AVONDALE — Amid controversy over Amazon delivery lockers being installed in Chicago parks, two aldermen and several community leaders are speaking out in favor of the lockers — while at least one alderwoman reportedly is blocking them from her ward.
Alds. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) and Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), along with Shedrene O’Neal, president of the Avalon Park Advisory Council; Jeffery Ayersman, board member of Chicago Women’s Park Advisory Council; and Pablo Serrano, president of the Dvorak Park Advisory Council; said they support the lockers in a news release issued by the Park District on Wednesday.
The Park District issued the news release after about two weeks of critics blasting the lockers and the Park District’s partnership with Amazon. The release was titled, “What People Are Saying About Amazon Lockers In Parks.”
“I commend the Park District for trying to creatively generate new revenue for our parks,” Thompson said in the release. “Not only do the Amazon Lockers provide a benefit for our neighbors who utilize the lockers, it also generates revenue that goes directly into funding park programs for our children.”
Thompson is under federal indictment. The Bridgeport alderman was charged earlier this year with filing a false income tax return and making a false statement to regulators.
Also in the news release, Serrano said: “The lockers serve a benefit to the community, especially because they are in a community with package thieves. I have not received any complaints through the PAC email. I like that they can be moved, if needed, like if a mural was to be painted or something similar needed to be in that space.”
Meanwhile, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) is blocking Amazon from installing lockers in her South Side ward, according to the Hyde Park Herald.
Hairston didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. She said at a community meeting this week she won’t allow Amazon to install the five lockers planned for the 5th Ward after receiving negative feedback from her constituents, the Hyde Park Herald reported.
Hairston said the Park District has agreed to take the 5th Ward parks off its list.
Park District spokeswoman Irene Tostado said installations have been paused.
“Myself and others in my office were not consulted by the Park District. And so that meant that I didn’t even have an opportunity to bring it to you all to see. But from the comments that we have been getting in the calls, this is not something that people want to see,” Hairston said at the meeting, according to the Herald.
Controversy over the lockers started earlier this month when Amazon installed two sets of lockers — one in Brands Park and another in the Forest Glen Playlot — on the sidewalk, partially blocking the pathways and preventing people from easily passing through the public spaces.
Alds. Rosanna Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) and Samantha Nugent (39th) spoke out against lockers in their respective wards, and social media erupted with criticism.
A total of 49 Amazon lockers have been installed in city parks, and another 53 were scheduled to be installed. But after the public outrage, the Park District put all locker installations on hold while it reviews the retail giant’s plans.
Critics said the Park District’s news release is not representative of how Chicagoans feel about the lockers. Many have taken to social media for weeks to express their disdain for the lockers and for Amazon, a company that has faced widespread criticism for treating its workers poorly and for its grueling workplace conditions.
“They definitely did not talk to the people who are against it, and there’s a lot of people who are against it,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said Thursday.
Tostado said the statements by supporters offer “another perspective on the matter from community members and elected officials.”
Block Club earlier this week obtained the Park District’s contract with Amazon through a public records request, which shows the city agency will make $89,900-$137,600 in its first full year of allowing the retail giant to install delivery lockers in city parks.
Under the contract, neither the Park District nor Amazon can issue news releases or do any publicity “relating to the other party.” The Park District is also required to notify Amazon of any Freedom of Information Act requests relating to the partnership, and Amazon has the right to request an exemption or redaction “based on proper assertions of confidentiality or proprietary information,” according to the contract.
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