Plight of the Playlot | Letters | Chicago Reader

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Plight of the Playlot

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Having grown up in Logan Square on the 3400 block of W. Drummond Place during the 50s and 60s, I can provide something of a historical perspective to the parcel of land now known as the Unity Playlot [Neighborhood News, July 11].

At one point during the late 50s, the Unity Playlot area was covered with two- and three-flat frame buildings, and on the corner of Drummond and Kimball stood a very large dark gray stucco mansion with a coach house in the rear. The city of Chicago purchased all of these properties for demolition in order to build a city parking lot to accommodate the burgeoning automobile population that was in steady growth in this part of the city. There was one holdout: at the other end of the block at Kimball and Schubert was a two-story frame home with a one-story brick storefront. This property was never part of the original demolition and stands to this day. The balance of the land was transformed into an unmanned city of Chicago metered parking lot.

Many a ball game was played in that lot during the commencing years by the local youths (myself included) but not without severe harassment from the local constabulary. For the most part, the lot remained empty, which is why we played in it. It clearly would have been far more productive for both the authorities and the area youth had this piece of land been transformed into a park in the first place.

In the 70s this area went through dramatic changes with much of the Scandinavian, German, and Polish population moving out and other ethnic groups moving in. In the mid-70s the city thought enough to install a sandbox and some swings for the new local young parents and their children. The city fathers also assigned a playlot number to this lot at this time. This initial concession covered only the southeasternmost portion of the lot. Eventually city planners came to their senses and the idea of a city parking lot on this parcel of land was finally scrapped. Thus was born the Unity Playlot. The current hot button is the issue regarding the installation of basketball hoops. This is met with strong opposition from the current alderperson.

Certain pockets in this area of Logan Square are now undergoing yet another transformation of gentrification, and it is precisely these constituents that Vilma Colom is kowtowing to; hoops in the Unity Playlot can only mean unsavory youth congregations with the potential for gang participation along with any gang-banging that may occur. There is absolutely no consideration for any of the youths in this area who are not affiliated with gangs and now find themselves just as alienated as my generation did in the 50s and 60s.

In the past the police saw fit to hassle the youth that attempted to entertain themselves with a ball game. Now we have some of my own generation haranguing about the very same form of youthful entertainment that was not afforded to them then, and their feeble attempt to resist change to suit their own selfish agenda.

What needs to happen is to go ahead with the permanent installation of the hoops. Additionally, there should be enough police resources to maintain a semblance of order (like they did in the days when this was just a parking lot). Citizen watch groups should also be encouraged for the well-being of the community.

Mike Koskiewicz

W. Warwick

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