Is the New Whitney Young Library Project Dead?

Is the New Whitney Young Library Project Dead?

Now that the mayor has decided to reopen libraries on Mondays and force out Commissioner Mary Dempsey. Where does this leave the Whitney Young Library Project? The project has been delayed because of EPA issues. A grant from the EPA was suppose to be forthcomung but will it make a difference? Is there a will to make this project happen?

I talked about this project on several different occassions

Our new mayor Rahm Emmanuel has decided that the Chicago Public Library is expendable , he is proposing closing some libraries and reducing the hours they are open. In 2008 , the City of Chicago Council approved the overhaul of the Whitney Young Library, at 79th King Drive, that served the Chatham, Park Manor, Avalon Park, Chesterfield and West Chatham communities. The Whitney Young Library was a library surrounded by controversy from day one. The community led by members of the Chatham Avalon Community Council(CAPCC) picketed the construction site because of a lack of  African American constuction workers present on the site and later because the the building was so shabbily built it needed major repairs that the Chicago Public Library refused to do.

Since the approval of the remodeling of Whitney Young library, the Chicago Public Library has opened up new branches in Avalon Park, Greater Grand Crossing  and  Park Manor communities. The Whitney Young Library stood as an unfunded plan because the community or rather some residents felt the initial proposed library was woefully insufficient. In April 2010, I wrote the following post for the Sixth Ward Blog  The post is here;postID=1709762787405151017

The debate about the Whitney Young library seems to continue for no reason except that some individuals in this community have bruised egos.

The Chicago Public library commissioner Mary Dempsey has reiterated her position that the Whitney Young Library will be a single story building with a two story facade that will be the same square footage as the two story building. She has stated that based on the current economy that she does not have the resources to staff a two floor building. She has pointed to the Beverly, Mount Greenwood, and West Pullman branches are all built on this model and are functioning well for those communities.

It was reported on the CAPCC blog(unverified) that members of CAPCC are still insisting that the CPL build a two story building only because the Humbolt Park branch is two story and their ad hoc committee decided that the Whitney Young branch should be based on that model.

The problem with the CAPCC thought process is that first its selfish and unsubstantiated by any meaningful and documented facts. The facts are as follows:

There is no substantiated facts that circulation has increased to justify a two story facility

The CPL did not commission CAPCC to solicit community response

The Chatham community has six library facilities within a 5 mile radius to frequent

Auburn Park - 76Th Racine

Avalon Park - 81st Stony Island

Woodson Regional - 95th Halsted

Grand Crossing- 73rd South Chicago (Fall 2010)

Kennedy King College- 64th halsted (no book checkout)

Chicago State University - 95th King (no book checkout)

These are the facts as well as several former CPL employees who are also Chatham residents have voiced their disapproval because of the incompetence of the current staff and safety issues.

Based on the above, CAPCC needs to get out of the way and let the library process go forward so we can get a building sooner than later. I think we need to focus on a more immediate problem and figure out why with the number of libraries that serve our community why do we have failing elementary and high schools.

What do you think?

Fast forward to October 2010, the Whitney Young  Library is still in limbo.  In May of 2010, it was found that the additional land purchased for the library needed environmental remediation and there had been no monies allotted for this project. The Public Building Commission applied for and was granted funds to complete the project by the US EPA. As of last week, commissioner Mary Dempsey reported to the city council that they have not received the funds from the EPA for the project. Also, at a recent CAPCC meeting the same argument about the building came up.   The Wicker Park/Bucktown branch ( The facts are the new proposal is a 16,500 square feet, 1.5 story building. This is the same model that is being used in Bridgeport and one other community. All the other issues brought up in April 2010 are the same.

So my question is if we get a new library, does form overrule functionality? But the big question is did we blow the opportunity with unnecessary conflicts?

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