While doing research online, I came across a piece on WBEZ from March 4 of last year, “Little Village Needs a Park.” As a north sider who has always had easy access to parks, what struck me is the obvious, “why is it that they don’t?”
Anyone who lived in Pilsen or Little Village and who comes up to the north side is struck by the simple fact that we have more greenery. When a friend of mine, who grew up in Little Village, came up to meet me so we could attend the Annual Chicago Ginza Fest at the Buddhist Temple of Chicago just west of Old Town, he was surprised at the neighborhood. For one, the vaulted sidewalks and old buildings reminded him of the south side, but for example, unlike Pilsen, there were more small spaces for patches of a yard or two, grass, flowers and even a tree or more. Then of course there is the obvious difference of affluence and Lincoln Park, which was a short distance to the east.
While Pilsen reminds me of my childhood neighborhood, and for that one reason alone I could hang out there all day or all week, issues of air pollution and the lack of greenery to help the air quality have always knocked down my stamina when I’ve spent too many days in one of my favorite areas of the city. Perhaps this is one reason that I enjoy the museum on 19th near Damen so much, because Harrison Park is right there. When I’ve been in Little Village, I often feel more fatigued sooner, but I’m also like a canary when it comes to environmental toxins. When I start feeling consistently zonked in an area, that does not bode well for the air quality there.
Alexandra Salomon’s Chicago Matters article on WBEZ also contains an interesting audio program. With all the talk of getting the Olympics here in 2016, getting our house in order first would make sense. In my book, that means upgrading our infrastructure and the people who support it (a contract for the Police Department would be a good start), and investing in our neighborhoods. Little Village is one of the City’s major commerce centers, and has a large residential population which suffers through higher pollution than other areas of the city.
Jennifer Slosar, an Environment Reporter for the ChiTown Daily News, wrote an article about Pocket Parks for the Little Village neighborhood. Whether the city goes forward with Pocket Parks or the proposed Centex park site, the issue of how the grounds will be cleaned up so they are no longer toxic appears to remain.
The Windy Citizen carried an excellent article regarding attacking pollution in Pilsen, “Concerns about gangs, violence, poverty, joblessness, a lack of services and gentrification are competing for weary residents’ attention.” While very true, there is also the fact that many of these are integrated impacting factors, and improving the quality of one can not only impact the other but improve the other problems that plague the area.