdquo; said Bookman.&nbsp;&ldquo;They are the main street of our communities, the public square in our communities, and all too often around the country we see that without a viable commercial corridor, neighborhoods begin to fall apart.&rdquo;&nbsp;Bookman believes Chicagoans will evaluate their next mayor and city council according to what they can do not just for downtown, but for the neighborhoods.</div></p> Mon, 03 Jan 2011 13:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-mayoral-election/neighborhood-retailers-pin-hopes-new-city-leaders Re-Jew-venating Devon Avenue: Clergy, businessmen launch effort http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/re-jew-venating-devon-avenue-clergy-businessmen-launch-effort <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/avi_small.JPG" alt="" /><p><div>A few weeks ago, I tripped onto an intriguing lead during an interview with the head of the <a href="http://www.westridgechamber.org/">West Ridge Chamber of Commerce</a>. Amie Zander and I were talking about what it would take to revitalize business on Devon Avenue on Chicago&rsquo;s far North Side, and she mentioned that a group of Orthodox Jewish businessmen and rabbis had taken matters into their own hands. Zander didn&rsquo;t have much in the way of detail, but what she had heard was that a group of community leaders had pooled money to lure Jewish-owned businesses back to Devon. Zander&rsquo;s attempts to contact the group had, so far, been unsuccessful.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Then a couple weeks later, I happened to be interviewing 50<sup>th</sup> Ward Alderman Bernard Stone, and he mentioned the same thing.&nbsp;Stone said the group was working with his office to reverse the flight of Jewish businesses on Devon between California Ave and Kedzie Ave. &ldquo;They have been very helpful in finding businesses to move into those stores as they become vacant,&rdquo; said Stone. Stone said together, they found a new tenant to lease the recently-closed Morgan Harbor Grill, a kosher sushi restaurant on the street. And Stone said this group also found a new business to replace <a href="http://www.alljudaica.com/">Rosenblum&rsquo;s</a>, a bookstore that moved to Skokie last month.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Rosenblum&rsquo;s departure was, for many in the local Orthodox community, another landmark moment in the decline of what was once called &ldquo;Jewish Devon,&rdquo; the name used to refer to a mile-long stretch between Western Ave and Kedzie Ave. Now, it reflects only a small handful of stores on a strip half that size. Where Rosenblum&rsquo;s, an Israeli-Moroccan restaurant, Hashalom, and a longtime shoe repair store once were, empty windows now stare depressingly at passersby.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Here&rsquo;s what I&rsquo;ve gathered about the group that&rsquo;s trying to reverse the trend. It&rsquo;s called the Devon Initiative Association, and it&rsquo;s headed by businessman Sidney Glenner. Glenner owns several elderly nursing and rehab homes. Rabbi Baruch Hertz of Congregation Bnei Ruven, at Whipple and Devon, is also involved. Glenner was unavailable for an interview; Hertz did not respond to requests. But some of their activity is clear from publicity efforts in bulletins of local synagogues and Jewish schools.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>According to <a href="http://www.jbizchicago.com/classified-ads/devon-avenue/">one of those ads</a>, they&rsquo;re hoping that a year&rsquo;s free rent will lure Jewish businesses back to the street. And in at least <a href="http://listserv.shamash.org/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind1011&amp;L=LIKPESHAT&amp;P=R6809&amp;1=LIKPESHAT&amp;9=A&amp;I=-3&amp;d=No+Match;Match;Matches&amp;z=4">one case</a>, it worked:</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span>&ldquo;Devon Fish and Pizza would like to extend a hearty thank you to Rabbi Sidney Glenner, Mr. Yosef Davis, and the entire Devon Initiative Association for helping us open our new restaurant.&nbsp; We wish them tremendous hatzlacha in their amazing work&hellip;&rdquo;</span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Davis also did not respond to several requests for an interview. Devon Fish and Pizza is the new restaurant that moved into Morgan Harbor Grill&rsquo;s former space less than two months ago. It was opened by the same person who owns <a href="http://www.thegreatchicago.com/">Great Chicago Food and Beverage Company</a> a little further west on the street. That owner did not respond to requests for an interview.</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>It&rsquo;s not clear what terms are attached to these agreements. Do businesses that take a year&rsquo;s free rent have to commit to staying in that location for a period of years? And is the Devon Initiative Association only interested in filling up vacant spots on Devon? Or, are they eyeing locations that may have tenants that they don&rsquo;t consider desirable?</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>Another question is whether the effort aims solely to put Jewish <i>businesses</i> on the street, or if there&rsquo;s also a push to bring more Jewish residents to the neighborhood as well. <a href="http://listserv.shamash.org/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind1010&amp;L=LIKPESHAT&amp;P=R6855&amp;1=LIKPESHAT&amp;9=A&amp;I=-3&amp;d=No+Match;Match;Matches&amp;z=4">Another ad</a> suggests residences are included:</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>&ldquo;<span><span>Thank you to the Devon Initiative Association for establishing a fund providing up to $30,000 towards the purchase of a Sacramento and Devon Town Home.&rdquo;</span></span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div>A sum like that makes you wonder&hellip; how much does this group have to spend on this initiative, and how far can that money go?</div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span>Avrom Fox, for one, thinks the effort is destined to fail. Fox owns Rosenblum&rsquo;s. Speaking over the phone from his store&rsquo;s new location in Skokie, about 5 miles from his old Devon storefront, Fox still sounds bitter about having had to move. &ldquo;</span>Is it ethical to try to give away (money) to attract people to Devon Ave when you know the chances of them succeeding is poor?&rdquo; asked Fox. &ldquo;<span><span>They are kind of in a desperate way trying to do something that is, in my opinion, too little too late.&rdquo;</span></span></div> <div>&nbsp;</div> <div><span>Fox wants to know why the group is suddenly springing into action now, and what they&rsquo;re doing to help existing businesses on Devon. Fox went to several of the businessmen and rabbis that are involved in the new initiative a few years ago to ask for help. &ldquo;I told them that if there were any way for us to be remaining (on Devon Avenue), it would be for the Jewish institutions in West Rogers Park, but particularly the very Orthodox Jewish institutions in West Rogers Park and individuals, to patronize us,&rdquo; Fox remembered. &ldquo;They </span>said we understand what you&rsquo;re saying, we hear you,&rdquo; continued Fox, &ldquo;<span><span>but they took us for granted.&rdquo; Fox said his appeals yielded no results.</span></span></div> <p>Fox said business is picking up in his new location, but he regrets that, after twenty years owning the business, he had to leave Devon. Now that Rosenblum&rsquo;s departed, remaining Jewish businesses on Devon, like Moshe&rsquo;s New York Kosher next door, are doing even worse. &ldquo;Is Devon all of a sudden, if you have a couple of Jewish businesses, is it going to look different?&rdquo; asked Fox. He, for one, is skeptical.&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 17 Dec 2010 19:36:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/re-jew-venating-devon-avenue-clergy-businessmen-launch-effort Bank and borrowers forge new ties http://www.wbez.org/story/banks/bank-and-borrowers-forge-new-ties <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2010-October/2010-10-26/IMG_0758.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>&nbsp;Bank failures have brought a wave of new lenders into many communities. These institutions are larger and more stable than the ones they have replaced, but they don&rsquo;t have the same relationships with the communities they serve. For minority business owners that rely heavily on loans from their small, local banks, this can be a rocky transition. And on Chicago&rsquo;s North Side, one bank&rsquo;s troubles with its South Asian borrowers boiled over into a big enough problem that a U.S. Congresswoman had to intervene.</p><div style="">&nbsp;</div> <div style=""><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Businessman Balvinder Singh was one of the first to voice his problems with United Central Bank.&nbsp;Standing in front of a strip of storefronts that he owns on Clark Street, he pointed out a Chinese restaurant at the corner. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s the one pays my bills,&rdquo; Singh said with a rueful laugh. &ldquo;If my properties are fully rented,&rdquo; said Singh, &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t have a problem to pay my mortgage.&rdquo; </span></div> <div style="">&nbsp;</div> <div style=""><span style="font-size: 10pt;">But Singh&rsquo;s retail strip is far from full; most of the rest of the spaces are empty or occupied by tenants that are behind on rent.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </span></div> <div style="">&nbsp;</div> <div style=""><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Singh's troubles began last December, when almost all his tenants went out of business or left the property in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood. Singh said when he realized this, he immediately went to his lender: United Central Bank. &ldquo;I showed them my plans,&rdquo; said Singh. &ldquo;I told them up to March I will fill up my property and I will start paying you certain amount, and they agree.&rdquo; But Singh says after he filled about 80 percent of the property with tenants, the bank refused to work out a loan modification.&nbsp;</span></div> <div style="">&nbsp;</div> <div style=""><span style="font-size: 10pt;">The next month Singh got foreclosure notices on his three properties in the area, but he also found out that he wasn't the only borrower in trouble with United Central Bank--another North Side businessman, Arshad Javid, was stuck in the same situation. Javid approached Singh with a petition that alleged United Central Bank discriminated against its South Asian borrowers. Together, Singh and Javid got nearly 30 other minority borrowers to sign it.</span></div> <div style="">&nbsp;</div> <div style=""><span style="font-size: 10pt;">United Central Bank&rsquo;s CEO, Luke Lively, denies racial prejudice played any role in lending decisions. &ldquo;It hurt us when we hear those kinds of claims because,one, we've never heard those anywhere else in the 23 (-year) history of the bank,&rdquo; said Lively. &ldquo;If that was the case, that would have been something that would have bubbled up, I'm sure, at some point. It's never been the case.&rdquo;</span></div> <div style="">&nbsp;</div> <div style=""><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Since Texas-based United Central Bank acquired failed Mutual Bank last year, Lively has traveled frequently to the company&rsquo;s Western Avenue location on Chicago's far North Side.&nbsp;Those trips have become particularly important in the wake of the allegations of discrimination.&nbsp;Lively said United Central Bank investigated the claims, but found no written proof, in emails or other records, to substantiate them.</span></div> <div style="">&nbsp;</div> <div style=""><span style="font-size: 10pt;">But Lively does concede the borrowers were treated in a less-than-professional manner. &ldquo;It was more things like -- and this is, to me, this is a terrible term, but it's 'I'm tired of babysitting you, as a borrower,'&rdquo; said Lively. &ldquo;'Babysitting' being a term that we saw in e-mails, something that we could identify from within.&rdquo;&nbsp;</span></div> <div style="">&nbsp;</div> <div style=""><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Lively said the bank fired two loan officers as a result of the investigation. Despite that, a spokesman from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation confirms the agency is investigating a complaint of racial discrimination.</span></div> <div style="">&nbsp;</div> <div style=""><span style="font-size: 10pt;">The petitioners also sought relief from another source: U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. Singh had approached Schakowsky early into his troubles, but she declined to intervene on his behalf. Schakowsky said it wasn&rsquo;t until she saw the petition that she understood the urgency of the matter. &ldquo;I was concerned about the neighborhood and I was concerned about a large number of constituents,&rdquo; she said. Schakowsky helped arrange a town hall meeting with the borrowers and Lively. It was there that the bank committed to working with the borrowers to avoid foreclosures.</span></div> <div style="">&nbsp;</div> <div style=""><span style="font-size: 10pt;">But some have questioned Schakowsky's involvement during this election year. Her opponent has filed a <a href="http://www.pollakforcongress.com/2010/10/13/pollak-to-file-expanded-ethics-complaint-against-schakowsky/">complaint </a>with the Office of Congressional Ethics alleging that Schakowsky&rsquo;s intervention was politically motivated. The complaint says that only a few names on the petition are actually targets of United Central Bank foreclosures. And some of those names, like Balivinder Singh, have donated tens of thousands of dollars to Illinois Democrats.</span></div> <div style="">&nbsp;</div> <div style=""><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Schakowsky says she didn't consider campaign contributions when she decided to get involved.&nbsp;&ldquo;I feel completely non-defensive about having intervened,&rdquo; said Schakowsky. &ldquo;I'm proud of it. I think it was a really good thing.&rdquo;&nbsp;</span></div> <div style="">&nbsp;</div> <div style=""><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Many of the signatures on the petition are people who are employed by borrowers. Singh says they signed because they would lose their jobs if the businesses were foreclosed.</span></div> <div style="">&nbsp;</div> <div style=""><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Geoffrey Smith of the Woodstock Institute says it&rsquo;s a good thing the bank and the borrowers there are finally working together. &ldquo;Our experience in talking to community organizations, that's a real concern,&rdquo; said Smith. &ldquo;(That) when a local bank is acquired, especially a community bank is acquired by an out-of-town bank, that it changes the way that the bank interacts with the community.&rdquo;&nbsp;</span></div> <div style="">&nbsp;</div> <div style=""><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Lively has asked the borrowers to form an advisory committee to tell him how the bank is doing with minority borrowers. It&rsquo;s supposed to meet on a regular basis. &ldquo;This is, I think, an opportunity where you can turn something that is really critically negative into something positive by simply not offering words, but by offering actions and community involvement,&rdquo; said Lively. </span></div> <div style="">&nbsp;</div> <div style=""><span style="font-size: 10pt;">The committee has met once already, and Singh attended. Even while looking at his nearly-deserted shopping strip in Rogers Park, Singh says the meetings with United Central Bank have restored some optimism in him. &ldquo;I think things will be alright. If bank works with the people, things will be alright,&rdquo; said Singh. &ldquo;I will work with (United Central Bank), you know. Whatever the way I will have to work, I will work.&rdquo;</span></div></p> Tue, 26 Oct 2010 21:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/banks/bank-and-borrowers-forge-new-ties