Sunday, September 06, 2009

On the Isolation of Hyde Park


From the BC thread linked below "You've lost that lovin' feeling"

Biff Larkin,
(who thinks that University Liberals like BHO are sheltered)
You overstate things a bit. Hyde Park is a community district, that is to say most of one and part of another zip code, in which are located the University of Chicago and most of the associated students and faculty. It is about 1½ square miles, 2 with South Kenwood added, and has about 30 to 40,000 residents. I have reviewed the wiki article and found it generally accurate, although my knowledge is now out of date. Since it is not an independent municipality it does not grant liquor licenses.

The University of Chicago does have its own police force (UCPD) that patrols in addition to the Chicago Police Department (CPD). This puts an additional 12 or more uniformed police on duty in the neighborhood at any time. About half are full time employees of the UCPD and the rest are mostly CPD moonlighting on overtime. Over a third of the local residents are Black and it is significantly wealthier and safer then the surrounding areas but it is not walled off like West Berlin was. However some streets are closed off so that entry and exit is not completely open.

In recent years there have been some moves towards gentrification around the Hyde Park-South Kenwood core but as the economy deteriorates I would not be surprised to see things decay again. The area north of the district, North Kenwood and Oakwood were almost completely destroyed in the 1960s and '70s. Recently the land between the University district and the downtown has seen money move in. As in other places in Chicago the dismantling of public housing projects allowed the market to draw people and financing to locations convenient to The Loop. Much money was poured into working class stabilization efforts in Woodlawn to the South of campus but that and the Washington Park neighborhood to the West are very fragile in the face of what could be a long term economic depression.

The local politicians and the highly influential University certainly can make it difficult for anyone hoping to open a bar or any other business they do not sponsor. For many years the all powerful South East Chicago Commission was run by Julian Levi, the brother of the future University President and US Attorney General, Edward Levi. Liquor licenses are not easy to get in Chicago. Late night licenses are very hard to obtain. There are of course bars and taverns both on and off campus. If the Woodlawn Tap (Jimmy's) were to close then that would be a sign of the apocalypse.

Mad Fiddler,
(who described Hyde Park)
You catch the flavor. The Kenwood district has the mansions, along with the Nation of Islam houses where Farrakhan lives and Muhammed Ali used to. The Midway Plaisance along with the Museum of Science and Industry and Jackson Park are remnants of the 1892 World's Columbian Exposition. The world's first ferris wheel was right outside of the new University. The Old University of Chicago failed after the Great Chicago Fire, it was located to the North in what is now the depressed but hopefully rebuilding Oakwood neighborhood.

Doug,
(who mentioned BHO/Ayers' reference to NOI security)
(comments on the BC closed as I was posting this)

Correct, the NOI houses are on the 4700 block of South Woodlawn Ave, that is south of 47th street in the wealthy South Kenwood district. The University police do not patrol north of 47th street. The dividing line is dramatic, at one time on the north side of 47th was the NOI mosque and almost nothing else. There was no crime near the NOI houses. The Fruit of Islam were there and polite but everyone knew not to bother them. Faculty I visited nearby were glad of the extra protection.

On occasion I had 5 AM breakfast at the long gone Hyde Park Coffee Shop and met some of Muhammed Ali's people. They were friendly.

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