UNIVERSITY VILLAGE — A group of University Village residents is fed up with the "dark and dirty" streets and sidewalks that run under some of the viaducts along 16th Street.
They say some of the long passageways that connect their neighborhood with Pilsen between Halsted and Morgan streets are plagued by pigeon droppings and dead pigeons, garbage and graffiti. They also complain of poor lighting, potholed streets, cracked walls and sidewalks.
While the problems are common under viaducts around the city, the residents say the conditions under Peoria and Morgan streets viaducts are especially bad.
“It looks like it’s stuck in the early 1900s and hasn’t changed at all,” said Erin Wieland, 32, who lives two blocks north of the Peoria Street viaduct.
Wieland, who has two small toddlers, walks with her family south to the Pilsen Farmers Market on a weekly basis. She said there’s often almost two inches of pigeon poop on both sides of the sidewalk under the Peoria Street viaduct.
“You’ve got this pigeon motel going on at the top," she said. "I have to tell my kids to close their eyes so that the pigeons don’t poop on them.”
Residents said it's a shame it's so ugly underneath, considering there is a string of murals brightening up the 16th Street viaduct.
“It’s very pigeon poopy,” agreed Jessica Engelking, a website designer who lives at Morgan and 15th streets. “It’s dark and dirty. You’d think that the viaducts should be cleaned up especially since people are coming to look at the murals and they’re so awesome.”
With the unveiling of a new mural on Morgan Street coming up Sunday, several residents from the University Commons condo complex emailed 11th Ward Ald. James Balcer asking that action be taken to clean up the viaducts.
“With the population growth all around this area we really need to address this health issue. The city needs to do something immediately to clean this up and keep it clean,” the Oct. 30 email read.
Balcer said he has asked the Department of Streets and Sanitation to clean up the streets by Wednesday.
“I told them to get the garbage out, get the pigeon crap out, any graffiti in there, get it out,” he said.
Streets and Sanitation spokeswoman Molly Poppe said the area under at least one 16th Street viaduct is scheduled for a power wash Wednesday. She said the city will evaluate the others; all viaducts are on a three-month cleaning schedule.
While the viaducts in question become part of Balcer’s ward after 2015, they currently fall within 25th Ward Ald. Danny Solis’ territory. Solis could not be reached for comment.
No evidence of a pigeon problem could been seen along Morgan Street Tuesday, although there were cracked sidewalks and chipped, fading paint along the walls.
The pigeons were alive and active, however, under the Peoria Street viaduct, where pigeon poop lay in two-inch clumps along the viaduct’s north end. The street condition was also poor; whole bricks lay alongside parts of the brick cobblestone street which was dotted with potholes.
The viaduct at Halsted — where residents say a property management group cleans on a regular basis — was in better shape.
Resident Dave Lipinski, who lives in the University Village condos just north of the viaduct, said the poor conditions have been an ongoing issue.
“I’m surprised they let it go like this. My wife won’t walk that way. When we walk the dog, we walk that way,” he said, pointing the opposite direction of the viaduct.