Last week I wrote a post on saving Brown Park, here is my post:
Last year I wrote a blog post about the parks in the 6th ward and one was Brown Memorial Park. Brown Memorial Park was established as the last parcel of a large lot of land formerly owned by the Nation of Islam. The land was foreclosed and sold in parcels.
The Chicago Park District purchased nearly 7 acres of a 14 acre for the playground in 1967. When park development began the following year, the site was picketed by angry residents, who had expected a park double the size. Though the park district was unable to acquire the additional land, improvements went forward. In 1990, the park district named the site for Sidney Brown (1951-1983), the first African-American firefighter to die in the line of duty in Chicago. Brown, who began his career as a firefighter in 1978, served with Engine Company 75 on the city's south side. As a "hydrant man" who connected hoses to fire hydrants, he was often the last firefighter to enter an engulfed building. Brown died on August 9, 1983, when he rushed into a burning house, hoping to save three children believed to be trapped there.
Brown Memorial Park(636 E. 86th St) has been in a state of disrepair, the basketball courts were removed, the tennis courts are beat and the only major improvement the Chicago Park District has planned is to build a playlot that is fully funded at this point. The playlot is woefully insufficient as the park has no fieldhouse and no bathroom facilities.
This week the plot thickens. The developers of the Chatham Market mall, Crown Commercial Properties stated that they are going to pursue a land swap with the Chicago Park District for a portion of Brown Memorial Park. The developer, Crown Commercial Properties states that they are getting limited interest in the land that once was the home of the Chatham Pancake House. In an article by the Examiner the developer states he is doing all this for the community but this conversation is not new and goes back to several years when the developer Mr. Tadros built the Chatham Market. He asked for park land then and the community said no then and a verbal battle developed that caused ill feelings. The ill feelings continue today as the community came together at the Brown Memorial Park Advisory Council meeting and reiterated their feeling "not one blade of grass" for development. The developer angered the community by speaking to the media and not addressing the community at large. The community has and continues to push the Chicago Park District to first acknowledge the park and make major improvements. The Chatham Business Association supports the developer but they do not represent the community or many businesses in the community.
The Chicago Park District and the Chicago Firefighters Union were contacted but neither responded to request for comment. Roderick Sawyer, Alderman of the 6th ward stated he is discussing the future of the park with the Chicago Park District. The advocacy group Friends of the Park has not commented, historically they have been opposed to the sale of park land for commercial development.
The one issue that puzzles me is why the Chicago Firefighters Union and other affiliates never stepped up and challenged the Chicago Park District and the community about the neglect of the park. The question that lies in my mind is if Firefighter Sidney Brown had been white would we even have this conversation?
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Tags: 6th ward, 85th street, 87th street, brown memorial park, business, chatham, chatham business association, chatham pancake house, chicago fire deparrtment, chicago park district, city of chicago, economic development, examiner, firefighters union, friends of the park, race, recreation, roderick sawyer, sidney brown, tennis