Coffee talk, Ashland BRT's route

East Village Association membership meeting minutes for September 9, 2013
Submitted by Meghan Quinn


Business Minute: Ugly Mug Café owner Mikky Wright
The Ugly Mug Café has been a 10-year dream of Mikky Wright to bring a community-driven coffee shop to West Town. After moving from Seattle to Wicker Park in 1997, Mikky lamented on the lack of cafes in the neighborhood. After owning and operating a few local businesses such as the Alliance Bakery and the Wicker Park Inn, he decided to bring his vision to life and create a vibrant, neighborhood-accessible shop.

Sticking to the independent nature of West Town, Mikky created a coffee shop from the ground-up by using local vendors (such as Passion House coffee and Sweet Cakes bakery) and hiring a strong and friendly staff dedicated to the mission that the Ugly Mug should be open to everyone whether for a coffee, a sandwich, or just to stop by and say “howdy.”

Ugly Mug is located at 1458 W. Chicago Ave., between Green Zebra and Unite Urban Grill (a new business opening soon). Beginning at 10:30am, you can order for delivery if you are located from California to Armitage & VanBuren to Larrabee. They also do catering. The whole interior of the café was furnished with reclaimed and reused materials from around the city, from places such as Rebuilding Exchange.

Stop by for live jazz on Fridays and storytelling with The Button Down on Saturdays. Ugly Mug always displays local artists on its walls, and they are participating in the West Town Art Walk this year on October 4th & 5th, so go check out work by artists John Preus, Cailin Short, Allie Kushnir and Tom Tomek.

For more info, take a look at uglymugcafe.net.

Guest Speaker: Catherine Garypie on Ashland BRT
While the EVA board is undecided in their stance on the Ashland BRT pending more information from the city, we invited Catherine Garypie to speak to the membership regarding the upcoming required Environmental Assessment and how we as community members can be involved.

Garypie has been practicing environmental law for 22 years and currently works for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She let us know that she has permission to speak in this forum and is not representing the views of the EPA. She is personally undecided on the issue at the moment as well.

The process being followed by the city is as follows:
  1. Planning phase – this has been completed.
  2. Design – this is currently happening and includes the Environmental Review that we are discussing today, as well as preliminary engineering.
  3. Construction – future operations of the project.
The National Environmental Policy Act requires an analysis of the Ashland BRT project, known as an Environmental Assessment, which is a less detailed version of an Environmental Impact Statement. The CTA is working closely with the Federal Transit Administration on this. There will be a 30-day public comment period (which is significant because it is not required, but will be happening for this project).

The assessment looks at many things, including social and environmental impacts. A draft of the EA will be posted online, and a copy will be available at the public library and the alderman’s office. This will usually happen at the beginning of the 30-day comment period, so that people can address what is and/or is not included in the draft.

Garypie recommends that, as you develop your comments, you should:
  • Look at the draft to make sure they considered issues that are important to you. For instance, if you are concerned that the BRT will split the community geographically since it will be difficult to cross, but this issue was not studied in the draft, make a comment about that.
  • If the draft does in fact study your issue(s) of concern, is it thorough enough in it’s exploration of said issue(s). For example, what assumptions are they making in a traffic study, and did they cover all of the assumptions you would consider important? If not, make a comment to that effect.
  • When making comments, it is important to focus on relevant topics that are pertinent to the EA. For instance, making a comment that the BRT will make your commute harder will not have much of an impact, because there is no way for them to address that.
  • An example of comment language could be, ‘Issue X is not addressed in a complete manner, and these are the reasons why.’ It is also helpful to submit supportive documentation if you have it.
  • You can comment by: e-mail, mail, or at the microphone at the public hearings (dates yet to be announced).
In Garypie’s experience, it is possible for relatively basic comments to come in and completely change the direction of a project.

Until the CTA posts their draft EA, it would be helpful to look at existing EA examples so you can see what is typically included and what isn’t, and consider how you might comment. The FTA website has around 30 EA & EIS examples for transportation projects. During the comment period, you will usually not be able to view others’ comments, but after the 30-day period, all comments will be made public.

The exact date of the of the 30 day comment period has not been announced. In order to be notified when the 30-day comment period will commence, you can go to transitchicago.com/ashlandbrt and sign up to be on their mailing and/or email list.

Another great resource is the Citizen’s Guide to NEPA.

Parks
Honore, Snowberry & Superior all were awarded money for upgraded playground equipment, and would love community volunteers to help in the new steps.

Planning, preservation & development
The new high-rise at Ashland & Division is welcoming its first tenants on October 1st.

Liquor licenses
Garden Gourmet has posted for their license, and still needs to sign the Plan of Operations.

A license has been requested for the grocery across the street. EVA and other neighborhood organizations have written letters of opposition to the liquor commission. Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) has agreed to defer to Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st) on the topic, as it is Burnett’s old ward and Moreno’s new ward under the remap.

Newsletter
You can sign up on our website (eastvillagechicago.org) to get EVA’s monthly e-mail newsletter, or to be notified of every article posted. You can also go to the website to like our Facebook page, which has a lot of info as well.

Meeting commenced at 7:05pm, adjourned at 8:18pm, Board attendance: Neal McKnight, KK Goh, Meghan Quinn, Gladys Anselmo, Greg Nagel, Scott Rappe, Stephen Rynkiewicz, Rob Schickel, Tom Tomek.

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