CHICAGO (CBS) — A debate has erupted over a piece of land on Chicago’s West Side.
As CBS 2’s Jim Williams reported Tuesday night, the city says the site is ideal for family fun. But some in the community insist the location is too violent.
Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) envisions an oasis on a lot in West Garfield Park.
“Opportunities for people to mingle and be together, because you do not have that in that corridor,” Ervin said.
At the site on Madison Street near Pulaski Road, the plan is to build an outdoor roller rink, which would also host other activities.
“So it’s my hope that by bringing the Park District, bringing resources – Chicago Police Department and other people – that will create a safe atmosphere for our children,” Ervin said.
But some business and community leaders fear the opposite could happen if the rink is built at the site.
“We are here, totally against it,” said Siri Hibbler of the Garfield Park Chamber of Commerce.
Hibbler and others on Madison Street say children drawn to the park would be at risk.
“Shootings that go on here, drug trafficking that goes on here – all during the day – and we do not want to put our kids in harm’s way,” she said.
Recent crime stats show murders, robberies, and shootings all down from a year ago here in the Harrison (11th) Police District, which includes West Garfield Park.
But the numbers remain entirely too high on this block, insists Mike Rembert, who manages a mall on the street.
“I wouldn’t send my children over here to get shot, with all this violence over here,” Rembert said.
Hibbler and Rembert say Garfield Park itself would be a safer location.
Representatives from City Hall went door-to-door in the neighborhood, listening to concerns. The alderman is committed to having the outdoor roller rink built at the Madison Street site.
“I’m not going to say the fear is not justified, but we have to be greater than the fear,” Ervin said, “and we have to reclaim, and take our communities – and we cannot sit at a point where we said we will not go outside because of what’s going on outside.”
Opponents of outdoor roller rink have started a petition drive, but it is set to open this summer.