Wrigleyville community leaders on Monday urged Mayor Rahm Emanuel to reject the Cubs’ request to shut down Addison and Clark on game days at Wrigley Field — and widen adjacent sidewalks by up to 10 feet into both streets — in the name of ballpark security.
“The mayor is not in a position to force all of these changes down the throats of residents in the same way he was three years ago because of City Hall scandals and his handling of certain matters that have people calling for his resignation,” said Jim Spencer, president of East Lake View Neighbors.
“At some point, and I think we’re at that point, the city has to tell the Cubs, `Don’t bother coming back with any more stuff because you’ve already gotten way more than you deserve. You’re just not going to get any more because the neighborhood has no more to give. The well is dry.’”
The surprise request by Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney to “extend the perimeter” in Cubs’ control by “100 feet in every direction” would “create gridlock” for area residents 80 or 90 days a year, Spencer said.
“If you close those two streets to car traffic, other streets become absolutely choked. Sheffield and Waveland are already closed on game days. It makes it very, very difficult for anybody in this neighborhood who comes home during that time to get home,” Spencer said.
“We already have problems on game days getting things like package deliveries. My neighbors and tenants ask me, `Have you gotten any mail for the last couple of days?’ Sometimes, the city can’t get down the alley to pick up garbage. There are already a whole lot of inconveniences. We’ve all gotten used to them. But this goes too far.”
A mayoral spokeswoman put the brakes on the idea late Monday.
“Of course we are not going to close Clark and Addison,” said Kelley Quinn. “Safety and security are everyone’s top concern, and we will work with the community, Ald. Tunney and the Cubs to achieve that without having to shut down two major roads in a neighborhood.”
Jill Peters, president of the Southport Neighbors Association, agreed that shutting down Addison and Clark would “tie up all of the secondary streets” and “create a nightmare for residents and the city” at a time when getting in and out of Wrigleyville on game days is already “impossible.”
Peters questioned whether the Cubs were making the request in the name of security when the real motivation is economic.
“It’s unclear to me why this is coming up now, whether it’s being driven by a real threat or this is conveniently part of a plan to allow Clark Street to be more accessible to private use,” Peters said.
“I would like to see a letter from FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security saying this is absolutely necessary before we proceed to impose on the community in this way. I’m not saying there aren’t threats to security at Wrigley and that cars don’t pose threats. But there has to be another way to deal with this, such as preventing large vehicles or screening those vehicles through a metal detector. But to close it off altogether does sound like overkill and perhaps serves their other purposes as well. I don’t want to minimize the threat. But it is also conveniently now fitting into a larger plan to expand their campus.”
Wrigleyville residents have already accused Emanuel of going too far by giving the Cubs the go-ahead to put up two video scoreboards, four other outfield signs, extend the Wrigley footprint onto public streets and sidewalks without compensating Chicago taxpayers, and play more night games.
At Emanuel’s behest, the City Council also approved the Cubs’ ambitious plan to develop the land around Wrigley Field with a hotel, an office building and open-air plaza with even more signage.
On Monday, Spencer said he’s had it up to here with the seemingly endless string of demands, and it’s time for Emanuel to draw a line in the sand.
“We’ve already lost a lane of traffic to the Cubs on Waveland and Sheffield. It’s time to tell the Cubs to leave the community alone and build what is allowed,” he said.
A top mayoral aide, who asked to remain anonymous, characterized the Cubs’ request as an “overreach” that Emanuel is likely to reject, just as he did three years ago.
“They have asked for this before. When they asked before, it wasn’t for safety and security reasons. They wanted to expand their footprint and create a big campus. It helps their bottom line,” the mayoral aide said.
Sources said Emanuel is not dismissing stadium security concerns. But he believes there are other ways to accomplish the goal short of closing two major streets and widening sidewalks. They includes installing concrete bollards around Wrigley similar to those outside the Hancock Building and Willis Tower to prevent a car from driving up onto sidewalk.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) did not return repeated phone calls about Kenney’s request made during last weekend’s Cubs Convention.
Tunney has already angered the Cubs with his attempt to roll back — to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends — the team’s ability to sell beer and wine from kiosks at an open-air plaza adjacent to a renovated Wrigley.
The Cubs hope to turn the year-round plaza outside the hotel and office building the Cubs are building near Wrigley into a town square of sorts with live music, farmers markets, a winter ice-skating rink and movies in the park.