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New West Ridge Park Named For Late Ald. Bernard 'Berny' Stone

By  Linze Rice and David Matthews | September 14, 2017 5:55am | Updated on September 19, 2017 11:48am

 A park along the North Shore Channel Trail will be named after former Ald. Bernard Stone (50th).
A park along the North Shore Channel Trail will be named after former Ald. Bernard Stone (50th).
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DNAinfo/Linze Rice; Facebook

WEST RIDGE — A 1.8 acre plot at the corner of McCormick Road and Devon Avenue known as Park No. 526 finally has a name: Bernard Stone Park.

The Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners unanimously approved Wednesday a plan to rename the land in honor of the late longtime 50th Ward alderman, "Berny" Stone, who governed the Far North Side for 38 years before being unseated by Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) in 2011.

With the support of several neighborhood groups, Silverstein proposed the name change in June, which initiated a 45-day period to gather feedback.

"As someone who knew Berny Stone, I am so pleased to move this," said Avis Lavelle, a commissioner on the board. 

Stone died at age 87 in 2014, but left a legacy in his ward and at City Hall. 

He worked for the Cook County Sheriff's Office and was vice president of the 50th Ward Regular Democratic Organization. He ran for 50th Ward alderman in 1973 and was the first Democrat to represent the ward, which includes West Ridge and North Park, since 1955. 

In true Chicago form, Stone was noted by the proposal's sponsors as being "outspoken and loyal to friends."

In Gary Rivlin's book on the Mayor Harold Washington years, "Fire on the Prairie," he wrote that Stone also had a reputation as something of a clubhouse lawyer at City Hall.

"Fred Roti and Bernard Stone regularly held court in the press room," Rivlin wrote. "Strolling from desk to desk reading over shoulders as reporters worked on their articles, they offered comments and arguments." 

Stone also famously sparred with the neighboring city of Evanston.

In 1993, Stone made headlines by having a 2½-foot-tall guardrail erected down the center of Howard Street in protest of a shopping center being built in Evanston on the other side of the street. With "Berny's Wall," Stone intended to block cars from turning into the mall's new parking lot.

The wall was removed in 1994 after a legal battle with the adjacent suburb.

Now an old movie theater parking lot that for many years was described as an "eyesore" by neighbors will bear the late alderman's name.

A look at the park's planned features, such as trees and benches. [Provided/Ald. Debra Silverstein]

The park is owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District but leased by the Park District.

Last year, the City Council approved using $600,051 in tax increment financing to fund a restoration of the land.

The land hugs the North Shore Channel between Lincoln and Kedzie avenues and Devon Avenue and McCormick Road on the border of North Park and West Ridge near suburban Lincolnwood.

The park sits just north of the Lincoln Village shopping center, where Stone had a ward office during a chunk of his time serving the far north side of town.

In March, Silverstein, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Park District Supt. Patrick Kelly broke ground at the lot, which doesn't contain playground equipment but has improved walking paths and landscaping, more trees, a water fountain, fitness station and new art sculpture. Most of the work wrapped up in August.

Silverstein recently told residents the park was "currently undergoing a stunning transformation from an old, crumbling parking lot into a beautiful green space that will be a tremendous asset to our neighborhood."

Within that vision could be a huge new sculpture from artist Bernard Williams meant to pay homage to the neighborhood. 

The white steel structure would consist of two decorated panels that converge on a single pole. It would stand 16 feet high, 12 feet long and 9 feet wide.

"The elevated patterns will cast a complex network of shadows onto the ground and those who pass through it," according to its description. "The overlapping shadows and patterns will work together to suggest the complex nature of 50th Ward community.”

Artist Bernard Williams created a two-panel sculpture, which will find its home in the new Bernard Stone Park. [Provided/Ald. Debra Silverstein]