Wednesday, June 2, 2010

ONE Protest - Two Stories

The Organization for the Northeast (ONE) protested code violations that have gone unresolved at Lawrence House by paying a visit to Wicker Park Tavern. (Wicker Park Tavern is owned by Don and Sam Menetti, who also own Lawrence House.) You can watch the video here:

Demonstration outside Wicker Park Tavern from Megan Cottrell on Vimeo.

Medill Reports and True/Slant both covered the protest that occurred last week Wednesday.


  1. They look like a bunch of wack jobs if you ask me. I don't know what their cause is but you can be sure I for one would never support it. Goofy kids with too much time on their hands.

  2. If the code violations are that bad at Lawrence House, they should definitely be cleaned up. I recall the building being for sale about 2-3 years ago. If that's the case they need to either clean it up or drop the price and sell.

    Didn't Helen step in and try to get the place cleaned up - or is this one of her attempts to snag another building and make it low income housing for the rest of time?

    By the way, I wonder just how many of those kids in the protest live in Uptown. The girl in the green skirt is just plain scary.

  3. I think the protestors are great.

    We need more protests before the oil spill reaches Montrose Beach next summer.

    Nothing wrong with making people who own too many things uncomfortable.

    Tavern? AND housing for disadvantaged!

    How hip!

  4. Even though it is another episode of Uptown political theater, I'm glad it happened. Thanks for organizing it, Cory!

    Senior citizens and disabled people live in Lawrence House. It would be hard for them to organize like that because of age and/or disability and because of possible retaliation from the landlords.

    Rather than sitting by, these young people were willing to give their time, put their face on the issue and show up. No matter what, I think that should be applauded.

    I also like that a ONE protest left Uptown or Rogers Park for a change.

    I also loved the quote from Helen. 'Whaa, me? I didn't know anything about that." Its much like that time she was at the protest outside Mary Ann Smith's home. Good times...LOL

    Don't people see Helen's genius in all of this? While her attention was focused on creating [more expensive] senior housing at Wilson Yard, she was neglecting a large affordable senior housing building that is already here. Inevitably, she gets "caught" by the fire and the conditions that are revealed. Yet in order to fix things, she's got to work through the official channels to get this all resolved. She's got to be professional to get that done so she can't get pissed off, make a big show and call them slumlords. Instead, she gets some idealistic young people to do it for her. The brothers are pressured, she looks like a reasonable mediator and the seniors are thankful. Come election time, those same idealistic young people can be counted on to help turn out the vote because they feel empowered by the rightness of what they have done.

    Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

  5. I agree with Big Daddy and I think these protesters need to get a life. Their looks are just like their actions, crazy.....

  6. I love the guy with the sign that says, "Get the roaches out of my bed." Methinks that young guy has never slept a night in that Senior Citizen building and probably is not the 1 person from the building who attended the protest.

    And, what's with the explanation that ONE will do protests without the tenants knowledge because it's best for the tenants not to know because they might be retaliated against? Sounds very Big Brother and patronizing to me.

    I'm sure ONE is protesting at the Wicker Tavern site for a reason other than the one they state - that they must go to a place where the owner does care about humans. Chicago's new anti-protest ordinance 8-4-010 was passed late last year. Protests no longer may be held within 50 feet of any hospital, medical clinic or health care facility - such as the one directly across the street from Uptown's Lawrence House and on nearly every other corner of Uptown.

    While I am all for pressuring landlords to correct code violations, I've always believed that there is a city system to address those problems; it's called the building code complaint system. I don't know why ONE can't work within the system to get things done and why the Alderman won't use her position to make things happen for them. The alderman is "taciturn?" Come on. She's either really neglectful of her duties, or, more likely, using her alter-ego ONE to organize troops for her upcoming re-election campaign, as we've watched many times over the past 20 years of aldermanic campaigns.

    Finally, ONE is traversing Uptown to protest bad housing conditions over by the lakefront. Why don't they walk to the end of their own block and protest the death trap known as Wilson's Men's Club? This is the site of another ongoing housing court case, the former home of many 1996 heat wave victims, and the last remaining "chicken wire and plywood" cubicle hotel in Chicago.

    And, they could also glance across their street from the ONE offices toward the Darlington Hotel. There are enough code violations there to keep any activist group busy for a year.
    In fact, here is what I know about the Darlington:

    Status: 9/11/09 Bldg Transferred to another division to Strategic Taskforce.

    So, where has ONE been while the neighbors have addressed much more serious housing court cases than that at the Lawrence House?

    Enough said.

  7. Its funny how the double standard in Uptown works. This group of ONE members are predominately white and most would look at them as kids trying to make positive change (even if their actions during the protest look awfully goofy).

    Now, if a group of predominately white Uptown residents got together to protest a problem building - or participate in, God forbid, positive loitering or a neighborhood clean-up, ONE would probably label them as evil racists.

  8. Can someone please tell me what's going on at the :30 mark? I can't stop laughing at that dance!

    It's good that they got out and protested though. It's a lot more than a most around here are doing.

    I for one say... AWESOME! If anything, that goofy dance is sure to get people's attention. You go girl!

  9. Miss Kitty

    Here's the other double standard --

    When UCC & affiliated groups protest businesses or low income housing for violations, they are concerned citizens. But when ONE does it, they're crazy.

    The protests don't seem any different than UCC ones against crime.

    Truthbearer, the roaches comment has the same amount of truthiness as the claim that the Wilson Yard housing is "Cabrini North (when in reality it is closer to MINI versions of 4640 & 4645 N. Sheridan)

  10. It has always been my philosophy that the best way to resolve conflicts and to find solutions to problems is to bring together all people affected, to listen to all voices, and then to create a vision that encompasses all perspectives—starting from the perspective of those most affected by the issue at hand.

    Really ...?

    I'll expect to get word of a summit between ONE, the residents and the owners any day now, with a press release following.


    Oh, and Sassy ... it's now painfully clear that our beloved alderman's strategy is simply to "stack 'em and rack 'em".

    Apparently, proactive maintainence of public housing isn't high on her list of priorities or there might not be a problem.

    But, yes .. kudos to ONE for getting out there and being a reliable proxy.

    Sit, Ubu. Sit.

    Good dog.

    Though ... one might think that a better time for this (or *cough* any) type of activity like this would have been immedaitely after the fire.

    Optics, people, optics. Attack while the iron (or the building) is hot.


  11. Having known several people who lived at Lawrence House, there is nothing incorrect about O.N.E’s concern about retaliation against residents. One resident I know moved out for just that reason. She was instrumental in increasing recent attention and pressure on the owners.

    Read the articles again. O.N.E. did work “the system” and for more than a year to no effect. And it’s not like we haven’t seen the poor, elderly and mentally ill marginalized in criminal ways before. Consider Somerset House. Their resume was notorious and proof that “the system” doesn’t work.

    As for the Wilson Men’s Hotel, it has its problems, to be sure, but it is a lousy poster child for heat-related deaths during the 1995 heat wave. No, what’s remarkable, given its myriad issues, is why there weren’t more heat-related deaths there. Especially given how susceptible those who abuse drugs and alcohol are to the effects of heat.

    After controlling for facility (loosely applied here), age, heath status of residents, etc., data suggest that a form of community action might have helped save men’s lives there and in other areas of the city. They checked in on each other, were aware of people in crisis, and called for medical help before the worst could happen. Many of those ambulances you saw back in front of the hotel back then were transporting people who were—and who remained—alive. To learn more about this, I recommend you read: Heat Wave
    A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago by Eric Klinenberg.

    So O.N.E. took the problems of Lawrence House to the owner’s other door and caused a stir? Before the hottest months befall us? I say “Bravo!”

    As far as what O.N.E. may or may not be doing v/a/v the Darlington, why guess? Call Jamiko at 773-769-3232 and ask her directly.

    As for drawing parallels between this, positive loitering events, and charges and countercharges of racism, it doesn’t quite add up. On one hand, doing something to counteract real or perceived issues of crime probably has some beneficial effect, even if it’s only a few neighbors getting to know one another. On the other hand, it is, in my opinion, a little weird to consider that when a similar number of black kids hang around on a corner in much the same fashion, the police are often called to disperse them.

  12. Forgive me, but I am not 100% familiar with the Lawrence house but are these people locked inside with no option to leave?

    "Get the roaches out of my bed."

    How about you get your ass out of the bed with roaches in it. No where to go? Try sleeping on the side of Lake Shore Drive like our friend was doing the other day.

    If it is elderly, then maybe we should be using this to spread the word that planning for retirement is a must. Uncle Sam helps create lousing living conditions.

    If some of the people are mentally unfit, then those are the people we should be focusing to get out of this building.

    I find it ironic that the same Hippies that are protesting will roll around in Mud and Feces at any random outdoor music event, but they refuse to sleep next to a few bugs. Me thinks your Birkenstock would make excellent fly swatters.

  13. Ask ONE and Cory Muldoon just how effective their protest outside Ald. Smith's home was about a year ago. From what I hear, she has totally refused to meet with them since their appearance in her neighborhood. There's theatre, and then there are results. In this case, how effective are the results going to be?

  14. why not protest an uptown building in UPTOWN? then again, after seeing the video I am not surprised they protested in the wrong neighborhood...

  15. Thank goodness trash like you *Chip* exists only as a minority in a otherwise good neighborhood.

    If you don't like it, there is the door. I hear the suburbs and Lincoln Park are wonderful for intolerant jackasses like you.

  16. A couple of years ago, ONE actually burned Mary Ann Smith in effigy at their annual meeting.

    Seriously though, after trying to get a building on my block through housing court, its a matter of getting the Corporation Council on your side. Otherwise the line you will get fed from the various city attorney's is something like this. "We are trying to work with the landlord to get them into compliance."

    The truth of the matter is after a certain period of time, if the landlord will not voluntarily get into compliance, the city should hit these buildings with every fine possible. And once that's done, take the building from the owner.

    An effective alderman can help by putting pressure on the building department and the Corporation Council.

  17. The effective alderman. Yep, that is what is missing from the equation.

  18. ONE / Shiller Quote of the day:

    "Love, friendship, respect do not unit people as much as a common hatred of something" Anton Chekhov

  19. Stu Piddy,
    While I agree hat if you own an apartment building, you have the responsibility to maintain its upkeep... who are you to say that they own too many things? Who is anybody to say that anyone owns too much. One person comes to mind... Hugo Chavez... He took rich peoples second homes because he felt they did not deserve them. If someone wants to own things... let them.

  20. "They look like a bunch of wack jobs if you ask me."

    "The girl in the green skirt is just plain scary."

    "I agree with Big Daddy and I think these protesters need to get a life. Their looks are just like their actions, crazy....."

    "How about you get your ass out of the bed with roaches in it. No where to go? Try sleeping on the side of Lake Shore Drive like our friend was doing the other day. "

    "I find it ironic that the same Hippies that are protesting will roll around in Mud and Feces at any random outdoor music event, but they refuse to sleep next to a few bugs. Me thinks your Birkenstock would make excellent fly swatters."


    The hatred, intolerance, antagonism, close mindedness, and pettyness in these comments is astounding. I am ashamed to know these people are my neighbors.

    Everyone else: thanks for your thoughtful, sensible comments, on both sides of the coin.

    I found both double standards (miss kitty's and JP Paulus') interesting... and both dead-on.

    I personally think this protest was positive. It was effective to the extent that it got some media coverage and street presence, which both raise awareness. It was peaceful, as far as I can tell. And it got all of us here talking about Lawrence House.

  21. And it got all of us here talking about Lawrence House.

    There was discussion on the conditions of Lawrence House in April, following the fire.


    (this one begs the question as to whether or not the owners were invited to this meeting, or not. and if not, why not?)


    As for the protest being peaceful ... that's debatable.

    I'd categorize the protest as antagonistic-ish.

    To my previous point: I think the net result of this simply pissed off the owners (not that I'm defending them, by any stretch) and now the atmosphere may very well be more confrontational (as demonstrated by how the owner reacted to the protest, not responded. Ver' important difference) - which leads to a loss of effectiveness, not an addition.

    I can certianly understand the frustration of the ONE-folks; but, there are ways to do things, and there are ways to do things. I'm not sure this was the best way to to adress these very imporant issues.

    Since the alderman met with residents, it calls to question what, if any, action has been taken from her office to address the matter?

    Since ONE took to the streets, it leads to the conclussion that nothing has happened.

    And that raises a slew of other questions.

    However, if the alderman has been able to get the owners to address the problems already - and actions are being taken to that effect, attacking their livelihood may either have added to the resolve of the owner's nefariousness - which could lead to curious delays in affecting the necessary changes, or may have an adverse effect on their ability to generate the revenue required to fund the upgrades.

    The owners don't have to answer to ONE - and they won't, especially if an adversarial enviornment has been created.

    They do have to answer to the alderman as the city has processes and procedures in place to deal with just these sorts of issues.

  22. A few thoughts:

    - Obviously, substandard conditions for those living at Lawrence House, or anywhere, are unacceptable. Uptown has wayyyyyyy too many landlords who provide horrible living conditions and make tons of money off our most vulnerable citizens. The Mosa and Alexander Buildings on Leland and Sheridan, 4639 Broadway... disgusting. I urge everyone to come to housing court when buildings like this are on the docket.

    - The fire last April should have been a huge wake-up call for the owners of Lawrence House. A high-rise full of seniors and people with disabilities, and no fire alarm goes off!? I remember when the SRO on LaSalle Street burned down 15 or 20 years ago with great loss of life, and have we not learned a damn thing from that?

    - If Ald. Shiller is personally overseeing the conditions at Lawrence House, why the need for ONE to publicly humiliate the owners?

    - Seems a lot of Shiller's "people" are running rogue lately. Shiller says she knew nothing about her pet group protesting the owners of a building at which she made a rare personal appearance to discuss the standard of living conditions? Riggggggghhhhht. Straight out of the Daley playbook: He doesn't know anything... until he does. Incredibly transparent.

    - No residents of Lawrence House at the demonstration. Protest took place without the knowledge of the tenants. Smells fishy. Paternalistic and patronizing, at the very least.

    - Housing court exists for a reason. Housing court works. Why does ONE feel that nothing will happen if they don't "take charge" of this building? Not a very ringing endorsement of Ald. Shiller's patronage, is it?

    - Seems like just another excuse for some street theatre and attention-getting. ONE's heart may be in the right place. But their methods seem poised only to get attention (which they did). Whether or not their methods will get anything changed remains to be seen.

  23. Truman Square Neighbor -

    They specifically designed the protest to be people who do not live in Lawrence house, not because they're paternalistic assholes, but because residents face retaliation. Apparently, some residents have already been harassed just for being part of the tenant council. Residents have been heavily involved in the process, meeting together and trying to meet with the Menettis.

    Also, housing court does not always work. It often leads to buildings getting shut down, which takes away affordable housing. Look at the Diplomat, an SRO in Lakeview. They had pages of terrible violations, until it finally got so bad that the city came in and shut it down. That's not what we want to happen here - we want people to continue to have safe, affordable housing.

  24. Making some noise to speed up a slow process, or draw attention to a problem, is cool with me. Make the noise however you want.

    I think getting code problems addressed before the next serious/dangerous problem is ideal.

    But, don't act like there isn't a very real chance this place will be shut down. It is actually the second best of 3 possible outcomes (nothing, close building, fix everything), and might be the only way to get people into housing that is up to code quickly.

    That's just the way it is. Trying to take shutting down the building off the table sounds ideal, but also naive.

  25. Megan-

    I'm glad you bring up the Diplomat, because Jack Gore, the slumlord who owns the Diplomat (or owned, he may have sold it by now) also owns the Chateau Hotel in the 46th ward. But unlike the owners of Lawrence House, Jack Gore is friendly with Helen Shiller, so her office soft-pedals concerns about the dozens of code violations.

    So we won't expect to see ONE, or these kids, tracking Mr. Gore down in an attempt to shame him.

    Which is why no one really takes these protesters seriously for acting at the behest of a political organization so closely tied to a 20+ year alderwoman. Because this protest was not about the safety of the residents of Lawrence House. It was about city politics, whether all of the protesters knew it or not.

  26. I wonder how todays fire with four people injured if the preliminary reports are correct is going to sit now?