Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Brighter Sunnyside?

We got quite a few emails regarding the trimming/pruning that took place on Sunnyside Mall today to combat the crime that takes place there. We walked through the mall this afternoon and think it is important to note that the majority of the shrubs that were trimmed back to the ground will grow back next year. Your opinions of what took place will vary, but we'd like to try and see this as a mostly positive development. One reader sends in a photo and writes:
Sunnyside Mall as seen this afternoon

"I was delighted to see that the long neglected Sunnyside Mall got trimmed and pruned today.  After years and years of increasing darkness and overgrown shrubs and weeds, I can finally see more than half a block.  I can finally see sunlight on the mall!  No more hiding places for the drug dealers that are creating such havoc, no more hidden cocktail parties.  Maybe now the police will not have to devote so much time to patrolling the mall. Maybe now people can actually grow plants and not weeds!"


  1. There was a woman out there LOSING HER FREAKING MIND today because they were cutting down trees and shrubs. Ironically I have NEVER scene this woman getting her hands dirty in the soil.

    As someone who has helped maintain the area I say this was long over due. There were to many blind spots for dealers, users, and gang bangers. It was a safety hazard.

    That reminds me, if you are on a bike SLOW DOWN if you jump on to Sunnyside. There are kids playing, animals running, and people walking.

    Do I have to stand out there and shake my fist at the sky? Arg!

  2. Was this before 10 a.m. today? There were 4 police SUVs out there today.Were they there because of her?

  3. Most people I know where outraged by this.

    I think the main problem in this situation was the lack of communication to the community of why or when this "tree trimming" was going to take place.

    I called the Alderman's office today and they denied that Cappleman knew anything of this. However, the workers uprooting the trees said he requested the trees be removed.

    I thought the Alderman was all about trees and flowers being planted to help reduce crime???

  4. I am happy that the mall has been cleaned up of overgrown shrubs and low hanging tree branches. The trimmed trees look great, and I feel safer walking my dog at night. Kudos!

  5. Regardless of your opinion of this, it is quickly spiraling into a public relations nightmare for the Alderman, Streets & San, the Police, etc. Hopefully, each will take immediate action to address the lack of public information regarding their exact involvement.

    This action appears to be a very heavy handed and insensitive action that requires explanation. Otherwise, public suspicion and accusation will replace facts - probably not the best situation for anyone in the community.

  6. I live on the mall and it's a positive change. It now feels open and airy while still providing shade.

    Granted, it was kind of neat before because it felt like a forest trail. This is, however, the middle of the city and people were drinking, smoking dope/crack, dealing (transactions on the benches behind the bushes), and other things in the hiding spots. People who have something to hide won't be attracted. People will feel safer, and there's better visibility for cars crossing the mall at the alleys.

    A plus is any security cameras (future police camera?) can see the entire mall.

    My wife didn't notice until my son pointed it out so it's not THAT heavy handed. I trust the tree trimmers know what they're doing for the health of the trees.

  7. May I say, living near Malden and Sunnyside, I totally appreciate this 'mall'

    The 'sunnyside mall' has issues, but it is a welcome respite for me (a 20 year resident)

    As 'good' citizens of Uptown, we all should have a sense of 'pride of place'.

    That said....may all the gang bangers and criminals who's cancerous Presence holds us down.....please go quietly to hell.

  8. The most effective way to drive away the dealers and drinkers would be to de-mall Sunnyside and re-open the street the traffic.

  9. Pr nightmare? Heavy handed? Lol, I am quite sure that neither the alderman or the Police are too worried about this, you know, given the non-stop shooting and drug dealing going on in the same neighborhood.

    Have you been at the mall drinking with the regulars? They are trimming the trees for pete's sake!I sure wish I was there to tell any naysayers to get a life and go do something with your time!

    Just can't win with some people around here. Shaking my head.

    Trimming trees.


  10. I do not disagree that trimming and pruning was needed but some of the clear cutting went a bit too far. Certainly there was no need to annihilate a two foot tall shrub or a small patch of wild flowers. The place looks like a wasteland. I am a renter and I have been working on a patch for two years all to have it mowed down. I don't think drug dealers and users are crouching behind tiny shrubs as a matter of fact I KNOW they are dealing right on Malden Street in front of my building and they are not shy about it. Shall we bulldoze all the apartments and condos so the po po can see from one end of the block to the next with an unobstructed view?

  11. sam45man, this is good news if the community sees this as a positive.
    The mall has been a great source of community pride for over a decade.

    From my understanding, however, a person was arrested yesterday trying to stop them from completely removing the bushes and that the caretaker of the mall for a decade was completely unaware that this had been planned.

    To me, if these rumors are true, it appears heavy handed and insensitive, especially to the caretaker of the mall. His efforts should be rewarded and honored, not ignored.

    Hopefully, this is all one big misunderstanding. Either way, I still believe that it deserves an explanation.

    Sunnyside Mall is much more than a city greenspace. It has been a community passion and hope through a very difficult time. That alone shold be worth the extra communication effort and compassion.

  12. I would say I'm surprised that this is a contentious issue but that's life in Uptown, extremes on both sides. All the mall lost was some weeds, a few branches and ugly bushes, it's not like an old growth tree was leveled. And the "this will make the area safer" talk is kind of silly as well, the crack heads and dealers won't go anywhere because there are a few less bushes. It was what should be routine maintenance. This outrage talk is the lolz.

  13. Zesty,

    The person arrested yesterday was Katherine Boyda. She approached a city worker with "“You need to f *#! stop cutting down our plants." Sounds like she was released after some time. While Katherine has been an asset to the community at times, she also seems to enjoy a bit of the theatrics.

    Also, I don't think this will be a "PR nightmare" for James. His partner Richard has put in more work on Sunnyside than just about anyone in Uptown. He continues to volunteer his time in spite of his busy schedule.

    Maybe this will be a lesson learned for all though.

    How about some residents approach James and volunteer to put a Sunnyside Mall beautification and preservation committee together?

  14. The same people who want the city to artfully tend the mall are the same ones who will scream bloody murder when taxes go up to pay for it. Interesting that the plots that showed some evidence of care had little done to them.

    Lesson: If you don't want the city to butcher the bushes, prune them and care for them on a regular basis.

  15. I think the best solution here is that the streets be reconstructed as they once were before the mall was created. The neighborhood is already so green and well-planted. Do we really need the mall there in the first place?

  16. Wow. I can't believe this is so controversial.

  17. Gotta agree with QRBNST and Uptown Revitalist.

  18. When was this mall contructed and why? I have to say this is indeed a very strange part of chicago. I never seen anything like this anywhere in the city.

    Has crime improved or worsened with the advent of this mall?

    Ofcourse it seems that there is too much low income housing by the mall which is likely a big reason why its crime infested.

  19. Anyone who thinks that deconstructing the mall will reduce crime should speak with my neighbors who lived here for several years prior to the advent of the mall. Also, the idea that this is a PR nightmare is laughable. Having more light and enhancing the ability to see gang activity cannot be a bad thing, unless of course you are engaging in illicit activities.

    Many of the bushes and trees on the mall have not been properly trimmed back in several years. During the early 2000's someone in our neighborhood (a great guy) meticulously cared for the bushes, plants, etc on the mall. Unfortunately, the time commitment became too much after several years and he retired from this activity a few years ago. The trimmed bushes and trees look vastly different than what had been in place. This is akin to how your hair may look after a long-overdue haircut.

    Additionally, anyone who honestly believes that the bangers do not hide behind bushes needs a lesson in paying attention. Yes, many deals take place out in the open but bangers (and the female and male "spotters") take cover behind bushes on a daily basis. Last night, I saw a banger and a female spotter walk toward a bench to sit down. When they noticed that things had been trimmed back they immediately moved on. I heard them talk about things being trimmed back and the fact that they could be seen.

    I would be happy to show anyone interested exactly where the bangers and their girls hide.

  20. Pruning is typically done in the fall. Most things will grow back better and stronger. Some areas were way too overgrown anyway. Anyone with any idea about landscaping knows that you must prune to some degree. Did they go a little too far, perhaps. But not a panty-twister. Way too much of a fuss over this.

    Yes, way too much low income housing in this neighborhood and I don't thing there is anything anyone can or will do about it (which is depressing). Makes me want to leave this area, but I love our living space. The mall is nice to have as well. What's wrong with additional green space? Is it possible to have too much of it in a big city? No way.

  21. Well it is amazing that the spin doctors on the mall controversy are all of the same people who spent the their time during the runnoff election slaming Molly P and supporting our new alderman including UU.
    The order for the cutting came from one place, the alderman's office. The people who work in the field for the Foresty department love to cut and use the "mulcher". They are not concerned with the esthetics where they cut.
    To say that the mall is now safer, is a joke. The shootings have not been in the mall because they can't do a drive by when there is no street.
    The shootings have occured at the intersection of Magnolia and Sunnyside, by the alley on Sunnyside between Magnolia and Racine, by the new $40 million Truman parking facility on Sunnyside between Racince and Clifton. Shrubs what shrubs. Why don't we cut down all the trees in the ward to let more light in. That certainly will rid us of the bangers.
    While were at it, let's bulldoze the entire block of Magnolia and the Mall on the corner, that will then get rid of the gang bangers that make walking on Magnolia such an adventure...

  22. Chipper, you need to open your eyes ! This "woman" as you called her is the person that worked on and got the local fire station their memorial garden and fountain. She is the "woman" that conceived, helped build and maintain the Sunshine Garden by Clarendon Park spending thousands of hours over the years working getting her hands dirty in maintaining that garden often without help. That woman has been involved in the efforts to restore the Clarendon Park. That woman helped organize the series of aldermanic debates. That woman was leader in the fight to make Wilson yard a better project for this tif area and the list goes on. My question to you is what have you done for this community besides your commentary on this blog ?

  23. Why did they go so Bonzo on the shrubs and flowers?

    I think this was some kind of communication breakdown...its a bit strange because Ald. James and his partner are big into gardening.

    The result looks pretty bleak, I'm glad Katherine Boyda gave 'em hell!!

  24. I think mad as hell is wrong.

    I know how things get when they are overgrown, I have been around the mall. Things need to be kept up. Let things overgrow and people notice when things are kept up.

    Im siding with shillsgangs.

    Safety is more important than complaining about overgardening.

  25. What in the hell is everyone fighting about? It's like arguing with air. The plants were cut. They'll grow back. They're not buildings. Sheesh.

  26. Hey Shillsgangs? This might be a (really) stupid question, but how do you spot a spotter. Maybe I'm just a rube, but I can't always figure out the roles of the enterprising businesspeople doing enterprising business on our stretch of Magnolia just north of the Sunnyside Mall.

  27. mad as hell - I recall Molly stating in one of the debates that Sunnyside Mall is such a problem the street should be reopened. About the only thing I agreed with her on...

  28. Saul, if you're serious I can show you (I don't mind taking a few minutes - not kidding at all). You can email me at

    The system is pretty simple, but easy to miss if people are just walking by. The spotters are often females who sit in one place for awhile then shift places. Once you start really looking, you will see the same cast of bangers and girls at a few select spots.

  29. "Well it is amazing that the spin doctors on the mall controversy are all of the same people who spent the their time during the runnoff election slaming Molly P and supporting our new alderman including UU."

    I am confused as to why this is relevant.

  30. mad as hell said...

    ...Why don't we cut down all the trees in the ward to let more light in...

    Please don't say that, even sarcastically, it makes me cringe. If there was one thing about Mayor Daley I loved, it was his commitment to planting more and more trees in Chicago - NOT removing them (as in what happened in front of Truman College.) Chicago is considered an "urban forest," and if you look at this website, you'll see that, in addition to being beautiful, they're pretty valuable.

    Anyway, as regards bangers and loiterers, I've suggested it here before, it's been proven to work elsewhere -- install loudspeakers and play classical music on Sunnyside Mall 24/7, and a few other choice corners in the neighborhood, too.

    In Oregon

    In Ohio

    In Washington

    just my 2cents