HUMBOLDT PARK — Ald. Roberto Maldonado has vowed to block Riot Fest from Humboldt Park this year, and Riot Fest owner Mike Petryshyn has vowed to return as planned.
But both parties can’t possibly be right.
Riot Fest organizers pushed against the Humboldt Park alderman Thursday morning, and by that afternoon, Maldonado shoved back — vowing to block approval of the festival's 2015 permit and stand up to resistance against his decision.
A battle brewing over Humboldt Park
"I will not support [having Riot Fest in Humboldt Park] — the community will not support it," Maldonado told DNAinfo Chicago Thursday afternoon. "The Park District knows my position, and they are respectful of my position. If somebody there decides to override me, I'm going to join the community in organizing efforts to fight the decision."
But an overriding decision of that sort is highly unlikely, according to a Chicago Park District source, who said that "an event of that magnitude" hasn't been forced on an alderman in recent memory.
Yet within an hour, Petryshyn, a Humboldt Park resident, went against the alderman once again, saying he’s “100 percent confident” that the annual punk rock fest will go on as planned, despite the alderman’s objections.
He added that a multiyear contract is in the works for the park, which he has repeatedly referred to as Riot Fest’s permanent home.
“I will fight unequivocally for what is right, fair and just for the community — I know how perception has changed, and I know the economic impact," he said.
That impact, Petryshyn said, comes in the form of increased business along the park borders during the week of Riot Fest. He also touted the Riot Fest Foundation, local charitable events hosted by the festival and consistent interaction with community groups as reasons Riot Fest deserves to stay.
But Riot Fest organizers are "not being real in their expectations," Maldonado said Thursday, noting a string of grievances brought to his attention recently by upset constituents, who expressed "collective expression of frustration" and a "community outrage" that couldn't be ignored.
Community members divided
Neighbors have complained on Everyblock for months about the condition of the park after Riot Fest, which hasn't secured permits for the 2015 festival, despite selling tickets.
Community groups, including the Humboldt Park Advisory Council, also have been critical of the fest. The group sent a list of recommendations to the Park District in March detailing items that it thinks need to be addressed before Riot Fest should be issued a permit.
Damage to park grounds after last year's Riot Fest totaled $182,000, more than tripling 2013's repair costs. Riot Fest organizers are responsible for the repair bills and were forced to repair certain park features a second time well into 2015 after a Park District assessment.
Meanwhile, residents have come out in support of the fest since Thursday morning — sending letters to city officials, including Maldonado, urging him to reconsider.
Maldonado said that other Chicago parks were offered to Riot Fest as alternatives, but all were declined.
Petryshyn said, "There are very few places in Chicago that are as beautiful as Humboldt Park itself."
Waiting for September
Riot Fest organizers are proceeding in “business as usual” mode, Petryshyn said, adding that a music lineup and marketing plan are in the works for the festival, for which concertgoers have already bought tickets.
If there’s beef between Maldonado and Riot Fest, Petryshyn said he doesn’t know why. He said that creating a division in the community because of the fest is "morally wrong."
"We have done nothing but help that community,” he said Thursday.
In March, Riot Fest spokeswoman Heather West said, “There are no plans to move Riot Fest out of Humboldt [Park,]” and, by Thursday, the group appeared to be sticking to that claim.
“I am beyond confident Riot Fest will remain in Humboldt Park for years to come,” Petryshyn said.
The 2015 show is tentatively set for Sept. 11, 12 and 13.
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