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North Lawndale Residents Want City Money for a Park, Youth Arts Center

By Chloe Riley | December 5, 2013 10:11am
 Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd) speaks with a resident at Wednesday evening's participatory budgeting meeting.
Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd) speaks with a resident at Wednesday evening's participatory budgeting meeting.
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DNAinfo/Chloe Riley

NORTH LAWNDALE — A walking park for seniors and youth arts center should be built in the 22nd Ward, according to residents who attended the fourth meeting to gather input on how to spend the ward’s capital dollars.

“Basketball is not the only answer to everything,” said resident Stéfan Howard, 55. “We need these kids off the streets. They need educational things, they need arts and crafts.”

The youth arts center — which residents said should replace the now closed Paderewski Elementary at 2221 S. Lawndale Ave. — was one of the more popular suggestions at Wednesday night’s meeting, where more 35 people showed up to New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church to give input on how they thought ward money could best be used.

Participatory budgeting — allowing residents to vote on what happens with the $1.3 million in discretionary money given to the ward by the city — was first made popular in Chicago by 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore in 2009. Since then, aldermen from the 5th, 45th, and 46th wards have also used the system.

This is the first year for participatory budgeting in the 22nd Ward, which includes the North Lawndale, Little Village and Vittum Park neighborhoods. To begin getting resident feedback, Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd) has already held four community meetings across the ward, with a final meeting to be held Dec. 5.

After these meetings, community representatives will continue to meet through April, after which various proposals will be presented to residents, followed by a vote on those projects in May.

Other suggestions Wednesday evening included more lighting in the 2300 block of Kildare Avenue, beautification along the Cermak Road medians, improved street lighting in the 2300 block of South Kenneth Avenue, and murals along the ward’s various railroad viaducts.

Many residents also expressed interest in a senior walking path or playground for children at the empty lot at Kildare and Ogden avenues.

“Just a place you can walk for exercise that’s safe,” said 64-year-old resident Alvin Boyd. “There’s nothing for seniors in that immediate vicinity.”

A breakdown of how the discretionary money was spent in the ward in 2011 showed 56 percent went to put up police cameras around schools and parks, and 26 percent went toward a traffic light near Eli Whitney Elementary. The rest was split between lighting, street resurfacing and sidewalk repairs.

The last of the community meetings will be held at La Villita Community Church, 2300 S. Millard Ave. from 10 a.m.-noon. Thursday.