We are delighted to announce that the Francis Parker School will not be installing stadium lights on its playing field. To read Principal Dan Frank’s email message, please click here. The field lighting plan, which the school put on hold in early February, is now entirely off the table. This outcome is the result of the hard work of many people. We wish to thank everyone who wrote letters and emails, talked to their neighbors, made calls, distributed flyers, donated money, walked petitions door-to-door, organized buildings, and lobbied the school on behalf of the neighborhood.
At a crucial moment in early February, Alderman Vi Daley told Parker to drop the lights from their plans. Tim Egan and Michele Smith – both of the aldermanic candidates in the 43rd Ward run-off election – also declared their opposition to Parker’s lights. We thank them for their dedication to the neighborhood. In the last week, Parker parents launched a website – www.healthyplay.org – outlining the health hazards of crumb rubber infilled synthetic fields. The school has today also ruled out using a crumb rubber infill.
Finally, we are enormously grateful to two Lincoln Park neighbors and members of the Parker community – David and Diane Heller – whose wise and generous intervention helped to bring an end to this conflict.
We look forward to continuing to work with the Parker School and its leadership on the ways in which we can improve our neighborhood to our mutual benefit.
Please do contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) if there are issues you would like us to take up in the neighborhood. We are re-organizing Francis Parker Neighbors as a broader community organization, Lincoln Park United, and would be very happy to hear from you.
All the best,
Deborah Cohen, President
Catherine Anderson, Secretary
Paul Eberly, Treasurer
December 20, 2010 – Parker sends a letter to a select group of neighbors announcing that it is planning “to pursue an enhancement to its field.” The closest neighbor to the field, the Webster House, receives no notice – not to residents, management or owners. [Attachment #1]
January 11, 2011 – The few neighbors who attend the January 11 meeting are stunned to learn what is really coming their way: four six-story (58 ft.) light towers; lights on as early as 4:30 and as late as 9 pm; up to one hundred illuminated evenings. Parker refuses to give neighbors the slides shown at that meeting; despite repeated requests, the school never provides neighbors any plans.
The neighbors ask Parker’s lighting consultant where they can go to see lights like the ones proposed. He tells us DePaul. It turns out that DePaul has no lights. The DePaul Athletic Director later explains that neighbors would not tolerate lights.
The neighbors ask why lights have become necessary. We are told that lights are required because it is risky for students to be playing in darkness. A quick fact check reveals that darkness is rarely, if ever, an issue in Parker’s regular schedule and that Parker and all of the other teams in its conference have been playing without them for decades. A Parker alumnae parent, who is also a certified soccer referee, attests (and has so informed Principal Dan Frank) that this explanation is simply untrue. [Attachment #2 – Sunset Times in Chicago]
The neighbors ask whether there will be third-party rentals. Parker tells us that it has not decided as of yet. The question is re-posed dozens of times in the next three weeks and Parker always refuses to answer. The general assumption in the neighborhood is that this is exactly what Parker intends to do.
January 16 (Sunday) – The attendees at the January 11 meeting receive a note from Parker informing them that they have five days, until January 21, to submit all questions and requests for further information. Parker has still not furnished the slides, much less plans. Parker’s explanation for the rush is that the “School’s timeframe is very tight.” [Attachment #3]
January 17 -- Over the weekend, neighbors form the organization “Francis Parker Neighbors” (FPN). The group’s website goes online this day.
January 28 – In the prior week, the FPN website revealed that Parker’s “darkness” explanation is unfounded. So on January 28, Parker offers on its website a completely different reason. Now lights are necessary because several new teams need practice time. In a total turnabout, Parker puts forward as its principal reason for lights a fact that was not even admitted at the January 11th meeting – there will be a new tier of nightime play after the old schedule ends. [Attachment #4: Parker’s Everybody Plays Website and Attachment #5: Francis Parker Neighbors’ response]
But what about the fields in Lincoln Park that the city built over the last several years at such a high cost in turmoil and dollars? At the January 11 meeting, Parker tells us that it is too hard to pull permits. However, a FOIA request reveals that Parker requested only 17 fields in all of 2010 and got 16. Meanwhile Latin, which has to line up just like Parker, requested 105 fields and got 94. Parker Assistant Principal Jones has since denied saying that it was too hard to pull permits, though the answer was heard by the meeting’s attendees. But if permits are not too hard to get, as actual experience makes absolutely clear, why doesn’t Parker get them? [Attachment #6 -- Parker's 2010 Lincoln Park field requests. Note that p. 5 includes a large redacted block. The FOIA officer said that the Park Service scheduler had redacted that portion as irrelevant to the FOIA request (the details of which are on p. 1) and Attachment #7 -- Latin's 2010 Lincoln Park field requests]
With respect to third party rentals, the website declares that the project is “focused on enhancing field use for Parker’s own students.” It is not very hard to say that only students will use the field. But Parker still won’t say it. The contrived wording confirms the general belief that adult leagues and other rentals to outside parties are on the agenda.
February 6 – By this time more than five hundred residents have signed the FPN petition and eight buildings have taken official stances against the Parker’s proposal. Alderman Daley’s office has been deluged by calls. Alderman Daley tells Parker to drop the lights from their plans.
February 8 – Parker announces that it is putting the field plan on hold for the time being. It takes down the website with the language referenced above. [Attachment #8]
February 9 – Representatives of FPN meet with Principal Dan Frank. He refuses to take off the table any of the controversial elements of the plan: four six-story light towers, lights on as late as 9 pm, up to one hundred lighted events per year. He also refuses to disavow third party rentals. Asked if the school will give 90 days notice of any new field plan, Frank refuses.
February 10 – Parker receives a letter from FPN’s lawyer, Thomas Ramsdell, making a formal request for 90 days notice. [Attachment #9] Parker’s lawyer now responds with an offer of 30 days, which FPN’s Executive Committee refuses as insufficient.
February 16 – At a forum that the Webster House hosts for its residents, five aldermanic candidates, including Michelle Smith and Tim Egan, declare their opposition to Parker’s lighting plan. Videos of their statements are posted on www.francisparkerneighbors.org.
February 21 – Smith and Egan are the run-off candidates for the 43rd Ward. The current alderman and the next in line are opposed to Parker’s lights.
February 28 -- Francis Parker Neighbors writes the Parker School's trustees asking them to disavow finally and unequivocally the lighting plan.
March 14 -- School announces that it will not build stadium lights on its Lincoln Park field. [Attachment #10]
Attachment #11: Tom Silfen’s email exchange with Damian Jones of 21/22 January about the accuracy of materials on the Francis Parker Neighbors’ website.
In a forum that the Webster House hosted on February 16th for the aldermanic candidates for the 43rd Ward, both Tim Egan and Michele Smith -- now the finalists in a run-off election -- declared their opposition to the Parker School's field lighting plans.
Watch the videos:
Francis Parker Neighbors urges the Trustees of the Parker School to disavow finally and unequivocally the lighting plan that the school on February 8th put on hold "for the time being."
How many people have to object for the Parker School to abandon these plans? How long does the school intend to leave the neighborhood's property market in limbo? Will the school really return to a lighting plan that the community and its leaders have rejected and will inevitably end up in court?
The run-off election for the 43rd Ward will be held April 5th.
At a forum tonight at the Webster House apartment building, five aldermanic candidates for the 43rd Ward – Bita Buenrostro, Chuck Eastwood, Tim Egan, Michele Smith, and Rafael Vargas – unanimously declared their opposition to the Francis Parker School’s plan to install stadium lighting on its Lincoln Park West field.
Webster House hosted the aldermanic candidates at a party for residents and invited guests. More than 115 people crowded into the apartment’s lobby to hear an update on Francis Parker Neighbors’ campaign against the Parker School’s lighting plan. The principal question of the evening was how the aldermanic candidates would react to Parker’s announcement of February 8th that it was putting its field plans on hold “for the time being.”
Tom Silfen, the moderator, announced that Vi Daley had told the school last week to drop the lights from their proposal. Silfen urged the aldermanic candidates to uphold Daley’s precedent. Otherwise, Parker would be able to keep the neighborhood in suspense, wondering if and when the lighting proposal would return. As Silfen said, the neighbors had already spoken: they did not want stadium lights. “If Parker’s lighting plan was impossible today, it will be just as impossible in six months or fifteen months or three years.”
One by one, to the cheers of the overflow crowd, the candidates declared their opposition to the lighting of Parker’s field. The next alderman of the 43rd Ward will take office already on record as opposed to Parker’s lighting plan.
We are very grateful to the Webster House for hosting this event, to the aldermanic candidates who attended, and to all of the volunteers who have joined together to defend the neighborhood against the Parker School’s ill-conceived scheme.
A great day, but the end of this story will not be written until Francis Parker Neighbors obtains a commitment from the school to abandon its lighting project.
We are delighted to inform you that our public forum at the Nature Museum on 16th of February about the Parker School’s stadium lighting plans will not be necessary. The community has won – for now.
Bowing to the pressure applied by you and the other 530-plus signatories to our petition, Alderman Daley, and the aldermanic candidates, Francis Parker School announced that it was putting its field project on hold. See the announcement here: http://www.fwparker.org/page.aspx?pid=3551
The good news is that construction will not proceed this summer.
The bad news, based upon our meeting yesterday with Principal Dan Frank, is that Parker has refused to give assurances that any of the previously-announced elements of the plan – 6-story light towers, third-party rentals,100 lighted nights, lights as late as 9:00 PM – are off the table.
We asked the school to include a representative from the Francis Parker Neighbors group in its new planning process, and Parker Principal Dan Frank refused.
We asked if Parker would give the community 90 days to review their next proposal, and Principal Dan Frank refused to guarantee any specific time-limit at all.
The Way Forward
Francis Parker Neighbors has retained Thomas Ramsdell, the lawyer who won the Latin playing field case. He has written to Parker requesting that this time around the school engage in continued, meaningful dialogue with the community. The minimum protection requested by Ramsdell is 90 days notice.
In our own letter to Frank, we have reiterated our request that Francis Parker Neighbors be formally involved in the process of re-thinking these field plans.
We cannot take the pressure off Francis Parker School. In the coming months, we will be speaking with building boards and community groups about what we have learned, and continuing to demand that Parker abandon its plans for stadium lighting. In May, we will deliver the petition you have signed to the new Alderman. We will update the website regularly, so please do check back for the latest information.
The pressure from the community has delayed the school's lighting plans. Only continued pressure from the community, however, will ensure that those plans are halted for good. Please take the following steps:
· Please email Parker Principal Dan Frank (email@example.com) and Board President Jonathan Marks (firstname.lastname@example.org) to thank them for putting this project on hold and to request that they eliminate stadium lights from their plans.
· Please call or email the following aldermanic candidates to underscore your opposition to stadium lights on the Parker field.
Tim Egan tim@eganforward43@.com – (773) 327-4343
Michele Smith email@example.com – (312) 450-9703
Rafael Vargas firstname.lastname@example.org – (773) 980-6129
· If you’d like to share your letters to the aldermanic candidates or to Parker with us, our email address is email@example.com.
· Please tell your friends and neighbors about this issue and ask them to sign the online petition. Click here: http://www.gopetition.com/petition/42090.html.
We call upon the Parker School to fulfill the ideals of civic engagement and democratic process upon which it was founded. Here is an opportunity for Parker to act according to the wisdom of its founder: “Everything to help and nothing to hinder.”
Deborah Cohen, President
Catherine Anderson, Secretary
Paul Eberly, Treasurer
On February 8th, Francis Parker School announced that it was withdrawing its plans for stadium lighting and an artificial turf field…for now.
A letter from Principal Dan Frank to Parker parents and neighbors explained:
“After careful consideration and discussions, Parker’s administration and its Board of Trustees have decided to hold off moving forward with any aspect of this project for the time being in order to review the detailed feedback we have received and to determine whether and to what extent adjustments to the plan should be made. We have, however, determined not to begin construction this summer. We will determine a new timetable once we have completed our planned project review.”
That’s the good news. The bad news is that Parker still refuses to take the plans for lighting off the table.
All we know for certain is that the community protest, and internal dissent within the school, has made it too hot for Parker to go forward now. Perhaps real change is coming. But there is just as much reason to believe – based upon the waffling and dissembling we have seen so far – that Parker’s intent is to slow down the neighborhood’s opposition, and to reintroduce similar plans at a more favorable moment.
See Parker’s email message to Parker parents here.
See Greg Hinz’s story in Crain’s here.
SEE NEWS OF 10 FEBRUARY 2011 FOR AN UPDATE!
Please join us for a public meeting on February 16th from 7:00-9:00 PM at the Notebaert Nature Museum (2430 N. Cannon Dr.) to discuss the subject of Francis Parker School's stadium lighting plans.
Despite the fact that more than 500 Chicagoans have over the past two weeks signed the petition (http://www.gopetition.com/petition/42090.html
) to stop the lights, Francis W. Parker School has not yet withdrawn its plans to install stadium lighting on their Lincoln Park playing field.
Experts and neighbors will discuss various aspects of Parker's plan and the likely impact upon the area. We have invited Alderman Daley, the aldermanic candidates, and representatives from the Parker School to the February 16th meeting so that they can take the measure of the neighborhood’s opposition to this plan. The following aldermanic candidates have confirmed that they will attend the forum: Bita Buenrostro, Tim Egan, Michele Smith, and Rafael Vargas.
On January 28th, Parker launched a new PR campaign – “Everybody plays” – which attempts to put a friendly face on what is essentially a huge expansion of night time play at the gateway to Lincoln Park.
Having created many new teams below the varsity level, Parker apparently intends to add a new tier of field use after dark. Their League doesn’t play games after dark, so who is going to be using this field? Although their statements are still murky, one possibility is that Parker will use the field for evening practices for its teams, burdening the neighborhood and disrupting the tranquility of the public parkland in order to fit in extra training time. Is the field going to be rented to third parties? Parker deploys very careful wording: its enhancements are “focused” on Parker students. What does that mean? Parker still refuses to disavow third-party rentals. Why should that be? We’ve been demanding such clarification for two weeks. What is Parker really planning?
Based upon the new materials that Parker has issued, the estimate of 100 lighted evenings that Parker gave its neighbors at the January 11th meeting is apparently an accurate forecast. Now we know why Parker never denied it. Parker does not rule out lighting morning practices. Amazingly, Parker has now added a new month of play (November) to the calendar shown to neighbors at the January 11th meeting. The lighting schedule we saw included September, October, March and April, but November's apparently in play as well. The Cubs waited a half-century for night games at Wrigley and then got 30 lit evenings a year. Parker – a small private school, not a multi-million dollar business enterprise – plans to take an unlimited number.
What will the effect on the neighborhood be? Parker attempts to play down the impact of the lighting by avoiding any mention of the size of the lighting stanchions – 58 ft. high – and discussing visors and louvers. But the unavoidable requirement of stadium lighting is enormous wattage. Parker’s four lighting towers must be aimed outward to illuminate the center of the field and all four corners. This is not a parking lot, it’s a playing field less than 75 feet away from adjacent residential buildings. Asked whether "dark sky" technology had been utilized, Parker's engineer said that it could not be applied here. All of us have seen these fields. They create an orb of bright light that will destroy the peaceful evening atmosphere of the park.
As for traffic and parking: Parker makes the puzzling claim that because the lighting project will be “focused” on their students, there will be no new traffic problems. But won’t the new nighttime athletes have to be delivered and picked up from evening play, recreating the familiar morning and afternoon traffic jam? Once this is no longer an after-school event, will families attend practices? If there are games, who will come to watch them? What about the audience, opposing teams and their spectators? Where will all of these people park?
Parker’s response to its neighbors hardly fits the school’s rhetoric about civic-mindedness and democratic process. Not once has Parker reached out to the neighbors’ group, Francis Parker Neighbors, which has in eleven days gathered more than 460 signatures on its petition to stop the lights. We have heard not a word from either Principal Dan Frank or the Board of Trustees. Parker apparently thinks that it can steamroll over the neighborhood.
In a Chicago News Cooperative article
of January 28th, Alderman Daley is reported to have said that "it makes sense for Parker to install lights around the field because most soccer and field-hockey games take place in the fall and spring, and the sun often sets before games are finished."
We met with Alderman Daley and her Chief of Staff, Chuck Eastwood on January 31st. Alderman Daley insists that she was misquoted in the article, and has told us in no uncertain terms that she has not expressed an opinion on Parker's lighting plans. She is still gathering information, and requests that everyone who contacts her also inform the Francis Parker School of their opinion.
We have received a follow-up email from Alderman Daley confirming that she has taken no position on Parker's stadium lights and did not say that the school's proposal for lights "made sense."
In a note to Parker on January 21st, we pointed out that much of the information on this site was drawn from their answers to our questions at the 11 January community meeting. We offered Parker an opportunity to correct any errors. Parker's response of 22 January
makes no such correction.
Parker does have a complaint: we failed to compliment them on their plans to renew the landscaping around the field. It is true that we didn’t thank them. We didn’t think that the offer of shrubbery in exchange for stadium lights and artificial turf was a bargain. If Parker's crumbling retaining wall on Lincoln Park West needs to be fixed, we think the school ought to take care of it without insisting upon a quid pro quo from the neighborhood.