Thursday, March 23, 2017

Crime-Fighting Patrols May Start This Year in the Vittum Park Neighborhood

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

The Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch’s crime fighting efforts—limited to the central and western sections of the neighborhood since its founding in 2011—may soon expand east to include the rest of the community, GRNW officials announced this week.

“What happens east of Central Avenue affects those of us

living west of Central,” said GRNW President Al Cacciottolo. “Whatever we can do to help our neighbors to the east, we definitely will.”

The announcement was made at the GRNW’s March meeting, held Monday night in Brennan Hall at St. Daniel the Prophet Parish. About 75 people attended.

Cacciottolo said he was asked at a recent Vittum Park Civic League meeting if the GRNW would help the VPCL establish a crime-fighting presence.

“The civic league members said, ‘We’re Garfield Ridge, too,’ so I said yes, of course, we’ll help,” the GRNW president said. “But our role will mostly be limited to sharing our organizational abilities to help getting their effort up and running. They themselves will have to take the lead and do the day-in, day-out work of street patrols and other neighborhood watch activities—and that’s as it should be.”

The Vittum Park area had a neighborhood watch program
GRNW members talk with top local CPD officials.
decades ago, according to longtime VPCL President Phil LoPresti, anchored by local men who patrolled in their own cars at night, typically in touch with each other via two-way radios.


The existence of a neighborhood watch made Vittum Park a more attractive community and helped convince LoPresti to buy a home there in 1972, he said.

VPCL’s neighborhood watch efforts have not yet taken shape, and it is unclear at this point if patrols will include all of eastern Garfield Ridge or simply the blocks around Vittum Park.

“I like the way the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch operates,” LoPresti said the day after the GRNW meeting. “They patrol at all different times of day and night, and not just from their cars. They have people walking, on bikes and so forth. It’s good to have good people with their eyes and ears open.”

LoPresti said he hopes that whatever effort takes shape east of Central Avenue will also include neighboring communities like unincorporated Central Stickney (an area from 47th to 51st Street, Laramie to Central).

He added that if such a crime-fighting effort is to be successful, “we must have younger people step forward and volunteer. Our civic league is a good group, but we’re not that big and our membership is older than it was.”

The issue is expected to move forward at the next VPCL meeting, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 4 at the park fieldhouse, 5010 W. 50th St. All local residents are invited to attend.

Still one of the safest and most desirable residential areas in the city, the eastern section of Garfield Ridge has seen its share of high-profile crime in the last year—including the fatal shooting of a pizza delivery driver last December and the robbery and beating of a 94-year-old woman in her own home near 51st and Lorel.

Background

Founded in 2011 by three people fed up with crime in the area, the GRNW has grown in size and strength and has been credited with helping reduce crime in Garfield Ridge, long one of Chicago’s safest and best neighborhoods.

The GRNW is widely viewed as one of the most effective citizen-led crime prevention organizations in the city or suburbs.

Born with assistance from the Clearing Night Force, the GRNW has helped start neighborhood watches in city neighborhoods as far away as Hegewisch and as close as West Elsdon, as well as in suburban areas like Central Stickney, Summit and Oak Lawn.

GRNW members on patrol do not pursue criminals or get directly involved with crimes in progress, but they do serve as extra sets of eyes and ears for police, providing direction that has helped police solve crimes in some cases and prevent others. Their toll-free tip line played a role in the capture several years ago of a man who attempted to rob a local Walgreens at knifepoint.

The next GRNW public meeting is set for 7 p.m. Monday, April 17 at the Bridgeview Bank branch at Archer and Mulligan. Those interested in joining the group now are encouraged to send a message to email@garfieldridgenw.com.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

It's "Play Ball!" Time, But There's Trouble on the Horizon

Opinion by John T. "Red" Ryan

SO NOW, TIME really does move along when you're having a good time here on Planet Earth! We find ourselves in the backwash of St. Patrick's Day, the arrival of Robin Red-Breast and (of course) BASEBALL !!

IT SEEMS NOT so long ago that we were greeting the 2016 Season; a year's pennant chase that started out strong on both sides of town. As we all found out after about two months, the White Sox fell off; but it was definitely "next Year" for the Cubs, who handily went the distance. They skillfully and without any hesitation took all; convincingly putting to rest all of the "Lovable Loosers" jokes and references to the 1908 Baseball Season.

SO, LET'S ONCE again, get out and pull for not only our team, but for both in their respective Leagues. The ideal and ultimately desired result would be an All Chicago, "Subway" Series ! We can hope, can't we ?

BUT THERE NOW appears on the Baseball horizon an ominous and threatening menace that threatens to change our National Pastime in both in a fundamental sense and remove some of the tension that is what makes our game such a great and serious alternate life that it is. W e're talking about a proposal that we'll call, just for sake of identification, "the Automatic Intentional Walk." 

THIS WAS RUDELY brought to our immediate attention this past week when we heard a news item as part of our car radio's news on the hour. It was then that, while the announcer was doing some sports items, that it hit us. The announcement said something like: "The Major League Baseball Players Association (union) had agreed to the implementing a rule that would reduce the Intentional Walk from an actual physical act of purposely throwing 4 wide ones up to the Plate; to the mere saying that the batter was walked. It would require no pitches, no control, nothing but a say so by the team which was out on the field. The purpose of such an implementation of such a rule is supposedly to speed up the game.

THE IDEA HAS been kicked around before; but has never been taken seriously. We recall that when the White Sox were bought from Bill Veeck by Jerry Reinsdorf's group in 1981, his partner, the Late Eddie Einhorn (1936-2016), made such a proposal in an interview. When I asked our two Grade School, Jenn (9 years) and Michelle (then 6), about what they thought about the idea, they quickly came up with some very astute observations. "Why the pitcher could throw a wild pitch.", ""He could balk in his delivery.", "The batter could still hit a pitch that wasn't too far outside." (We do recall seeing NY Yankee catcher, Yogi Berra do that very thing!) 

BASEBALL HAS GONE through many changes over the years. We've seen the adoption of the Infield Fly Rule (1895),  Radio (and later Television) broadcasting, Night Games ("under the lights") in the 1930's, implementation of Divisional Play (1969), the creation of the Designated Hitter  (1973) and the use of Video Instant Replay in tough calls more recently. The game was little affected by these developments; and even benefited in most cases.

BUT WE MUST object to the removal of an actual, integral part of the game (pitching to the batter), even if the object is to put him on. It is said that the idea is to save time and speed things up. Well, it wouldn't save enough to justify this diluting of the intentional walk to a "say so!" Let's hope that good judgement prevails and they find some other way to save time.

FOR EVEN WITH with an intentional walk, the hitter is still earning his way on base.

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John T. “Red” Ryan is a retired Chicago police officer and Garfield Ridge resident.    

Saturday, March 18, 2017

115 Bourbon Street Fundraiser Set For Local Policeman, Soldier Battling Cancer

Family and friends of Clearing resident Gary Hughes, a
police officer and soldier battling cancer, are encouraging everyone to attend a fundraiser in his honor, set for 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday, April 2 at 115 Bourbon Street, 3359 W. 115th St., Merrionette Park.

Last October, Hughes--a husband and father of two--was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach and liver cancers. He has undergone seven rounds of chemotherapy, with more to come--as well as six blood transfusions, daily treatments for removing and preventing blood clots. Radiation treatments are also ahead.

Tickets to the fundraiser are $30 at the door, $25 in advance. Tickets for children age 6 and up are $15 each. Children age 5 and under will be admitted at no charge.

To purchase tickets in advance and general information about the event, or for individuals and businesses considering donating gift baskets, sports memorabilia, time shares, gift certificates or other items of value that could be raffled, contact Margie Cacciatore at (708) 315-8724 or Judy Parlin at (773) 576-0695.

Ticket price includes a buffet dinner and dessert, draft beer, wine and other beverages, live entertainment by classic rock cover band Sniper, raffles, a silent auction, face painting and more.

According to a poster promoting the fundraiser, Hughes grew
up with his mother and two brothers in Cicero. He attended Morton High School and age 18 enlisted in the Army. He has served in Panama, Operation Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. He rose to the rank of captain and is now with the 416 Engineer Command with 30 years of military service.

He joined the Chicago Police Department 18 years ago and today serves in the Ogden (10th) District.

Organizers of the April 2 benefit report that all proceeds will be deposited into a "Salute Officer Gary Hughes" account at Byline Bank.

Those unable to attend the April 2 fundraiser but who want to help the Hughes family financially are asked to send monetary donations to “Salute Officer Gary Hughes” c/o Byline Bank, 6257 S. Austin, Chicago, IL 60638.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Garfield Ridge Dad Fighting Back From West Nile; Seeks Help From Community

By Joan Hadac
Southwest Chicago Post
Editor and Publisher

For nearly 30 years, Jeff Walls was known as a union
Jeff and Marisa Walls
carpenter who never turned down an extra shift.


For the last seven months, the tradesman has been flat on his back, felled by a mosquito bite that gave him West Nile encephalitis and left him completely paralyzed in a hospital bed set up in his Garfield Ridge home.

“My dad has always been an active man,” said his daughter, Ariana, 25, who along with her sister, Lindsey, 22, brother, Nick, 28, and mother, Marisa, provide care and hope for Jeff Walls. “Even after work, he’d use his skills to build things for himself and for others.”


Back in August, he came home from work more tired than usual and chalked it up to the summer heat. The next day, he went to work but came home early. In the days after that, his energy level continued to fall. He started experiencing double vision, was feverish and sweating and seemed to take a long time to formulate answers to questions.

Trips to the emergency room, as well as multiple blood tests, did not yield a diagnosis of West Nile Virus infection, Ariana said.

Doctors put him into a coma for his own protection. He lay
there for three months, coming out “super slow” in the fall, his daughter recalled, saying that her dad’s case is one of the worst cases of West Nile-related disease ever documented in Illinois.

Encephalitis is a dangerous inflammation of the brain. It is a rare complication of West Nile Virus infection.

While there is no way to prove exactly where Jeff was bitten by a West Nile-infected mosquito—it could have been as close as his back yard or as far away a carpentry job on the other side of the city—his family took action that may have saved other people’s health or even lives. They called their local alderman and demanded that the City of Chicago spray insecticide in the neighborhood, which it had not yet done in 2016.

A limited amount of spraying was done in some sections of Garfield Ridge and Clearing in September.

Home at last about three weeks ago, Jeff is currently unable to perform even the simplest tasks that most people take for granted, including eating. He breathes with the assistance of a ventilator.

“He hates this,” Ariana said of her dad’s predicament. “It’s killing him that he is so inactive.”

Hired attendants typically work in the home 12 hours a day, with family members taking over the other half.

Medical bills have piled up and continue to do so, Ariana noted, with insurance covering only a portion.

In response, the family has launched a GoFundMe page that has raised about $22,000—with a goal of $100,000.

The family is hoping that publicity in and around Garfield Ridge—a part of Chicago known for its neighbor-to-neighbor generosity—will bring in more monetary donations online.

In addition to the immediate online appeal, the family is planning a face-to-face fundraiser for July at a restaurant or banquet hall. Details will be announced in the weeks ahead.


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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Developer hoping for 2019 opening for two biz traveler hotels at 53rd and Cicero

By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post

After a year of hearing rumors about how a Florida-based developer may bring the long-vacant property at 5301 S. Cicero back to life, Archer Heights neighbors finally heard from the developer himself.

Charles Everhardt, principal of Lockwood Development
An Archer Heights neighbor (left) chats with Charles Everhardt.
Partners, spoke to about two dozen men and women at a recent meeting at St. Richard Church. The public gathering was organized by the Archer Heights Civic Association, which has long advocated for the improvement of the site.


Plans call for construction of two high-end, limited-service hotels geared to business travelers using nearby Midway Airport. One is a four-story, SpringHill Suites by Marriott that would front Cicero Avenue. The other, immediately east, is set to be a six-story Cambria Hotels & Suites.

With a price tag of about $80 million, the hotels should have a total of about 285 rooms, as well as a multi-story parking structure, on the nearly three-acre parcel.

Everhardt said that if all goes according to plan, ground will be broken in late summer, with the hotels opening for business 18 months later, in early 2019.


A view of the proposed complex, looking southeast from 53rd and Cicero.

“This can’t happen soon enough,” said AHCA President Thomas S. Baliga, who likened Everhardt to a “white knight” riding in to save the property. He expressed a hope that the new hotel complex will “serve as an anchor for the re-development of Cicero Avenue all the way north to the Stevenson Expressway.”

A handful of men and women who live immediately east of the planned development peppered Everhardt with questions, mostly seeking and receiving assurances that hotel traffic—both autos and shuttle buses—will be carefully channeled in and out of Cicero Avenue and not disrupt traffic on 53rd Street, Keating or Kilpatrick.

For months before this week’s meeting, both the AHCA and 23rd Ward Ald. Michael R. Zalewski have worked with Everhardt to address traffic-flow and other concerns—resulting in, among other things, a separate lane on hotel property, specifically for shuttle buses.

Another key to the development is a first-ever traffic light to be installed at 53rd and Cicero. The Chicago Department of Transportation has approved the idea. The next step is getting the green light from the Illinois Department of Transportation, since Cicero Avenue is a state road.
A light at 53rd and Cicero “would be welcome for us all,” said AHCA member Juanita Beltran, who has lived in the immediate area for nearly 17 years. “Right now, it’s just about impossible to drive west on 53rd Street and then make a left to go south on Cicero. It’s too dangerous. A stop light would change all that.” 

If the hotels are built and prosper, it will end years of ups and downs for the property. Two decades ago, the site was home to a new American National Bank building. When the bank folded, the space was taken over by then-City Clerk James J. Laski Jr. and turned into a service center that dispensed city vehicle stickers and more.

When those operations moved out after Laski left office, just a few medical offices remained. From about 2008-11 the building was vacant and the subject of a fair amount of back-and-forth in court before it was demolished.


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Monday, March 13, 2017

St. Laurence Hosts NCAA Final Four Fun

St. Laurence High School hosts its 17th annual Final Four
Extravaganza, the place for action and entertainment on Saturday, April 1.

This year’s event--held at the school, 5556 W. 77th St., Burbank--features a big Super Raffle with many cash prizes, including a $5,000 grand prize* to one lucky winner. Tickets are $60 in advance, $70 at the door the night of the event, and include free food and drink throughout the evening.

The “Evening of Baskets and Bucks” offers Las Vegas-style gaming amidst the excitement of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

The event will also feature a large craft-beer tasting area. 

Supporters of the school are invited to attend and renew acquaintances with friends, faculty, and alumni. Proceeds will directly benefit the students at the Catholic, college-preparatory school.

“As always, we truly look forward to welcoming all of those who share the spirit and the enthusiasm of our St. Laurence community,” said Joe Martinez, school president.

The Final Four Extravaganza includes areas dedicated to casino games, food and beverage service, a big raffle, craft-beer tasting, and basketball viewing on large television screens. These activities are open from 4 p.m. until midnight.

The event is sponsored by St. Laurence High School, in cooperation with the Fathers’ Club and Mothers’ Club. 

To purchase tickets, or for additional information about St. Laurence’s Final Four Extravaganza, call (708) 458-6900, ext. 237, or visit www.stlaurence.com, and click on the Alumni page. Link: stlfinalfour2017.eventbrite.com

*Exact grand prize determined by number of tickets sold; grand prize may be prorated.

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GRNW Sell-A-Bration Coming; Like a Big, Fun Garage Sale at Kennedy HS

Those wishing to sell rummage items are invited to reserve
space at the upcoming Sell-A-Bration hosted by the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch, set for 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 29 in the west parking lot of Kennedy High School, 56th and Narragansett.


The Sell-A-Bration will include a basket raffle. Proceeds from the raffle and space rentals at the event will help fund the GRNW’s various neighborhood initiatives.

Information on space reservations may be obtained by calling Arlene at  (773) 229-1993 or sending an email to email@garfieldridgenw.com.

Additionally, donations of empty baskets, as well as gift items to fill them, are needed.

Rain date for the event is Sunday, April 30.


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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Two Men Charged in Clearing Drug Raid

Two men were charged with felony possession of a
Miguel Diaz
controlled substance and misdemeanor possession of cannabis after police raided their home in the 5900 block of South Massasoit at 5:50 p.m. Friday, March 3.


Ricardo Serrano and Miguel Diaz, both age 21, were arrested at the residence.

They were due in bond court on Saturday.
Ricardo Serrano

Police executing a search warrant at the home said they found 100 grams of cannabis and two ounces of cocaine, among other items.




Items seized/Chicago Police Department photo

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