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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Park District Cashes In On For-Profit Donation Boxes, But Residents In Hyde Park Are Peeved

Some Hyde Parkers are frustrated at the Park District's $120,000 partnership with for-profit company The GreenCity Project.

The GreenCity Project's donation box near the 55th Street entrance to Nichols Park March 9.
Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
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HYDE PARK — The Chicago Park District has allowed for-profit donation company The GreenCity Project to place 50 boxes in city parks, a move some Hyde Park neighbors say should’ve been made with their input.

The GreenCity Project accepts clothing donations and resells them for “pennies a pound” in developing countries. The company’s online presence is nearly non-existent, save for a presentation posted in 2012.

Attempts to locate anyone representing The GreenCity Project were unsuccessful.

The Park District anticipates $120,000 in revenue under the first year of its partnership with The GreenCity Project, according to Park District director of communications Michele Lemons. That money will support park operations citywide.

The boxes have been consistently filled with donations and make textile recycling more convenient, Lemons said.

She said the company provides clothing “at a very low price for families in developing countries” while helping to reduce the city’s carbon footprint and landfill usage.

Two of the boxes are located in Nichols Park: One at the 53rd Street entrance, and one at 55th Street and Kimbark Avenue.

Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago
The GreenCity Project’s donation box at the 53rd Street entrance to Nichols Park March 9.

The Nichols Park Advisory Council did not have a say in the boxes’ placement, according to council treasurer David White. He said allowing for-profit companies to set up shop in parks sets a bad precedent.

The GreenCity Project “is a private money-making operation. They’re being allowed to use our parks basically as a profit center,” White said. “There are issues with that. Maybe the Park District got some sort of money from these guys, but Nichols Park certainly didn’t see anything.”

The Park District is usually responsive to the council’s concerns, White said. For example, when council members organize a park cleanup day, the district is “very responsive” about supplying wheelbarrows and wood chips.

“I found it discouraging that the Park District didn’t run any of this by us,” he said. “It just kind of shows their view of what the value of the park advisory councils are.”

After an emerald ash borer infestation took out a few dozen trees along 53rd Street near the park, that stretch of road became “kind of barren, ugly [and] unappealing,” Special Service Area #61 chair George Rumsey said.

The donation boxes aren’t helping neighborhood leaders in their quest to “brighten up the business district” along 53rd Street, Rumsey said.

Between the potential for litter when the boxes get full and the lack of resident input, he said he wonders why the Park District agreed to the partnership.

“Part of [the problem] is the Park District selling park space to a commercial enterprise with no community input into it whatsoever,” Rumsey said.

The boxes are “not aesthetically pleasing” and Ald. Sophia King’s (4th) office is communicating with the Park District to see if the boxes can be removed, said King’s spokesperson Mack Thurman.

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