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Neighbors, Police Celebrate 'Reclaiming' Uptown's Weiss Plaza from Gangs

By Josh McGhee | August 5, 2015 8:39am
 Keema's Kickin' Crew hosted urban soul line dancing at Buttercup Park Tuesday night.
Keema's Kickin' Crew hosted urban soul line dancing at Buttercup Park Tuesday night.
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DNAinfo/Josh McGhee

UPTOWN — When officers were choosing the neighborhood location for their "National Night Out" event Tuesday, they knew the perfect place to celebrate with the community — Weiss Plaza.

"A couple of years ago, this was a real gang-infested area. We've made a lot of strides in this area. This is a celebration [to say] we're giving it back to the the community," said Sgt. Will Lapitan, of the Community Policing Unit.

The plaza, at Sheridan Road and Lawrence Avenue, has a history of gang activity and this was the perfect opportunity to "reclaim" it, Lapitan said.

The event was to let people know "they can come out and use these stores without having to cross the street and avoid gang members," he said.

Lee Dykhuis, an employee in the strip mall for over 20 years, gave officers and politicians their props for reclaiming the plaza.

"It's been on a bit of a roller coaster," Dykhuis said of the plaza. "It was significantly worse five years ago and it's significantly improved now."

Dykhuis credited the change to "a cooperative effort with the city, politicians, police and store owners."

About a hundred or so residents from around the area gathered at the plaza to enjoy hot dogs and conversation with neighbors and officers. Target Corp. donated three bicycles as prizes and vendors brought giveaways.

About 30 minutes into the event, dancers from the Chinese Mutual Aid Association performed the Lion Dance, which is traditionally done at celebrations, grand openings and the Chinese New Year, according to Allen Wong, an employee of the association. About an hour in, residents gathered in a circle and participated in yoga and tai chi in the parking lot.



Members of the Chinese Mutual Aid Association's Lion Dance group perform at #neighborsnightout in Uptown

A video posted by Josh McGhee (@thevoiceofjosh) on


Residents try out yoga poses in the parking lot Tuesday during National Night Out. [DNAinfo/Josh McGhee]

While some residents felt the officers should've done a better job mingling with residents at the event, which sometimes resembled a grade school dance with police and residents mingling among themselves, resident Tina Ware was pleased with the effort.

"They are trying to help the neighborhood," said Ware, adding that she's a regular at CAPS meetings.

While she said the crowd could have been more diverse and should have included more young people, she wasn't blaming police. "All of the people in the neighborhood need to be here," she said.

Meanwhile, as the party wound down at Weiss Plaza, the party was just getting started a few blocks north at Buttercup Park.

There, P.C. Gooden-Smiley, president of the Buttercup Park Advisory Council, organized an urban soul line dancing class hosted by Keema's Kickin' Crew. Gooden-Smiley said the event was just one example of many they hold weekly at the park, which usually hosted the National Night Out celebration.



While she was happy with the turnout, she still felt she missed out on her target audience.

"I feel safe here. I've been living in the neighborhood for twenty years. It's the people who don't want to be part of the community who have the problems," she said trying to wrangle some of the teenagers in for some line dancing. "It's hard to get the young guys, you know. We're doing this for you."


Keema's Kickin' Crew hosting urban soul line dancing Tuesday night at Buttercup Park. [DNAinfo/Josh McGhee]


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