WBEZ | Logan Square http://www.wbez.org/tags/logan-square Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Real-estate developer in hot area sees bright future — and displacement http://www.wbez.org/news/real-estate-developer-hot-area-sees-bright-future-%E2%80%94-and-displacement-111231 <p><p><br /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Rob%20Buono%20meeting%203%20CROPSCALE%20fix.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 258px; width: 350px;" title="At a community meeting, Robert Buono presents architectural renderings of the dual-tower complex he wants to build near a Chicago Transit Authority stop in the Logan Square neighborhood. The project is among a half-dozen residential developments that could hasten the area’s transformation to an upscale enclave. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />About 150 people packed into a Latin American restaurant a few weeks ago to hear about a proposal for an apartment complex in Logan Square, a fast-changing neighborhood on Chicago&rsquo;s Northwest Side.</p><p>At the invitation of the local alderman, real-estate developer Robert Buono got to make his case for a zoning change that would allow the project on a vacant parcel designated for something else.</p><p>Buono projected architectural renderings of the complex onto a screen facing the audience. They showed two glass towers &mdash; one 11 stories, the other 15 &mdash; that together would hold 254 residential units. He said tenants in two-bedroom apartments would pay as much as $2,700 a month.</p><p>&ldquo;Everything is privately financed,&rdquo; said Buono, 51, who became a developer after working for a Lincoln Park alderman in the 1980s, when that North Side neighborhood was transforming into a wealthy enclave. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re asking for no support from the city.&rdquo;</p><p>Buono said his towers would be part of a trend, known as &ldquo;transit-oriented development,&rdquo; in which homes are built within walking distance of train stations, making it more convenient for residents to live without a car. &ldquo;You&rsquo;re going to have higher density, lower parking and taller buildings,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The dual-tower complex is among a half-dozen upscale residential developments proposed along Logan Square&rsquo;s stretch of the Chicago Transit Authority&rsquo;s Blue Line. That train line connects O&rsquo;Hare International Airport with the city&rsquo;s downtown, known as the Loop.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/WHEELER-KEARNS-MKE-978x1024.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; width: 300px; height: 314px;" title="The towers would stand at 2293 N. Milwaukee Ave. within a few hundred feet of the California stop of the CTA’s Blue Line. (Rendering courtesy of Wheeler Kearns Architects)" />Audience members questioned Buono about everything from the shadows the towers would cast to the effect of the complex&rsquo;s rainwater runoff on the sewers to whether the residents would bring more cars to the neighborhood than he was predicting.</p><p>And another question kept coming up. How would such steep rents affect a neighborhood that still had many working-class residents, including tens of thousands of Latinos?</p><p>Buono said he had agreed to a condition, imposed by the alderman, that 10 percent of the units be reserved for affordable housing.</p><p>That led to more questions. A young man who grew up in Logan Square drew applause when he asked, &ldquo;What is the amount of profit that you are going to make if this goes exactly to plan?&rdquo;</p><p>Buono estimated that the $60 million project could net roughly $10 million or, he added quickly, it could lose that much. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s the risk that we take,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>A follow-up question was how much profit there would be if the entire building were devoted to affordable units. Buono answered.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s not a lender on the face of the earth that would loan me money to build the project,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t build it inexpensively enough for the rents to support the costs of construction. It&rsquo;s just not possible.&rdquo;</p><p>Buono is not out to solve Chicago&rsquo;s affordable-housing crisis on his own. But he said the project would help attract young professionals that would uplift Logan Square and the rest of the city. The people he has in mind would use the train to get to their jobs in the Loop. Or, Buono said, they would be &ldquo;consultants that work out of town.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 22px;">&lsquo;</span><span style="font-size:22px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">I don&rsquo;t want to move from here&rsquo;</span></span></p><p>Not everyone in Logan Square likes the idea of bringing in those sorts of newcomers.</p><p>A few blocks from the proposed apartment complex, Andre Vásquez pulled up to his 10-year-old daughter&rsquo;s school and slipped open the big door of his family&rsquo;s car &mdash; an old Dodge Caravan. She climbed in and told him about a field trip her class took that day.</p><p>Vásquez, 41, makes his living as a DJ for parties and business events. His wife is a part-time nanny. They&rsquo;re raising two kids in a two-bedroom Logan Square apartment about three blocks from the proposed towers.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Bakery%20CROPSCALE.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 397px; width: 300px;" title="A Mexican bakery stands near a Logan Square elevated-train station that real-estate interests are eyeing for ‘transit-oriented development.’ Despite years of gentrification, Logan Square still has tens of thousands of Latinos. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />&ldquo;I pay $950 a month, which is fairly cheap for this neighborhood,&rdquo; Vásquez said. &ldquo;And I was just informed by my landlord that she&rsquo;s going to have to raise the rents at least another $400 or $500 because the taxes in the area have gone up.&rdquo;</p><p>The neighborhood&rsquo;s rents have gone up because property values have increased as wealthier people have arrived. From 2011 to 2013, median sales prices of Logan Square homes jumped almost a third.</p><p>Vásquez said he had been displaced before &mdash; from a nearby neighborhood called West Town, where he grew up. &ldquo;They built their condominiums and only people with money, and lots of money, move into them,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no way people like myself or my parents or grandparents could ever afford it.&rdquo;</p><p>Vásquez looked at his daughter in the van&rsquo;s back seat and said he did not want her to go through the same thing. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t want to move from here,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;This is all she knows.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="320" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/gentrification/widget/22/" style="float: right; clear: right;" width="400"></iframe></p><p>This is textbook gentrification. And Buono, the real-estate developer, defends it.</p><p>Interviewed in his office, Buono said the towers would serve a basic need: &ldquo;Developing communities that are going to be attractive to the future of the city of Chicago &mdash; so that the demographic that we&rsquo;re addressing, the 18-to-35-year-olds &mdash; so that they want to move to Chicago, that they want to work in Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>Buono called the lack of development so close to the Blue Line station a missed opportunity for the city to boost its revenue. &ldquo;We look at a property like that today that pays $29,000 in real-estate taxes because it&rsquo;s vacant,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;A new development there would produce $350,000-$400,000 a year.&rdquo;</p><p>Buono said his project will benefit the entire Logan Square neighborhood. &ldquo;Bringing 300-400 people to an area, that really is depopulated, starts to support a whole bunch of activities,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Those people living in those buildings support the businesses in the neighborhood.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">&lsquo;Natural and inevitable&rsquo;</span></span></p><p>This reasoning is familiar to Marisa Novara, who directs the housing and community-development program of the Metropolitan Planning Council, a nonprofit advocacy group.</p><p>&ldquo;Anyone in a neighborhood that has a lack of amenities &mdash; places to shop locally, strong schools &mdash; wants things to get better,&rdquo; Novara said. &ldquo;What they don&rsquo;t want is to not be able to live there anymore once they do get better. Housing that is near transit should be available to everyone, not only the highest bidder.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Marisa%20Novara%201%20CROPSCALE.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 242px; width: 320px;" title="Marisa Novara of the Metropolitan Planning Council, a nonprofit group, says Chicago must try to ‘harness’ the private sector due to a lack of federal affordable-housing funds. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />Novara said the city has interests beyond attracting young professionals and collecting more property taxes. When gentrification fuels economic segregation, she said, everyone loses.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a cost to concentrated poverty &mdash; education outcomes, health outcomes, crime, economic productivity,&rdquo; Novara said.</p><p>Without a massive increase in federal funds for affordable housing, Novara said, cities such as Chicago must harness the private sector. That means setting up carrots and sticks so developers in hot neighborhoods include affordable units in their projects, she said.</p><p>For his Logan Square towers, Buono has already agreed to include the 10 percent. If his project is not scaled back, that would amount to 25 units. That leaves the other 225 to be rented for whatever the market will bear.</p><p>&ldquo;If we achieve the rents that we&rsquo;re suggesting that we can &mdash; and the landlord down the street in the two-flat decides to raise his rent as a result, primarily because the market says he can &mdash; could it cause a displacement of some people?&rdquo; Buono&nbsp;asked. &ldquo;The answer to that is yes.&rdquo;</p><p>And if Buono&rsquo;s project and the other Logan Square proposals&nbsp;materialized, he acknowledged, they would &ldquo;alter the character&rdquo; of the neighborhood. &ldquo;This is a natural, inevitable trend that has happened in many neighborhoods in Chicago,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><br /><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 05:50:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/real-estate-developer-hot-area-sees-bright-future-%E2%80%94-and-displacement-111231 Logan Square parents target alderman over military school http://www.wbez.org/news/logan-square-parents-target-alderman-over-military-school-109062 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/ames update.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Some Logan Square residents are targeting 26th Ward Alderman Roberto Maldonado over a decision to convert their neighborhood school to a military academy.</p><p dir="ltr">Ames Middle School parent Emma Segura said the decision to affiliate Ames with the Marine Corps took place behind closed doors, but she said parents plan to fight the plan.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Why didn&rsquo;t (the alderman) come inside the school? Why didn&rsquo;t he talk to the parents? Why hasn&rsquo;t he done a meeting for the community to go?&rdquo; asked Segura. She also blasted Maldonado for making his announcement about the future of Ames four miles away, at Marine Math and Science Academy.</p><p dir="ltr">Segura said she and about 50 neighbors plan to go door to door this weekend around the school to survey residents about what they think Ames&rsquo; future should be&mdash;and to make sure they&rsquo;re registered to vote.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier in the week, the alderman, mayor and school officials announced that Marine Math and Science military academy would move into Ames. But that would have meant a school closing, something Mayor Rahm Emanuel has vowed he wouldn&rsquo;t do anymore.</p><p dir="ltr">Officials now say the current military academy will stay put, and Ames will become Chicago Public Schools&rsquo; seventh military high school. It will serve 7th through 12th-graders.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/parents-lose-fight-keep-military-school-out-109044">The clarification</a> came after WBEZ began asking questions.</p><p dir="ltr">Maldonado didn&rsquo;t return a phone call or e-mail. On Friday afternoon, his website <a href="http://robertomaldonado.com/">still indicated</a> Marine Math and Science Academy was moving into Ames. &quot;I am proud to bring Marine Math &amp; Science Academy to our community and I am grateful to Mayor Emanuel for making this dream a reality,&rdquo; it said, quoting from Tuesday&rsquo;s press conference.</p><p dir="ltr">Segura, a parent representative on the Ames local school council, said the LSC has called a special meeting for Tuesday morning. They&rsquo;ve invited top CPS officials.</p><p dir="ltr">Logan Square Neighborhood Association organizer Bridget Murphy wondered why a new military academy has to be located in a current school. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s been 50 shuttered schools around the city, why don&rsquo;t they consider one of those?&rdquo; she said. The alderman, mayor and school officials have argued that Ames is under-enrolled and low-performing.</p><p dir="ltr">Murphy said some aldermen may try to bring up Ames school at a meeting of the City Council&rsquo;s Education Committee Monday.</p><p><em>Linda Lutton is WBEZ&rsquo;s education reporter. Follow WBEZ education coverage at <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZEducation</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 01 Nov 2013 19:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/logan-square-parents-target-alderman-over-military-school-109062 Logan Square, Pilsen and Avondale: Is gentrification always a 'bad' thing? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-10/logan-square-pilsen-and-avondale-gentrification-always-bad-thing-108874 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2960672182_a048495950_z.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="(Flickr/Heather Phillips)" /></div><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-42e0ee21-9c06-9a57-fac0-48a57d31ecb8">It all started with fried chicken.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-42e0ee21-9c06-9a57-fac0-48a57d31ecb8">And $10 cocktails and doughnuts, too. Well, it is not just about the food and drinks, but often times, the things that drive us to certain neighborhoods now are not just the cost of living or its safety, but whether or not a new scene exists within it.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-42e0ee21-9c06-9a57-fac0-48a57d31ecb8">Two years ago, I once asked a friend why he was moving to Logan Square and he simply said, &ldquo;Well, everyone else is moving there.&rdquo; His favorite neighborhood was Ukrainian Village, but it felt necessary for him to move to Logan Square because the energy (the young and middle class and creative energy) was moving there as well. Simply put, &ldquo;everything&rdquo; someone within that small yet culturally-prevalent population could want was happening in one place.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-42e0ee21-9c06-9a57-fac0-48a57d31ecb8">Unlike Wicker Park before it, unlike many now established neighborhoods before it (like Old Town and Lakeview and Boystown), Logan Square&rsquo;s rise was seemingly quick and calculated. Those who have lived within the neighborhood since the beginning of its latest &ldquo;change&rdquo; from working class Latino neighborhood to its hybrid identity (part youth-built, part culinary-rich, part artistic-led, and part working class) would say the change was as slow as others, but from the outside, it appears swift.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-42e0ee21-9c06-9a57-fac0-48a57d31ecb8">Most gentrification is a multi-step process involving artists, creatives, those attracted to the pursuits of artists and creatives, and finally young, urban professionals. In <em>The Urbanist Chronicle</em>, DePaul University professor Dr. John Joe Schlichtman&nbsp;<a href="http://www.urbanistchronicle.com/index.php?option=com_k2&amp;view=item&amp;id=2:schlichtman-response-to-confessions-of-a-harlem-gentrifier&amp;Itemid=148" target="_blank">describes</a> it as, &ldquo;</span>pulls of geographic centrality and the proximity of amenities, pulls of a social fabric in which one knows &ldquo;the friendly faces at the deli,&rdquo; pulls of the potential of extra square footage, and, yes, pulls of the romantic history-steeped &lsquo;authenticity&rsquo;.&rdquo; But in the case of Logan Square (and in smaller doses, neighborhoods like Avondale and Pilsen) more concerted efforts are underway to transform large swaths of the area in one fell swoop.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-42e0ee21-9c06-9a57-fac0-48a57d31ecb8">Jason Patch and Neil Brenner <a href="http://www.blackwellreference.com/public/uid=3/tocnode?id=g9781405124331_yr2012_chunk_g978140512433113_ss1-35" target="_blank">call</a></span>&nbsp;gentrification, &ldquo;the reinvestment of real estate capital into declining, inner-city neighborhoods to create a new residential infrastructure for middle and high-income inhabitants&rdquo; in the <em>Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology</em>. &nbsp;For Logan Square, that especially entails the South and East sections of the neighborhood surrounding the two major CTA Blue Line stops along Milwaukee Avenue.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-42e0ee21-9c06-9a57-fac0-48a57d31ecb8">In a report of rapid changes to the area &ndash; and the 2300 block of North Milwaukee in particular &ndash; Eater Chicago editor Daniel Gerzina <a href="http://chicago.eater.com/archives/2013/05/14/six-hospitality-projects-to-remake-logan-square-block.php" target="_blank">noted</a></span>&nbsp;that it would be &ldquo;unrecognizable within months, changing the course of a street and a neighborhood in one swoop.&rdquo; At least six hospitality projects are already <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/logan-square-new-bars-analogue-robert-haynes-henry-prendergast/Content?oid=10746020" target="_blank">in the works</a>&nbsp;and will be open within the next year.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-42e0ee21-9c06-9a57-fac0-48a57d31ecb8"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1520842241_9f409508dd_z.jpg" style="height: 233px; width: 310px; float: left;" title="(Flickr/BWChicago)" />In Avondale, Honey Butter Fried Chicken joins an established array of decadent and delicious food options like Hot Doug&rsquo;s and Kuma&rsquo;s Corner. In Pilsen, Dusek&rsquo;s Board and Beer and Punch House both recently opened within the transformed historical Thalia Hall.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-42e0ee21-9c06-9a57-fac0-48a57d31ecb8">Each burgeoning new venture is unique, but in my head, I begin to check off visual and sensual similarities one can expect within the spaces: concept-driven cocktails, upscale small bites, and moody lighting. The crowd will probably look similar too upon first glance. It becomes difficult to distinguish one place from the next as each venue attempts to find the sort of success that has put certain neighborhood institutions on the map (Longman &amp; Eagle, The Whistler, Fat Rice).</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-42e0ee21-9c06-9a57-fac0-48a57d31ecb8">However, gentrification should not solely be considered a &ldquo;bad&rdquo; thing. That sort of energy, prosperity, liveability, and inherent possibility should be viable and available for any neighborhood. </span></p><p>Many forgotten or derided places are desperate for the sort of vitality that is bringing a second (or third) life to neighborhoods previously mentioned. The Logan Square many know now is not the Logan Square of a decade ago. Certainly the same can be said for Pilsen or Avondale, too. It does not mean that these neighborhoods were &ldquo;bad,&rdquo; merely undiscovered and more representative of the racial, social, environmental, and economical diversity that make cities so unique and so complex.</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-42e0ee21-9c06-9a57-fac0-48a57d31ecb8">When my mother talks about the Austin neighborhood of her youth, she is talking about a place that was filled with shops lining major streets and boulevards. She is talking about the ability to walk up and down the street without fear of violence. For myself growing up in the neighborhood, I never truly experienced that version of Austin. But I too dream of that neighborhood returned to its fullest glory. Its beauty feels most times like a secret that can only be articulated in person.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-42e0ee21-9c06-9a57-fac0-48a57d31ecb8">Gentrification is both complicated and welcomed. To only present one side of the matter ignores the very real desire of many to diminish and eventually eradicate problems of many city neighborhoods. According to Schlictman, these are, &ldquo;</span>precisely what grassroots community organizers are fighting for in neighborhoods with deteriorating real estate, high crime rates, and disheartened residents.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-42e0ee21-9c06-9a57-fac0-48a57d31ecb8">I am a middle class urbanite living in a gentrified neighborhood. I recognize my place in the system, how my choice of living, regardless of what I choose, will only reinforce the culture I am seeking to escape or join.</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-42e0ee21-9c06-9a57-fac0-48a57d31ecb8">But this is not about deciding which side is correct. In the end, both are correct. But only one can outlive the other.&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-42e0ee21-9c06-9a57-fac0-48a57d31ecb8">These bars and restaurants are success-driven ventures that seek to mimic the popularity of another place. And why shouldn&rsquo;t they?</span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-42e0ee21-9c06-9a57-fac0-48a57d31ecb8">Perhaps because change of this nature comes too quickly. Displacement (of bodies, of cultural identity) is not gradual, but forceful. It is a concerted effort to make something entirely &ldquo;new.&rdquo; It is an identity change that feels less like wearing a new top and more like a series of tattoos. Once they arrive, the change is nearly permanent. Their presence will forever alter the landscape of where they now exist. And as the buildings themselves change so too can the people moving within them. They are hinting at the desires of the neighborhoods current residents and establishing themselves as the &ldquo;right&rdquo; venue for its anticipated future residents. They are not waiting for the change. They are the change.&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Britt Julious is the co-host of&nbsp;<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbezs-changing-channels" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Changing Channels</a>, a podcast about the future of television. She also writes about race and culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</a>&nbsp;or on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 09 Oct 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-10/logan-square-pilsen-and-avondale-gentrification-always-bad-thing-108874 What I See: Gary Eckstein http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/what-i-see-gary-eckstein-108522 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/what i see thumbnail gary_edited-1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Gary Eckstein is a Chicagoan who loves roaming around the city, photographing what he sees. Here, he takes us through a summer day from sampling &quot;dead body&quot; soup at a Korean Market in Chicago&#39;s Avondale neighborhood to visiting Pilsen&#39;s Fiesta Del Sol festival.</p><p>&quot;The things I try to emphasize when I take photos are love of place, people and culture and my attempt to capture the genuine character of a given location,&quot; Gary says. You can find more of his photos on <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/garyegarye/" target="_blank">Flickr</a>.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="480" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/fWikv9f2SHA?rel=0" width="640"></iframe></p><p><strong>More from the What I See project</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/what-i-see-mimosa-shah-108384" target="_blank">Setting new roots with Mimosa Shah</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/art/what-i-see-katie-prout-108221" target="_blank">An afternoon run with Katie Prout</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/what-i-see-dmitry-samarov-107924" target="_blank">Painting, sketching and coffee-roasting with Dmitry Samarov</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/what-i-see-yolanda-perdomo-108041" target="_blank">The Illinois Railway Museum with Yolanda Perdomo</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/lifestyle/what-i-see-trainers-day-shedd-aquarium-107766" target="_blank">A trainer&#39;s day at the Shedd Aquarium with&nbsp;Jessica Whiton</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/what-i-see-bike-bee-107686" target="_blank">Bike-a-Bee with Jana Kinsman</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/what-i-see-early-morning-edition-107362" target="_blank">Early Morning Edition with Lauren Chooljian</a></p><p><em>&#39;What I See&#39; is a project which showcases photos from our community and what we&#39;re thinking when we take them. </em></p><p><em>Show us what your Chicago looks like! Email web producer Logan Jaffe ljaffe@wbez.org or tweet <a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">@loganjaffe</a> to find out more about how to make a What I See slideshow for WBEZ.</em></p></p> Mon, 26 Aug 2013 11:12:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/what-i-see-gary-eckstein-108522 Twice hit with foreclosure, family looks to proposed renter protections http://www.wbez.org/news/twice-hit-foreclosure-family-looks-proposed-renter-protections-107538 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/HildaQuiloCROP.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 222px; width: 300px;" title="If the Chicago City Council enacts the ordinance Wednesday, Hilda Quilo and her family could keep their home. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />The three-bedroom house where Hilda Quilo and her husband thought they would be raising their three children stands on a quiet, leafy block in Chicago&rsquo;s Logan Square neighborhood.</p><p>They bought the place in 1999. Quilo, 40, said everything was fine until the recession, when her husband&rsquo;s construction work dried up and they couldn&rsquo;t keep up on the mortgage payments.</p><p>&ldquo;We wanted to refinance and we asked the bank to help us,&rdquo; Quilo said in Spanish.</p><p>All they got was an eviction notice. So, after 10 years in the house, the family had to move out.</p><p>It turns out their foreclosure troubles were just beginning. The family went on the rental market and eventually found another house just down the block. They signed a lease in 2010 and, Quilo said, always paid their rent.</p><p>This January, however, the family started getting bank and court notices in the mail. And the landlord went missing. &ldquo;We discovered that this house was in foreclosure too,&rdquo; Quilo said.</p><p>This time, Quilo and the rest of the family were even more helpless because they were just renters. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re expecting an eviction notice,&rdquo; Quilo said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s an uncertainty that keeps me from sleeping.&rdquo;</p><p>The Quilos are not the first Chicago family to be hit twice by the foreclosure crisis, tenant advocates say. &ldquo;Hilda&rsquo;s story is a common experience for many people who go from being a homeowner to a tenant,&rdquo; said Marcelo Ferrer, foreclosure-prevention director of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Trausch.jpg" style="float: right; height: 259px; width: 250px;" title="James E. Trausch, general counsel of the Illinois Mortgage Bankers Association, calls the measure ‘a backdoor attempt at rent control.’ (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />When landlords face foreclosure, renters like the Quilos need some extra help, Ferrer said. &ldquo;It can&rsquo;t just be one person versus the bank.&rdquo;</p><p>The help Ferrer has in mind is <a href="http://chicago.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1156573&amp;GUID=4F709387-96EE-4BD0-9950-C692DE714378&amp;Options=Advanced&amp;Search=" target="_blank">Keep Chicago Renting</a>, a proposed ordinance the City Council could approve Wednesday. The measure would require a bank that forecloses on a rental building to let the tenants stay, and to cap the rent, until selling the property. As an alternative, the bank could pay the tenants a relocation fee of $10,600 per unit.</p><p>An earlier version of the proposal, introduced by Ald. Richard Mell (33rd) last July, would have banned post-foreclosure evictions outright except under narrow circumstances such as failure to pay rent.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration helped develop the current version and says the measure would keep such units occupied.</p><p>Mell agrees. &ldquo;All I want is the banks to say, &lsquo;Hey, let&rsquo;s figure out how we&rsquo;re going to take some haircuts on some of these properties and put them back on the market, not just sit on it.&rsquo; &rdquo; the alderman said during a hearing on the measure last month.</p><p>The implications are huge. A <a href="http://lcbh.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/LCBH-Three-Year-Impact-Assessment-Apartment-Building-Foreclosures-and-the-Depletion-of-Rental-Housing-in-Chicago.pdf" target="_blank">study by the Lawyers&rsquo; Committee for Better Housing</a>, another backer of the legislation, found almost 52,000 Chicago rental units went into foreclosure between 2009 and 2011.</p><p>But banks, landlords and realtors are trying to put brakes on the measure. &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s a backdoor attempt at rent control,&rdquo; said James E. Trausch, general counsel of the Illinois Mortgage Bankers Association, pointing to an <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=748&amp;ChapterID=11" target="_blank">Illinois statute that prohibits</a> local governments from setting up rent control.</p><p>The proposed ordinance would also discourage lending in the city, Trausch said. &ldquo;And that&rsquo;s always a bad thing. The [fewer] lenders you have loaning money, the less competition they have to offer the best rates.&rdquo;</p><p>Asked what he would tell renters such as Hilda Quilo, Trausch does not hesitate.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;d say, pick her landlords better,&rdquo; Trausch answered. &ldquo;A tenant who wants to rent a unit can go into the public records and see if there has been a foreclosure filed. And foreclosures take two years so you have ample notice that you shouldn&rsquo;t be renting this property.&rdquo;</p><p>That advice is cold comfort for the Quilo family.</p><p>&ldquo;My kids have grown up on this block,&rdquo; Quilo said. And that&rsquo;s where she wants them to stay. So she&rsquo;s planning to be at Wednesday&rsquo;s City Council meeting.</p><p>Quilo said the outcome could keep her family from losing its home again because of foreclosure.</p><p><em><a href="“http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0”" target="_blank">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="“https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1”" target="_blank">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="“https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud”" target="_blank">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="“https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1”" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="“http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1”" target="_blank">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 05 Jun 2013 07:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/twice-hit-foreclosure-family-looks-proposed-renter-protections-107538 Police Board fires cops for conduct captured on gang video http://www.wbez.org/news/police-board-fires-cops-conduct-captured-gang-video-107131 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Cop Video Capture.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The Chicago Police Board has fired two officers for conduct captured on a 2011 gang video (above) discovered by WBEZ.</p><p>The board found patrol officers Susana La&nbsp;Casa, 49, and Luis Contreras, 44, guilty of numerous administrative charges and decided the fitting punishment was dismissal, according to James P. Lynch, the attorney who represented the police department in the case.</p><p>The guilty charges, Lynch said, included unlawfully restraining a youth, transporting him without a valid police purpose to the turf of a gang that would threaten him, and making a false statement about the incident to an Internal Affairs detective.</p><p>La Casa and Contreras arrived March&nbsp;19, 2011, on a Logan Square block to assist two officers who had handcuffed a gang member named Miguel &ldquo;Mikey&rdquo; Castillo. The youth ended up in the backseat of the SUV that La&nbsp;Casa and Contreras were driving. They drove him to a block of nearby Humboldt Park that a rival gang claimed as its territory.</p><p>A 90-second amateur video shot there shows La&nbsp;Casa and Contreras outside the SUV, a Chevrolet Tahoe with standard police markings. Three of the doors are open as onlookers converge, peer in on Castillo, taunt him and flash their gang&rsquo;s hand signal. As Castillo tries to cover his face, La&nbsp;Casa tells him, &ldquo;Put your fucking hand down.&rdquo;</p><p>The video appeared briefly on YouTube, where WBEZ spotted it. The department quickly stripped La&nbsp;Casa and Contreras of their police powers and began an investigation. Interim police Supt. Terry Hillard called the incident &ldquo;not professional&rdquo; and said &ldquo;scared straight&rdquo; tactics were always inappropriate.</p><p>Supt. Garry McCarthy, Hillard&rsquo;s successor,&nbsp;recommended last September that the board dismiss the officers. At the board&rsquo;s evidentiary hearing, which lasted two days in February, La&nbsp;Casa and Contreras insisted they were just trying to give the young man a ride home and he never faced danger.</p><p>La&nbsp;Casa declined to comment about the dismissal.&nbsp;Contreras and attorney William N. Fahy, who represented the officers,&nbsp;did not return calls.</p><p>Neighborhood reactions varied. Eric Hudson, a homeowner who worked with La&nbsp;Casa and Contreras against Logan Square gang activity, said the dismissal stemmed from a police department culture &ldquo;weighted to Irish male cops.&rdquo;</p><p>Hudson called La&nbsp;Casa, an Illinois-licensed clinical counselor, a hard worker who did not deserve to be branded as abusive. &ldquo;This woman is a social worker, not Jon Burge,&rdquo; Hudson said, referring to the notorious Chicago detective imprisoned in connection to police torture cases.</p><p>But Rev. Kenny Ruiz, the former head of a gang-intervention program at the McCormick Tribune YMCA, hopes the dismissal sends a message to other officers. &ldquo;Do what the side of the police car says: &lsquo;Serve and Protect.&rsquo; That means everyone,&rdquo; Ruiz said. &ldquo;They can be the conduit for something positive for the young people and the challenges that they face.&rdquo;</p><p>The board, a nine-member panel appointed by the mayor, does not usually dismiss officers recommended for that punishment. During this year&rsquo;s first three months, the board fired just three of 13 officers that either the police department or the Independent Police Review Authority had recommended for discharge. In eight of those cases, the board ruled that the fitting punishment was a suspension or reprimand. In another case, the respondent resigned. In another, the department withdrew the charges.</p><p>Under Illinois law, officers can appeal their dismissals to Cook County Circuit Court.</p><p>Castillo, who did not suffer physical harm, received $33,000 from the city as part of a settlement in a civil suit over the incident, according to an attorney representing him. The suit, filed in federal court, alleged false arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress.</p><p>State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez&rsquo;s office reviewed the incident but declined to bring a criminal case.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Sat, 11 May 2013 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/police-board-fires-cops-conduct-captured-gang-video-107131 Logan Square parklet would soak up rain along Milwaukee Avenue http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/logan-square-parklet-would-soak-rain-along-milwaukee-avenue-106373 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Woodard-Plaza-design.png" style="height: 325px; width: 610px;" title="Preliminary design for Woodard Plaza, at the intersection of Milwaukee, Kimball and Woodard avenues. (Courtesy Chicago Department of Transportation)" /></p><p>Torrential rain drenched the city in 2010. Lula Cafe in Logan Square, like many homes and businesses, was inundated and had to shut down for a few days due to flooding. Barely a year later <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/6663103-418/incredible-amount-of-rain-sets-area-record.html">the same thing happened</a>, and <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/6663103-418/incredible-amount-of-rain-sets-area-record.html">is expected to continue recurring</a> as climate change contributes to heavier storms in the Chicago area.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a very high concentration of 311 calls for flooding in this neighborhood,&rdquo; said Kara Riggio, a senior research associate with the <a href="http://www.metroplanning.org/index.html" target="_blank">Metropolitan Planning Council</a>.</p><p>MPC manages a $200,000 grant from the state Environmental Protection Agency to seed green infrastructure projects on 79 acres of North Milwaukee Avenue between Kimball and California avenues.</p><p>Right now about 95 percent of that area is made up of impervious surfaces that prevent rain from soaking into the ground, further aggravating <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/scouring-scarred-watershed-104916">an overburdened stormwater system</a>. Their goal is expand the pervious surface area, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/reuniting-nature-nations-backyards-105473">sprinkling natural filtration systems</a> throughout several urban neighborhoods.</p><p>&ldquo;The idea is making these small investments at the parcel level,&rdquo; Riggio said. &ldquo;Hopefully we&rsquo;ll be able to concentrate them and make an impact on how much water is entering the sewer system.&rdquo;</p><p>So far they have approved six projects in what they&rsquo;re calling <a href="http://logansquareh2o.org/">The Milwaukee Avenue Green Development Corridor</a>. Recently they approved plans to turn a drab concrete island bounded by Milwaukee, Kimball and Woodard avenues into a parklet that will prevent 4,434 gallons of stormwater from entering the sewer system during each one-inch storm event. The design expands pervious surfaces by a factor of eight, from 185 square feet to 1,500.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Woodard-Plaza-current.png" style="height: 264px; width: 610px;" title="The current intersection of Milwaukee, Kimball and Woodard avenues, looking south on Kimball. (Courtesy Chicago Department of Transportation)" /></div><p>Dubbed Woodard Plaza, its features include a concrete runnel that directs water collected throughout the plaza toward five infiltration planters, which include native plants. The plaza will receive some additional runoff from adjacent streets by lowering the curb in some places.</p><p>It could be a boon for the pedestrian experience around that intersection, which is home to the <a href="http://www.placemakingchicago.com/places/logan-square-community-arts-center.asp" target="_blank">Logan Square Community Arts Center</a> and Hairpin artist lofts, but remains a spit of concrete amid busy streets.</p><p>The design team includes <a href="http://www.tgda.net/" target="_blank">Terry Guen Design Associates</a>, with civil engineering from McDonough Associates and soil testing from Wang Engineering. Grant funding only accounts for 8 percent of the total cost, but the rest has been secured through the Chicago Department of Transportation&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/supp_info/make_way_for_people.html">Make Way for People initiative</a> and tax increment financing (TIF) funding.</p><p>On Saturday <a href="http://www.metroplanning.org/news-events/event/218" target="_blank">MPC will hold a workshop in Logan Square&rsquo;s Comfort Station</a> (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) with information about the grant program, which still has $80,000 to award.</p></p> Fri, 29 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/logan-square-parklet-would-soak-rain-along-milwaukee-avenue-106373 There in Chicago (#21) http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/there-chicago-21-106195 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/21-2012-Milwaukee-Logan.JPG" title="Milwaukee Avenue at Logan Boulevard--view northwest" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/21-1934%20%28CTA%29_0.JPG" title="1934--the same location" /></div></div><p>How well did you find your way around the Chicago of the past?</p><p>We are just north of Logan Square, where Milwaukee Avenue meets both Logan Boulevard and Kedzie Avenue.&nbsp;The&nbsp;distinctive streetlight&nbsp;on the&nbsp;left was characteristic of streets under the jurisdiction of the Chicago Park District. The #17&nbsp;on the streetcars signify they are on the Kedzie line, which operated over this portion of Milwaukee Avenue.</p><p>Also in the 1934 photo, note the&nbsp;large advertising signs on the building roofs. The signs were set&nbsp;high so they could be seen from &#39;L&#39; trains at the Logan Square terminal, just south of here.</p></p> Wed, 27 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/there-chicago-21-106195 Fate of cops on gang video now up to Police Board http://www.wbez.org/news/fate-cops-gang-video-now-police-board-105520 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/neighborphotoCROP.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 234px; width: 350px;" title="During the 2011 incident, three doors of their SUV were open as onlookers peered in from both sides. (Special to WBEZ)" /></p><p>The fate of two Chicago cops recommended for dismissal because of their conduct in a gang video is now up to the city&rsquo;s Police Board, which will review a trial-like hearing about the case that ended Wednesday afternoon.</p><p>In closing arguments, an attorney for Chicago police Supt. Garry McCarthy said officers Susana La Casa, 49, and Luis Contreras, 44, illegally held and transported a young man, Miguel &ldquo;Mikey&rdquo; Castillo, and violated six police department rules.</p><p>The attorney, James P. Lynch, disputed testimony by La Casa and Contreras that they had simply tried to give Castillo a ride home in 2011, when a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cops-gang-video-%E2%80%98we-were-giving-youth-ride-home%E2%80%99-105382">90-second video</a> captured the officers with the youth in the backseat of their marked SUV on the city&rsquo;s Northwest Side. The video shows onlookers converging on the vehicle and flashing signs of the gang that claims the area.</p><p>&ldquo;These officers could not testify that they offered to serve as an escort or protection for him,&rdquo; Lynch said. &ldquo;Nor do we see any attempts by these officers to offer assistance or take him up to any home on that block. What you see are both of these officers opening the doors and allowing known Latin King gang members to approach with camera cell phones in the air and videotape their taunts.&rdquo;</p><p>Lynch pointed to a moment in the video when La Casa tells Castillo, &ldquo;Put your fucking hand down,&rdquo; as the young man tries to cover his face.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the scariest aspects of this video is how much worse this could have been for the officers, their families and the Chicago Police Department,&rdquo; Lynch said. &ldquo;Any one of these Latin Kings could have had a gun.&rdquo;</p><p>The officers&rsquo; attorney, William N. Fahy, said neither La Casa nor Contreras knew they were being recorded. Fahy&nbsp;insisted that Castillo &ldquo;was never in any kind of danger.&rdquo;</p><p>Fahy pointed out that Castillo was inside a squad car and that La Casa and&nbsp;Contreras &mdash; two armed police officers &mdash; were nearby. The attorney said the onlookers had &ldquo;no weapons and there were no threats.&rdquo;</p><p>Fahy said it was &ldquo;not unusual&rdquo; for police officers to give a young person a ride home. He said La Casa and Contreras did not inform dispatchers about the trip because it was just a few blocks and the cops &ldquo;didn&rsquo;t want to tie up the radio.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Across Gang Lines</strong></p><p>La Casa and Contreras testified they had never met Castillo and knew nothing about him when they arrived the afternoon of March 19, 2011, on the 3500 block of West McLean Avenue, part of the Logan Square neighborhood. The officers, assigned to patrol housing projects in the police department&rsquo;s Shakespeare District, were assisting two beat cops on a call that a dispatcher had identified as a &ldquo;gang disturbance.&rdquo;</p><p>One of those officers, Michael Edens, testified that he had encountered the youths many times. Edens called them members of a gang known as the Imperial Gangsters. The cops did not arrest any of the youths the day of the incident.</p><p>Edens acknowledged he suggested that La Casa and Contreras bring Castillo to an address on the 1600 block of North Spaulding Avenue, a Latin Kings stronghold in nearby Humboldt Park. But Edens said he was responding to a similar suggestion by Contreras and called it all a joke between the officers.</p><p>It was well known in the area that the Imperial Gangsters and Latin Kings did not get along but La Casa and Contreras&nbsp;testified they did not think Edens was joking about the Spaulding address.</p><p>Edens had no authority over La Casa or Contreras. The three officers held the same rank.</p><p>La Casa and Contreras&nbsp;brought Castillo to the Spaulding block, where an onlooker shot the video. The officers stayed there about 10 minutes, witnesses told WBEZ, before driving the youth away. The officers said they dropped him off back on McLean.</p><p>WBEZ spotted the video on YouTube within days of the incident. The department stripped La Casa and Contreras of their police powers and began an Internal Affairs investigation.&nbsp;Interim police Supt. Terry Hillard called the incident &ldquo;not professional&rdquo; and said &ldquo;scared straight&rdquo; tactics were always inappropriate.</p><p>Some Logan Square homeowners, meanwhile, praised the efforts of La Casa and Contreras&nbsp;to combat gang activity and called for their return to duty. Other community members expressed sympathy for Castillo and recalled similar alleged police mistreatment.</p><p>Castillo did not suffer physical harm but received $33,000 from the city as part of a settlement in a civil suit over the incident, according to an attorney representing him. The suit, filed in federal court, alleged false arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress.</p><p>State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez&rsquo;s office reviewed the incident but declined to bring a criminal case.</p><p>McCarthy filed the dismissal charges with the board in September, almost 18 months after the incident. The charges triggered an unpaid suspension of the officers, who had been assigned to administrative duties since losing their police powers.</p><p>Among other charges, McCarthy&nbsp;accused La Casa and Contreras of unlawfully restraining the youth,&nbsp;bringing &ldquo;discredit upon the department,&rdquo; and making a &ldquo;false oral statement&rdquo; about the incident to an Internal Affairs detective.</p><p><strong>Character Witnesses</strong></p><p>At the hearing Wednesday, the officers brought in neighborhood residents and former co-workers as character witnesses. Those included Janette Gilmartin, a behavioral health clinician at Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center.</p><p>La Casa, an Illinois-licensed clinical counselor, worked with Gilmartin for more than three years before joining the police department in 1999. While suspended from the department, La Casa has returned to the hospital full-time, Gilmartin said.</p><p>Gilmartin, who now supervises La Casa, called her an honest and fearless professional who displays unrelenting compassion for people with severe mental illnesses. &ldquo;She&rsquo;s the only one I trust with complicated patients,&rdquo; Gilmartin said, &ldquo;and many of these are ex-gang members.&rdquo;</p><p>Fahy pointed out the two cops are both immigrants. La Casa grew up in Seville, a city in southern Spain, and moved to California at age 25 before settling in Chicago two years later. Contreras, born in Mexico City, came to the Chicago area with his family at age 12 and graduated from Morton East High School in Cicero.</p><p>The Police Board hearing lasted two days. The board&rsquo;s nine members, who did not attend, will receive a transcript and video recording of the proceedings. Hearing officer Thomas E. Johnson, who presided on both days, will eventually present the case to the board in a closed-door session. The board will vote on both the charges and punishment.</p><p>Regarding the charges, the board must decide whether the police department showed &ldquo;a preponderance of the evidence,&rdquo; a standard less rigorous than the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt measure used in criminal courtrooms.</p><p>The officers have more than a glimmer of hope the board will reject McCarthy&rsquo;s dismissal recommendation and return them to duty. In 2012, according to a board summary, the panel fired just 10 of 48 officers the police department had recommended for dismissal.</p><p>In 22 cases, the board either found the officer not guilty of the charges or decided the fitting punishment was a suspension. In 14 cases, the department withdrew the charges after the officer resigned or the sides reached a settlement. In 2 cases, the board dismissed the charges.</p><p>Under Illinois law, either the superintendent or the officers can appeal a Police Board decision to Cook County Circuit Court.</p></p> Wed, 13 Feb 2013 18:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/fate-cops-gang-video-now-police-board-105520 Neighborhood leader to testify for cops caught on gang video http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-leader-testify-cops-caught-gang-video-105491 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/N29A9919edited.JPG" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 272px; width: 300px;" title="Susana La Casa, one of the accused officers, leaves the Chicago Police Board after the start of its hearing in her dismissal case last week. She and fellow cop Luis Contreras face administrative charges of unlawfully arresting a youth in the city’s Logan Square neighborhood in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Samuel Vega/Hoy)" />Two Chicago police officers facing dismissal charges for an incident <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cops-gang-video-%E2%80%98we-were-giving-youth-ride-home%E2%80%99-105382">caught on a gang video</a> could get a boost Wednesday from a character witness who once trained young people how to file reports on abusive cops.</p><p>Eric Hudson, who staffed a youth program for Amnesty International in Chicago&rsquo;s Englewood neighborhood years ago, is scheduled to testify on behalf of officers Susana La Casa and Luis Contreras, who allegedly brought a young gang member to the turf of a rival gang to be threatened there.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to go down there, speaking as a black homeowner,&rdquo; said Hudson, who leads his condominium association in Logan Square and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/caps/police-video-cops%E2%80%99-supporter-speaks-out-84627">worked with La Casa and Contreras</a> for years to sweep gangs from streets near the building. &ldquo;They hustled, they got out of their police cars, they made this community safer.&rdquo;</p><p>La Casa and Contreras, represented by attorney William N. Fahy, are planning to call Hudson to the stand as they present their defense during the second day of a Police Board hearing that began last Wednesday.</p><p>On the hearing&rsquo;s first day, the officers testified they merely tried to give Miguel &ldquo;Mikey&rdquo; Castillo a ride home the afternoon of March 19, 2011. After they arrived on the 1600 block of North Spaulding Avenue, an onlooker recorded a 90-second video that showed the officers outside their marked SUV with the doors open as other onlookers converged on the vehicle, flashed gang signs and taunted Castillo, who was in the backseat trying to cover his face.</p><p>A YouTube user whose alias was &ldquo;King-Dubb&rdquo; posted the video that weekend. WBEZ copied the recording shortly before it disappeared from YouTube. A WBEZ reposting led to a storm of accusations that such police conduct was a Chicago tradition.</p><p>Within days, the department had stripped La Casa and Contreras of their police powers and assigned them to the city&rsquo;s non-emergency call center. Interim police Supt. Terry Hillard called the incident &ldquo;not professional&rdquo; and said &ldquo;scared straight&rdquo; tactics were always inappropriate.</p><p>But Hudson, joined by other Northwest Side residents and some business owners, circulated a petition that called for the return of the officers to street duty.</p><p>Nearly two years later, Hudson still has their backs. &ldquo;Especially now, with bodies in the street, we need police officers that care,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And these police officers care.&rdquo;</p><p>James P. Lynch, an attorney representing police Supt. Garry McCarthy in the dismissal case, says the officers unlawfully restrained the youth in Logan Square, transported him &ldquo;against his will&rdquo; to Latin Kings turf in nearby Humboldt Park without a valid police purpose, and allowed suspected members of that gang to threaten him there.</p><p>In his opening statement last Wednesday, Lynch called the conduct of La Casa, 49, and Contreras, 44, a &ldquo;travesty captured on video.&rdquo; He later questioned the officers about dozens of moments in the recording, projected on a wall near the witness stand.</p><p>La Casa, despite working in the department&rsquo;s Shakespeare District for almost 12 years, claimed to be unfamiliar with the hand gesture used by the Latin Kings to identify membership in the gang. On the video, many of the onlookers make that gesture and vocally identify themselves as &ldquo;kings.&rdquo;</p><p>The officers testified they didn&rsquo;t understand those statements, even when played during the hearing. La Casa said she couldn&rsquo;t understand because, as a native of Spain, English was her second language.</p><p>Contreras, who grew up in Cicero and worked in the district for eight years, testified that Castillo never faced any danger in the SUV. &ldquo;I felt we had the whole situation under control,&rdquo; Contreras said.</p><p>Fahy, the officers&rsquo; attorney, said it was not uncommon for cops to give people a ride home.</p><p>Castillo did not suffer physical harm but, according to an attorney representing him, he received $33,000 from the city as part of a settlement in a civil suit over the incident. The suit, filed in federal court, alleged false arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress.</p><p>State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez&rsquo;s office reviewed the incident in 2011 but declined to bring a criminal case.</p><p>The dismissal charges, signed by McCarthy and filed with the board in September, accuse La Casa and Contreras of bringing &ldquo;discredit upon the department.&rdquo; The officers later each allegedly &ldquo;made a false oral statement&rdquo; about the incident to an Internal Affairs detective.</p><p>After the defense calls its witnesses, the sides will give closing arguments. A hearing officer, Thomas E. Johnson, will present the case to the board at a meeting this spring. The board, a nine-member panel, will rule on the charges and punishment.</p><p>La Casa and Contreras, meanwhile, are suspended without pay.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 12 Feb 2013 20:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-leader-testify-cops-caught-gang-video-105491