Thursday, May 3, 2012

No Flowers, No Veggies, No Gardens

Some disappointing news.  Buena Park Neighbors had hoped to work with Thorek Hospital to have planter boxes and a community garden installed in the vacant lots at Sheridan and Irving Park where Thorek has said it has no immediate plans to build.  According to the latest BPN Newsletter, that's not to be:
BPN Strikes Out on Garden: Despite all our best efforts, Thorek Memorial Hospital's board of trustees decided against BPN's proposal for a community garden on the hospital's vacant lots at Sheridan and Irving Park Roads. Thorek's compliance officer, Morgan Murphy, said board members "didn't take the proposal lightly," but they did not feel the project met Thorek's long-term goals for development of the property. CFO Ned Budd said Thorek is still committed to maintaining the corner in response to community complaints about the dereliction of the site.
Later in the newsletter, the empty lots are addressed again:
At the BPN General Meeting on April 9th, Thorek Memorial Hospital representatives promised to keep the hospital's vacant lots at Sheridan and Irving Park Roads clean, green, and safe for the community. Two weeks later the site still looked like this [BPN photo of beer cans, plastic soda bottles and glass beer bottles in the lot]. This photo prompted Alderman James Cappleman to send an email to Thorek on April 23, calling the lots "an eyesore and a public safety hazard" and insisting that the site be "landscaped, monitored, and maintained."

In response, Thorek removed the trash and promised to provide a schedule for landscaping the site. As of May 1st, however, we haven't received said schedule. As you know, BPN's proposal for a temporary community garden on the site was turned down. Naturally we were disappointed, but we trusted Thorek to be good stewards, as they promised.

We encourage neighbors to keep an eye on the lots and hold Thorek to that promise. The hospital's contact page is here. Their phone numbers are here. Complaints can also be lodged through the alderman's office here.


  1. Hey Buena Park Neighbors Association, you do you feel about that $5,000 in contributions you took now from Thorek... you did nothing to stop the distruction of viable buildings on the site, instead stood silent.. and now, you are left with an ugly, vacant lot... all for $5k... i hope you are proud of yourself for this genuis move of yours..

  2. I think Thorek has bought up way to much property already in that area.

  3. this will make a great surface lot one day

  4. I'll just say... ditto to Uptown Super Hero's comment. Sad... sad... sad...

  5. Let me start by saying this:I think the dirt lot is an eyesore.

    But, as nice as it would be to see a community garden at this site, I can fully understand the hospital's decision to refuse the Buena Park Neighbors offer/request to build one.

    I say this, because I understand that if the hospital was to allow the BPNs to make use of the property, they would start to feel a sense of "community ownership" of the lots - which would simply complicate any future development of the site for Thorek.

    I can see it now, neighborhood meetings, flyers, and picket lines protesting "SAVE OUR GARDEN!"

    Thorek Hospital, sensibly, doesn't want to have to deal with that and so it has opted to not open that door.

  6. What do you expect from this hospital that is rated, absolutely awful. It is full of dim lighting, bad smells and overdosed junkies. If they do anything to this property like the way they run the hospital, don`t expect much in of any development in the near future.


    Curbed picks up the piece, but not the litter.

  8. I actually agree with Thorak -- I've seen some of the "community gardens" that get put around this city and most are atrocious, not well maintained, etc. I thoroughly expect that given a year (or less) the lot would look a lot worse than what's there now.

    However, the minimal cost for Thorak (hello $5k that was given to BPNA) they could seed/sod that area to put some grass there and keep it mowed. Could lead people to think that it's a park but even a little green that's maintained is better than dirt that isn't.

  9. Where was it written that BPN took $5,000 from Thorek? Can someone provide a link to an article?

  10. If City Council can pass an ordinance to force foreclosing banks to secure and maintain foreclosed properties (and propose taxing soda pop because they think that people are too fat from drinking too much of it), then City Council can certainly figure out how to draft an enforceable ordinance to require that businesses like Thorek that buy up occupied buildings and tear them down for "long-term planning purposes" do appropriate landscaping and fencing and maintenance (including trash cleanup) unless and until they build on the land.

    Mr. Cappleman, let's have a go at it.

  11. Large organizations respond best to monetary pressures.

    Which citations/tickets could the city or a police officer issue?

    Just attack the issue like an illegally parked car.

    Plus I'm sure the city would love the revenue.

  12. @hoodedsweats: It's been posted on this site before along with BPN's site.

    Here is a blurb from their site:

    "Thorek Memorial Hospital’s new CFO, Ned Budd, said the hospital is committed to improvements and growth. The ER is being completely renovated with updated facilities (including new patient rooms) and new equipment. Budd said no definite plans have been made for the hospital’s corner property on Irving and Sheridan, although an outpatient facility or extended services clinic may be in the mix. Budd added that Thorek is “looking forward to extending our outreach in the community,” and said the hospital’s recent $5,000 contribution to Buena Park Neighbors was “a first step.”

  13. And here's the source:

  14. Not only have we gained an eyesore, but lost tax revenue. Keep in mind that as a not-for-profit, Thorek gets a property tax waiver, while the residential building that was there was paying taxes--and maintaining the property. Double lose.

  15. There is a lot more at stake than throwing down some seeds and growing vegetables. It's rather naive to assume otherwise. The cost of providing a water source would be thousands of dollars alone. The cost of fencing and security would also be prohibitive. I can't imagine the liability of opening this piece of property to the public.

    Would you want to eat something that was grown in this soil? I like to know where my fruits and vegetables are raised, if at all possible. You couldn't pay me to eat an ounce of food raised on this site.

  16. The fencing is already in place.

    The BPN plan was to put in raised beds, with new soil.

    Unless you were involved in the community garden, Matthew, I doubt very much anyone would offer you food grown on this site.

  17. Truman Square Neighbor... SNAP! LOL

  18. TSN, do you know anything about gardening, or plants or soil? Or toxic metals, lead paint and asbestos residue? Bon apetit!

  19. Yes, Matthew, I do know a bit about community gardening after three years of classes with Greencorps.

    Here's what I know:

    - raised beds filled with fresh soil -- which is what BPN has been suggesting -- mean that the non-remediated dirt underneath never comes in contact with the growing plants

    - community gardens contain more than fruits and vegetables

    - neither you nor I would have had a plot in the garden, had it been approved, but thousands of people will pass the empty Thorek lots every day for however many years until Thorek decides to build something there

    - there's a hydrant right on the corner of Irving Park and Sheridan that could have easily been used as a water source by the gardeners (with the use of a special nozzle that will fit a garden hose)

    - flowers, plants and people in empty lots make them much more attractive than crushed Ice House Beer cans and broken glass do

  20. Thanks for the information, Uptown Rising.

  21. I think Buena Park Neighbors should post their audited budget online, link it to their page. Lord knows what else you might find there, both in contributions and expenditures....but again, have it CPA certified. I would not take this Board's word for it..

  22. CPA certified?

    Can they afford that?

    BPN's entire budget is likely less than ten grand a year. It's a small community organization with no paid staff.

    Now I have no love for Thorek's landbanking, but that suggestion seems a bit much.

    Now hopefully the Capplemaniac will put a fire under Thorek's bad neighbor behind and they will clean up and landscape the lot.

    If not I can put on a fedora and a trenchcoat and visit the hospital administrators. "Ya gotz a nice hospital dere...I'd hate to see anything happen to it."

  23. This will never be a community garden. One a private entity gives the public an easement to use it, its hard to remove the public.

    Hey, despite its bad reputation, Thorek knows with the aging population, it will eventually use that space.

    And they are not in the business of being landlords, so they had to knock the buildings down.

    Here's a compromise, have Thorek create a wild flower prairie until they build. Otherwise, you'll get a chain link fence with that green plastic covering that tears and flaps in the wind.

  24. IP, there is absolutely no reason they should not be able to find a CPA that can do it for under $1k. Tops. It should not be that complicated.. and that still leaves 'em $4k richer from all the money they got from Thorek. Those that pay their dues, support them in their fundraisers, etc, deserve an honest accounting of their finances at this point..

  25. I would hope that BPN would not burn money to pay accountants.

    Accountants are available for purchase, just like everyone else. Remember Enron? Mark-to-market accounting? Perfectly sound, if Andersen Consulting (still exists, new name) gets hired..

    Uptown Superhero, this local neighborhood group can waste all their money purchasing accountants, and you STILL won't be happy (unless you are a CPA, and paid to conduct the audit)

    Better to absorb the PR hit, and ask Thorek to plant something, as another poster suggested.

  26. Anonymous.. even your screenname screams BPNA Board member..LOL.. I would be 100% certified if a CPA certified their budget. I highly doubt a CPA would put her reputation on the line for a block club.. seems like you are trying to tell everyone "DONT look over here! Nothing is happening!" What are you trying to help hide, Anonymous?

    Remember, ENRON was eventually taken down by honest CPA's, so your choice of comparisons is pretty darn ironic.. and amusing!

  27. I'm not on the BPN board but I do know that these volunteers work very hard for this community. Uptown Super-Hero I have a better idea - instead of spending hard earned money on a CPA - why don’t you become a Super-Hero-Volunteer and become part of their board. In fact you can even volunteer to be their treasurer. BPN is always asking - at every event for volunteers - to be on their board and help (rather than criticize). Through my many years of community volunteer work I’ve seen two types of people - those who work and those who complain. Which side are you on?

  28. Buena Park Neighbors is a not-for-profit neighborhood association that operates transparently and according to the law. A summary of its 2011-2012 income from sponsorships, memberships, fund-raising, and donations, as well as its expenditures, was made available to everyone who attended the BPN general meeting in December. (All BPN general meetings are open to the public.) Contributions to BPN are used to fund its charitable and community programs and to cover its expenses for assorted activities such as pub crawls, beautification and neighborhood improvement projects (Challenger Bark and Gill Park last year), and to cover costs for flyers, web hosting, and e-mail programs. No one on the board is salaried or compensated. I work on the BPN newsletter and am also a volunteer.

    BPN receives donations and support from individuals, businesses, and community orgs, including the Chicago Cubs, Thorek, and others. This is how philanthropy works. Every charitable event conducted by a nonprofit, every race or walk for breast cancer or cerebral palsy or Alzheimer's, all the food banks, the cell phones for soldiers, and all the rest of it are similarly sponsored either by corporations, banks, businesses, individuals, members, grant-making institutions, or some combination thereof. This is a time-honored and ethical way to raise funds for worthy projects.

    Now, in keeping with its chartered mission to preserve, enhance, and develop Buena Park in ways that "promote civic pride and community welfare," BPN asked Thorek to consider a proposal for a community garden on the hospital's vacant lot. Thorek did consider, but ultimately decided against. BPN is still urging the hospital to landscape and maintain the property and to keep its promise to the community to be a good neighbor. There is nothing untoward about this. There is nothing improper about BPN's relationship with the hospital. In fact, BPN board members are operating according to their mission and bylaws (see website to examine these). They are doing their job. For free.

    Finally, no one's donation or membership fee is being erased from the books, stuffed under a mattress, or funneled into offshore accounts. Monies raised fund community projects, period. So don't call Eric Holder or Patrick Fitzgerald just yet.

  29. they had tractors and dump trucks on site. it looks like fresh dirt is on the property now instead of weeds and garbage. this ought to last for about a week......what a joke Thorek. if i am in need of an emergency room id prefer to be dragged somewhere else than trust my life to those people if i can help it Lol.