Boundaries shift in ward remap; collision on bike route

Bicycle symbol marked on pavement.
A 1st Ward proposal would make Wood Street northbound from Grand Avenue to Ellen Street for protected bike lanes.

A proposal to change the traffic flow on Wood Street drew a crowd to EVA's monthly meeting. Many neighbors wondered why they hadn't heard about the plan earlier.

East Village is likely to remain in multiple wards, 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins told East Village Association members Feb. 7. The online meeting highlighted the problems with a divided territory when attendees aired concerns about 1st Ward plans for bike lane improvements.

"If it were up to me, and I say this with some sense of irony, I like my ward, I really do," Hopkins told the 50 attendees, addressing dueling City Council redistricting proposals. "I like representing your neighborhood and I lose it under both versions and I'm sorry that it's happening. ... It's part of what I would consider my political base and no incumbent elected official voluntarily severs a portion of their political base."

A Latino Caucus draft moves East Village to the 34th Ward but the council's Rules Committee pulls it largely into Ald. Daniel La Spata's 1st Ward. However, Hopkins maintained that East Village's diversity will pull the neighborhood into more boundary shifts. The remap tug-of-war was previewed here and discussed at EVA's Nov. 1 meeting. West Town community groups called for a unified ward in a Nov. 8 statement.

The remap ultimately may be put to voters in a June 28 referendum, without a map in the polling booth to sort out the options. Hopkins saw aldermen growing more concerned about dodging an election showdown, with a "window of opportunity" to send future remaps to an independent commission.

Alderman Brian Hopkins profile.
2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins

Hopkins also responded to EVA's public safety position after a wave of carjackings and high-end store heists. The ward funded a license plate reader to track carjackers, Hopkins said, and Hopkins believed political pressure on Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Chicago Police senior detectives are active in a task force of Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

Speaking the day after a 1st Ward bar shooting, Hopkins said some crime problems are beyond the control of tavern operators. In his ward, he said he has tried to build a case that repeated incidents posed a threat to the community.

Division Street bridge replacement is on track, with plans to keep some lanes open during construction and to avoid simultaneous shutdowns on Division Street and Chicago Avenue. In the Lincoln Yards development area, Hopkins also wants the city to deliver on plans for a north-south bridge at Dominick Street and east-west bridges at Concord Street and a rebuilt Armitage-Ashland-Elston intersection. "That's a heavy lift," he said. "It's a major project for the City of Chicago but it was promised as a part of Lincoln Yards and I want to make sure these promises are kept."

Bicycle maneuver gets workout

After Hopkins' question-and-answer session, talk turned to Ald. La Spata's promise to fund up to $325,000 for protected bike lanes on either side of Wood Street, connecting to the Milwaukee Avenue "spoke route." Wood Street is in La Spata's ward, although Hopkins' district is blocks away both east and west.

The Chicago Streets for Cycling plan has no work slated for the Wood Street neighborhood bike route. The cost of a protected lane begins at $125,000 per half-mile, according to the ward's participatory budgeting website.

The proposal would limit autos to northbound travel from Grand Avenue to Ellen Street near the Milwaukee Avenue junction. EVA board member Neal McKnight said a similar proposal a decade ago led to the current shared street arrangement, with green zone markings at intersections, as Sheriff Dart reopened the Chicago Police Wood Street station house as a warrant office.

While La Spata solicits community advice for 1st Ward public safety and zoning issues, the bike proposal had no public hearing. "Regardless of whether you support the position one way or the other, the process by which this decision was made was really poor," McKnight said, echoing quiet 1st Ward reversals on liquor license policy.

EVA took no position on the bike lane proposal. People attending the online meeting advocated taking objections to the Chicago Department of Transportation, which would identify travel and safety issues and draft designs for traffic buffer installation. Salon owner Ben Clauss suggested Wolcott Avenue as an alternative bike route.

EVA officer election March 7

Current EVA officers were nominated for the upcoming March 7 officer election: President John Gantner, Vice President Alison Coughlin, Treasurer Bob Zwolinski and Secretary Christina Slaton.

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