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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Hyde Park Neighbors Struggle To Find Solution As Noise, Fireworks Persist Along Lakefront

East Hyde Parkers have been divided on how to quiet the noise. Some want to close the park earlier and increase police presence, while others want to keep the park open and find alternatives to policing.

Chicagoans set off fireworks across the city last year on the Fourth of July.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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HYDE PARK — East Hyde Parkers, divided over how to address noise complaints from Burnham Park partiers, are set to form another working group to solve the issue — if someone steps up to run it.

A Wednesday evening meeting hosted by Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) was the latest in a series held to address noise and fireworks complaints in the portion of the park that sits west of Lake Shore Drive, as reported by the Hyde Park Herald.

The discussions are centered around South Shore Drive in Hyde Park, along which large apartment buildings like The Flamingo and the Montgomery Place senior residences reside.

Neighbors have taken issue with parkgoers who regularly make noise past the park’s 11 p.m. closing time and have set off fireworks that keep residents up late into the night.

But locals have split into dueling factions on how best to solve the problem.

A petition to close the park two hours earlier and increase police enforcement in the area had 146 signatures as of Tuesday, according to the Herald. It was drafted by members of the East Hyde Park-Kenwood Coalition, made up of area homeowners’ associations.

A counter-petition soon arose, asking officials to use non-police strategies like “noise ambassadors” and more frequent litter cleanups to address nuisances. It’s received 151 signatures as of Wednesday evening, said Steven Lucy, counter-petition supporter and Open Produce owner.

Earlier meetings led the Chicago Park District to commit to locking down the 55th Street parking lot near Burnham Park 10 p.m.–6 a.m. But it may be an unsustainable solution, as the district’s overnight security staff is spread thin across the city.

“Security is actually going to have problems locking it every night at 10,” a Park District representative said at the meeting. “I’m hoping maybe the police will be able to lock it or continue to lock it, or I’m open for other ideas as well; maybe even a volunteer that could lock it.”

At Wednesday’s hourlong meeting, neighbors reported the additional measures had made progress in deterring noise. Continued progress should be the goal, not bickering over petitions, Hairston said.

“In the last meeting, I talked about not wanting to fracture the community,” Hairston said. “I do believe that this petition [and] counter-petition is something that will fracture the community.”

By the end of the meeting, neighbors on both sides showed support for forming a working group to find a long-term solution.

It’s unclear who will lead the working group, which would become the second to address the issue.

When an attendee asked Hairston if her office would lead of a new working group, she was noncommittal beyond sending out an organizing email by Monday to interested attendees.

“We will help definitely, and maybe there’s somebody that is an emerging leader that has the time or the experience to lend their assistance to us,” Hairston said.

The East Hyde Park-Kenwood Coalition has met with Hairston on the subject for years, after shootings in the area inspired neighbors to come together around summer lakefront safety, the alderwoman said.

But Lucy said he was hesitant at the prospect of organizing as a subcommittee of the coalition, as its bylaws require property owners’ approval if a building’s renters wanted to join.

A few other attendees agreed with Lucy, worrying a subcommittee subject to the coalition’s bylaws may exclude voices from the community.

The bylaws reflect the coalition’s goal of representing homeowners associations, not individuals, said meeting attendee Howard Niden. He was open to the working group forming as an offshoot of the coalition to avoid excluding anybody.

“If this other group wants to get together, it doesn’t need to necessarily be under the auspices of the East Hyde Park-Kenwood Coalition,” Niden said. “We can set up another group to deal with South Shore Drive and the noise there.”

Those interested in the working group can email Hairston’s office at ward05@cityofchicago.org. Participants should live in the immediate area of South Shore Drive and the western portion of Burnham Park.

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