AVONDALE — The Park District is set to make $89,900-$137,600 in its first full year of allowing retail giant Amazon to install controversial delivery lockers in more than 100 public parks — and critics say the amount doesn’t justify the intrusion.
Block Club obtained the Park District’s contract with Amazon through a public records request after several lockers were installed on sidewalks, partially blocking them, in parks earlier this month.
The contract shows Amazon pays the Park District $50 a month for each of the smallest of the steel lockers, which are 6 feet wide. The contract calls for $125-a-month payments for the largest lockers, which are 15 feet wide.
A total of 49 lockers have been installed in city parks. The majority of those lockers are the 6- or 9-foot versions, according to figures provided by the Park District.
Another 53 lockers are scheduled to be installed in parks around the city this year. If all of those lockers are 6 feet wide, the Park District would make $69,900 for a full 12 months of rent. It would also get a one-time $20,000 payment for allowing at least 100 lockers.
That means the park district could get as little as $89,900 in the first full year.
If each of the next 53 lockers installed are the largest possible — 15 feet — that would net the Park District $117,600 in the first year, plus the $20,000 bonus.
That means the most the Park District could get in the first full year of rent on all 102 lockers is $137,600.
For comparison, the Park District’s budget this year is $481.8 million.
Critics who earlier this month slammed Amazon — and the Park District — for putting for-profit lockers on public parkland were again fired up after learning how much revenue the lockers will generate for the Park District.
“It is not enough to justify having branding in our parks. It is absolutely not enough,” Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) said. “I think this is a slap in the face.”
The lockers grabbed attention a little more than a week ago. Rodriguez-Sanchez and Ald. Samantha Nugent (39th) spoke out against lockers in their respective wards — one in Brands Park and another in the Forest Park Playlot — for partially blocking the sidewalk and preventing people from easily passing through the public spaces.
Photos of the lockers went viral, and social media erupted with criticism. Many had more sweeping concerns about Amazon’s presence in public parks. The company and its founder, Jeff Bezos, have faced widespread criticism for the poor treatment of Amazon workers and grueling workplace conditions.
After a social media firestorm, the Park District quickly removed the two lockers targeted by Nugent and Rodriguez-Sanchez.
The city agency also launched a review of Amazon’s plans and put future installations on hold until that review is complete.
A Park District spokeswoman initially rejected a request for the contract as the news was unfolding, instead asking for a Freedom of Information Act public records request. She later provided the contract.
While some critics are outraged over the figures, others are less concerned with the contract itself and are more troubled by the propriety of using public space for private profit and by the Park District’s handling of the situation.
Juanita Irizarry, executive director of Friends of the Parks, is among them.
“Regardless of how much it is, the Chicago Park District needs to stay on mission and not pursue income streams that disrupt the purpose of public parks,” Irizarry said in a statement.
Asked for her reaction to the contract, Irizarry slammed the Park District for what she described as a “lack of transparency” surrounding the plan. She said the lockers represent a trend of opaqueness in the city agency.
“Friends of the Parks is concerned about patterns of lack of transparency that we observe at the Chicago Park District under the leadership of Mike Kelly,” she said. “We imagine that the Park District has moved this business with Amazon lockers forward in small bits so as to avoid the public scrutiny of vetting a larger contract in the full light of day at its Board of Commissioners meetings.”
The Park District is also catching heat from the city’s small business community for partnering with Amazon when mom-and-pop shops across the city have struggled to survive the pandemic.
Rudy Flores, executive director of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, said his organization has heard from many small business owners looking to use the city’s public outdoor spaces to conduct business as indoor service was halted or limited for more than a year. But Flores said the Park District has not opened up those spaces to small business owners outside of the food industry.
“Our small businesses invest in our communities by preventing commercial vacancies, contribute to local property taxes, employee neighborhood residents, fundraise for our local schools, and so much more,” Flores said in a written statement. “If any opportunity is available for commerce in the park district, it should be given to those entrepreneurs that put their sweat and equity into making our communities thrive.”
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