Augusta Boulevard Bike Lane Reconfigured
By Jenifer Goldsmith
EVA hosted aldermen Daniel La Spata (1st) and Gilbert Villegas (36th) for an update on ward news and introduced the new officers and plans for a neighborhood block party on Aug. 19.
1st Ward: Bike lanes, LaSalle II field, migrant needs
La Spata reviewed plans for the new protected bike lane on Augusta Boulevard from Western Avenue to Milwaukee Avenue. He is hopeful for connected bike access through the neighborhoods, but pointed out each alderperson is responsible for coordinating in their own ward, which makes it difficult to design citywide. He is looking into creating safe north-south routes with a focus on moving forward on Wood Street. Three different designs will be revealed for the project in late May. La Spata will be serving on the transit committee, and members can reach out to his office to share ideas and concerns.
Funds are being raised for rehabilitation of the field at LaSalle II Magnet School, 1148 N. Honore. So far, $450,000 has been earmarked from the Open Spaces Fund, and La Spata is working with Chicago Public Schools to get the rest funded. Improvements will include a new baseball diamond.
One of the biggest challenges facing the ward and its schools, including Wells, Otis and Talcott, is the influx of migrants and needs for mental health care, housing and seamless integration into the community. Anyone interested in volunteering or donating may contact the 1st Ward office.
Lastly, La Spata addressed safety, recognizing the increase in robberies and the need for more support officers to take non-crime related 911 calls off patrol officers’ plates so they can focus on crime as it is happening.
36th Ward: Bike lanes, LaSalle II field, migrant needs
Villegas was re-elected in a runoff and is getting up to speed on the new neighborhoods in the ward, but he expressed excitement about working more closely with La Spata and aldermen in other neighboring wards to ensure a united West Town. He opened a new office located at 2246 W. Chicago, which will be open to residents weekdays 9am-5pm starting May 15. He can also be found on all social media platforms, and will be hosting ward nights twice monthly on Mondays, 5-7pm.
Villegas also recognized the increased crime in the area and is hopeful the new district coordination officers coming late 2Q will be helpful in alleviating non-crime-related calls from patrol officers, while the new Police District Council members will increase communication and transparency between the police department and community members.
Lastly, Ald. Villegas discussed the Grand Avenue improvement project, including a meeting with the Chicago Department of Transporation at Smith Park at 6pm on May 2.
A lively Q&A session followed La Spata’s and Villegas’ presentations, with many questions regarding bike lanes, adding dog parks to the area, reissuing expanded patio licensing and crime and safety. Two of the new Police District Council Members, Leo Quintero (Chair) and Chloe Vitale (Community Engagement) were in attendance and announced plans for a website, phone number, and regular meetings to increase communication and transparency. They were given an open invitation to attend EVA monthly meetings.
EVA Neighborhood Block Party
Residents are invited to the East Village Neighborhood Block Party on Aug. 18. Members who would like to participate in planning or would like to sponsor are encouraged to reach out to the board.
Community support for migrant aid
Chicago has welcomed more than 8,000 migrants from Texas so far, with more on the way. Anyone interested in providing assistance is encouraged to get in touch with Villegas’ office to volunteer and/or make donations; please check Villegas’ social media for the most requested items. EVA plans to collect personal hygiene items at the June 5 meeting.
Community members also can ask state and federal legislators to designate funds for immigration support to alleviate city resources. Federal legislation also could help new asylum seekers, who are currently unable to work legally for six months.