HUMBOLDT PARK — Riot Fest organizers pushed back against Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) Thursday after he reportedly said he did not support the festival's return to Humboldt Park.
"I am exceptionally disappointed at the Riot Fest organizers for the mess they left at the park last year and their shallow and hollow promises to restore the park," Maldonado told the Chicago Tribune. "I don't support them coming back."
Riot Fest organizer Mike Petryshyn said he was “extremely surprised” by Maldonado's comments, since the alderman has not only supported the fest since its relocation to the park in 2012, but also backed its expansion in 2014, when its footprint nearly tripled.
“We must all be reminded that it was Alderman Maldonado's direction and his final decision to change the footprint in 2014 to encompass low-lying parts of the park that we neither wanted, planned on or needed,” Petryshyn said. “Unfortunately, that decision alone caused the displacement of the baseball leagues and park users on the entire east end, and ultimately, was the main culprit in the grounds being damaged during the rain.”
Neighbors have complained on Everyblock for months about the condition of the park after Riot Fest, which has not yet secured permits for the 2015 festival, despite selling tickets. Community groups, including the Humboldt Park Advisory Council, also have been critical of the fest monopolizing park space and leaving fields in poor condition.
In 2013, Riot Fest caused $54,000 in damage to the park, and in 2014, the cost for repairs more than tripled when the fest caused $182,000 in damage, and repairs took from September till November to complete.
Riot Fest organizers are responsible for the repair bills.
Humboldt Park Advisory Council President Amy Vega said Thursday she is "currently in constant communication with the Chicago Park District and the organizers of Riot Fest in a combined effort to get the necessary repairs completed as expeditiously as possible, while resisting interference with the ongoing park activities."
"No one can guarantee that any organizer will never cause weather-related damage, and it's unfair to require that promise. At best, an organizer can use whatever information they have at their disposal, pre- and post-event, to improve planning for the following year," said Vega.
In March, Riot Fest spokeswoman Heather West said, “There are no plans to move Riot Fest out of Humboldt [Park,]” but on Thursday West refused to comment further on what would happen if the city does not issue the permits needed to hold the fest in Humboldt Park.
In March, the Humboldt Park Advisory Council issued a letter to the Park District recommending four main points be settled before Riot Fest be given approval for a 2015 event permit. Those points included improved communication on park activities and schedules, implementation of an event plan, increased monitoring from the Park District regarding the fest's size; and a clearer plan for restoring the park after each fest.
In a statement Thursday, fest organizer Petryshyn touted the event's commitment to the neighborhood and loyalty to Maldonado.
“Due to the economic benefits Riot Fest brings to many 26th Ward businesses, the hundreds of thousands of dollars Riot Fest has donated to ward charities, our support in [Maldonado's] re-election, and more importantly, job creation in a ward that has sorely lacked new job development, the alderman and Riot Fest have been on the same page in shining a positive light on our culturally rich and magnetic neighborhood,” Petryshyn said.
Despite the tension, Petryshyn seemed confident the fest would return to the park.
“Between the support we have received from the Mayor's Office, congressmen, state Legislature, county commissioners and the many alderman in having Riot Fest's permanent home in Humboldt Park … we are completely confident that any and all future concerns from Ald. Maldonado will be handled in the fashion we know best: as good neighbors," Petryshyn said.
The Park District and Maldonado did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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