The city is exploring an “alternate site” to Amundsen Park for its 22nd migrant shelter, according to Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th).
In an email sent to 29th Ward residents Monday night, Taliaferro said the city was considering an alternate site at 1900 N. Austin Ave. — across the street from the Galewood park — where the city will study its suitability to serve as a shelter for migrants. If the alternate site is approved, according to Taliaferro, Amundsen Park wouldn’t have to close.
“Our mayor has clearly heard you,” Taliaferro wrote in the email. “I sincerely appreciate that we have come together, as a community, to fight for a common interest. Thank you to all that have organized to be heard.”
For the moment, the city councilman said the park’s closing had been, at the very least, temporarily put on hold by the last-minute proposal.
The original plan would have turned the Amundsen Park Fieldhouse at 6200 W. Bloomingdale Ave. into a shelter for 200 migrants for at least six months. Galewood residents, along with Taliaferro, pushed back in community meetings and online.
As a result, park district programming would have been moved a mile and a half away to Rutherford Sayre Park at 6871 W. Belden Ave. — which the alderman said would take away a space for kids and also hurt seniors who walk to Amundsen Park for programs.
“We’re taking away opportunities from our young people when we say we want to give them alternatives to going downtown or gathering en masse and doing the negative things that have been done,” Taliaferro said last week. “We can’t take these resources, especially in our underserved communities.”
Sarina Knudtson, a 10-year Galewood resident, said although some residents have voiced concerns over losing the park, the same residents have also been collecting coats and jackets for migrants as colder weather approaches.
“We’re not against migrants,” Knudtson told the Sun-Times on Monday. “We want to help them … We just don’t want our programs taken away.”
Knudtson said her concerns were mostly with how the fieldhouse could fit 200 migrants, but also the loss of resources for local kids.
She suggested the use of buildings downtown as she’s concerned about inadequate heating — or the use of fieldhouses in other neighborhoods where there are more facilities closer together so the closure of one facility wouldn’t create as much of a disruption.
“Those kids, they rely on these programs,” Knudtson said. But an alternate site “is a very good thing, I hope it leads to a step in the right direction … As long as it doesn’t mess with the community, it’s a win-win.”
Ultimately though, she was still upset with the mayor, who hails from the area, and said residents feel “forgotten,” especially after he didn’t show up to hear the community speak on the issue.
“It’s heartbreaking as voters that voted for him to see him want to just give up his park like this,” Knudtson said.
Mayor Brandon Johnson told reporters last week that a U.S. Department of Homeland Security team had arrived in Chicago to assess its migrant situation and that he planned to visit the U.S.-Mexico border soon.
Contributing: Fran Spielman