LAKEVIEW — The hedges a wealthy Lakeview homeowner is accused of planting to block off parkland as a private yard were ripped out Thursday morning.
About 8:30 a.m., a landscaping crew was at the home in the 3000 block of North Lake Shore Drive West to remove the hedgerow on public land. The politically connected homeowner, businessman Michael Tadin Jr., confirmed he ordered the bushes removed after his attorneys spoke with the Park District Wednesday.
“It was city property. I was wrong, I took it down,” Tadin said. With the hedges gone, he will pay to have the parkland resodded Friday.
As neighbors watched the hedgerow being torn out, one person passing by said, “I can’t tell you how happy this makes me.”
Another walked up, threw an egg at the house and left a bag of dog poop on the lawn.
Lakeview resident Kirk Vaclavik was on a run and stopped to watch the bush removal.
“There’s this reckoning with rich and powerful benefiting from things that should be benefiting all of us,” he said.
Block Club revealed Tuesday that Tadin Jr. and his wife, Natalie Tadin, planted hedges around the 3,000 square feet of Chicago Park District land in front of their home, according to an inspector general report issued last week.
The couple drew the perimeter around the space in 2015 — effectively commandeering public parkland for a personal front yard, city officials say.
On Wednesday afternoon, a handful of Chicagoans floated in and out of the hedges that nearly enclose the lawn, lounging and camping out on the grass.
The park district has tried for years to force the couple to remove the plants to no avail. The city has been met with “unsubstantiated and conflicting explanations” about their right to exclude access to public parkland from an “apparently well-connected” family, Inspector General Will Fletcher wrote.
The inspector general’s report was first brought to light by Better Government Association reporter Alejandra Cancino in a tweet on Monday.
“The message that Homeowner’s hedgerows sends to anyone walking by his/her house is clear: ‘This land is my property,’” the report reads.
Tadin Jr., in an interview with Block Club, acknowledged it is public land but said he had legal permission to use and maintain it. He also said he routinely gets letters from city officials about it, but each time “they come to the same conclusion that it’s city property and we did it properly,” he said.
With the bushes now gone, Tadin Jr. said he still plans to maintain the parkland in front of his house if the Park District is OK with it.
“I will cut the grass, I’m not going to leave it like the rest of the block,” he said.
The property nearly enclosed by the hedges has always been open to the public, Tadin Jr. said. The people who gathered there Wednesday, including Sun-Times columnist mark Brown, are proof, he said.
Going forward, Tadin Jr. said he doesn’t understand why anyone would choose to hang out in the formerly hedged-off area when acres of Lincoln Park sit just across the street.
“People have the right to protest, as long as they don’t harm my private property,” he said, referring to his home, not the disputed green space.
But Tadin Jr. also acknowledged he and other neighbors on the block are frustrated with by frequent flooding that happens in part of the park known as Lake Wellington.
“It’s a beautiful plan. If they could ever get the dog park, it would be a great addition to the area,” he said of efforts to reshape the parkland in the neighborhood.
In his newsletter Wednedsay, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said his office fielded many calls about the inspector general’s report “and an ongoing issue with a Lakeview neighbor enclosing public space.”
Neighbors first complained to Tunney in 2015 and he took the issue to the Park District, he said.
Tunney also shared some of the block’s history. The entire block from Wellington to Barry that faces Lake Shore Drive West was previously a convent for a religious order. About 15 years ago, the mansion and chapel on Barry were converted to residential use when the property was sold and the land around it was rezoned.
Tunney said he was not willing to allow for new driveways or curb cuts to be installed on Lake Shore Drive West cutting across parkland because vehicle access comes off of Wellington and Barry. The older high rises to the north and south do have curb cuts, he said.
“While I have continued to contact the Park District for updates, I have not received an update in some time and continue to urge a resolution on this issue,” the alderman said.
The Park District confirmed Tadin Jr. agreed to remove the bushes.
“The homeowner will pay all expenses for the restoration work,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
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