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Aldermen “Raise the Bar” For Bucktown and Wicker Park

Looking up Milwaukee Avenue
Image by Ben Husmann via Flickr

Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st Ward) and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32rd Ward) told Wicker Park and Bucktown residents Tuesday they were hard at work on plans to improve parking in the area as well as reduce graffiti.

The aldermen spoke during the Wicker Park Council’s “State of the Neighborhood” meeting at the Wicker Park Field House, where they also responded to the WPC’s concerns about the location of summer festivals and how Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s leadership will affect the area.

On the issue of parking, Waguespack said he has “raised the bar” for residential parking standards on streets, especially Pierce Street and Crystal Street, in order to make the area more approachable to visitors and decrease the amount of parking tickets issued in the area.  Waguespack also said he met with CTA representatives, and they are working to allow vehicle parking below the Blue Line train tracks.  A business development is planned for 1611 N. Damen Ave., but rear parking is included to prevent congestion of the neighboring alleys, Waguespack said.

Moreno said he has plans to designate street space specifically for bicycle parking in front of the Flat Iron Building at the intersection of Milwaukee, North and Damen Avenues, complete with a security camera and a waist-high barrier to prevent damage from vehicles.

Moreno and Waguespack also said their efforts to reduce the amount of graffiti in Wicker Park have been successful.  Waguespack said he met with 311 representatives after residents made graffiti complaints at a Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy meeting, and they have increased the amount of bike police in problem areas.  He also said he has drafted state legislature that would potentially increase the financial penalty for tagging a building within 1,000 feet of a school.

Moreno said taggers, not gang members, are responsible for most of the graffiti in the neighborhood, and he has had private meetings with some of the taggers and has convinced them to stop.

“I met with ‘Jack and Juicy’ and they seem to have moved on. We haven’t seen that tag in a while,” Moreno said.  Moreno also said he is trying to discourage taggers by paying professional artists to paint murals on various buildings throughout the neighborhood.

Moreno said there were several street fairs and events planned for this summer along Damen and Milwaukee Avenues, but he hopes to move these events to lower-traffic streets in the future.  He said the Wicker Park Festival, the Green Festival and the Metronome Festival will all take place on Damen or Milwaukee Avenue again this year.

“Festivals start out pretty grassroots and this location is great,” Moreno said.

“My hope is that festivals want to move farther on Milwaukee Avenue between Damen and Western.”

Waguespack said he currently has 33 street fair requests within the 1st Ward pending, but has already approved the Bucktown Arts Fest, the Bucktown 5K and Fusion–a festival showcasing student artists from Columbia College Chicago.

Waguespack and Moreno both expressed optimism for their wards’ futures under Emanuel after a meeting with him, saying that they think Emanuel will be willing to work with them and improve the area.

“There will be things that we disagree on, but I think he likes to see things move quickly, as well as I, and that will work out well for us,” Waguespack said.

Moreno said he had a great meeting with Emanuel, who was receptive to his ideas.

“I think Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel is self-confident enough to say ‘Hey, let’s do this together,’ and I think we really need to look at the mayor as a partner,” Moreno said.


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