Yesterday I finally got to the new and improved Northerly Island, one of our latest South Loop amenities. And I was shocked.
Not as shocked as I was the morning many years ago when I woke up and found out Mayor Richie had ordered the carving up of the runways and the outlawing of planes at Meigs Field--which preceded the new and improved Northerly Island by decades. This was done to clear the sky of planes on that part of the Lakefront, so as not to worry the FAA or break their rules about tall buildings in the vicinity of an airport. Richie's friends had been buying up all the land around Meigs for years--so they could build huge high-rises with which to rake in cash because we were going to host the 2016 Olympics.
I was willing to accept the huge prairie that replaced the quaint little airport that politicians loved in order to get to Springfield fast; and that small town businessmen and their wives loved to park their private planes at in order to attend business meetings and shop at Marshall Field's, respectively.
The prairie with it's thin path surrounded by natural plantings was simple. And the huge empty vista from the city to the lake was unparalleled in Chicago. It gave me quite a feeling. Just like the first time I saw the city from the original Sears Tower on Homan Avenue on the west side. I'd never seen the city like that before.
But what we have now at Northerly Island is like an exhibit at Disneyland. Enormous reddish boulders reminiscent of Mars--as conceived in the blockbuster movie "The Martian,"--are piled up along the east side of the island like a fortress. On the other side of the boulders is Lake Michigan, the city's greatest natural resource. And the boulders totally block the view of the lake from the island. Unless one is a giant.
You know the lake is there. Why the designers of the this park decided to block the view is beyond me.
There is a huge concrete path that meanders around the island, surrounded by some sort of plantings that won't be ready for three to five years, and which are currently behind ugly temporary fencing. And in the middle of the island is an artificial pond, fed by the waters of the invisible Lake Michigan.
So much for natural. And so much for Lake Michigan. I guess the lake is out of style now that we have Studio Gang.
Postscript: Yesterday was my second attempt to visit Northerly Island since it opened several weeks ago. Security guards blocked the way of taxpayers who wanted to visit in early October because the well-paid-by-the-City-for circuses-Redmoon-Theater was cleaning up after they deliberately built and then burned down a house the night before to celebrate the Chicago Fire. It didn't fizzle this year as it did on the Chicago River last year, wasting the city's money--but it did send sparks toward Burnham Harbor, damaging the masts of many sailboats, as well as the patio awning at the Burnham Park Yacht Club.
Why not just celebrate what we accomplished after the 1871 conflagration in Chicago? Not the conflagration itself that killed hundreds, destroyed a city and left thousands homeless.
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