Ray Drish, a former city government official and political organizer, made his comments at the monthly meeting of the Clearing Civic League, held in the gym at Hale Park. About 40 people were in attendance.
Drish gave voice to a decades-old complaint in Clearing and Garfield Ridge relating to tie-ups at rail crossings near 63rd and Harlem, 65th and Harlem, 59th and Narragansett, 59th and Austin, and others. Since the late 1940s, local residents and business owners frustrated by the delays have occasionally heard promises from elected officials that underpasses would be built ; but none has come to fruition.
Rubbing salt in local wounds has been the relative speed with which the Village of Bridgeview (with key assistance from the same elected officials who represent Clearing) obtained funding for an underpass currently under construction on 71st Street, several blocks west of Harlem.
Drish chided Bridgeview for getting the underpass so quickly and implied that clout and Toyota Park (home of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club) had quite a bit to do with it. "Well, God forbid if somebody's late for a soccer game," he said and claimed that the park stands unused for a number of months each year.
At the end of his remarks, Drish challenged Clearing Civic League incoming President Joe Rice to make getting an underpass at 63rd and Harlem his "life's work" and pressure local politicians to do for 63rd Street what they did for 71st Street.
Earlier in the day, Drish had posted his thoughts about the CCL meeting on Facebook, writing:
"Today is the day to either put up or shut up! Come and join me and the rest of your neighbors who have had enough of the trains blocking the crossings in our neighborhood...I have asked Central Printers to assist in the printing of 200 information packets that will be passed out tonight. Let us ask our two aldermen tonight to make these projects their life's mission because enough is enough. We want and deserve our fair share of money for these way past due projects."
Drish did not explain why he challenged Rice rather than the two aldermen serving Clearing.
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Before Drish's comments and at the start of the meeting, the CCL's new officers were installed by 13th Ward Alderman Marty Quinn. Serving as officers this year are President Joe Rice, Vice President Frank Schreiber, Treasurer Linda Dobias, Corresponding Secretary Marie Zilka, Sergeants-at-Arms George Jasencak and Chuck Shilney, Trustees Gerald Klingbeil, Jim McGuire, Dave Pavic, Millie Sapunar, Dan Clark, Eleanor Pastorek; and Executive Director Richard Zilka. The group is seeking a volunteer to serve as recording secretary.
CCL officers said they had also invited 23rd Ward Alderman Michael R. Zalewski to the meeting; but said the alderman told them he had a family commitment that evening. He sent a cake.
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