Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

News and Maps on Gang-related Homicides

Given my last post was about gang violence in my neighborhood, I would be amiss to not mention WBEZ's interactive gang map and accompanying article, of which most of this post is derived from. 

I actually wasn't that impressed with the interactive map portion of the post- which used Google Maps so it's fine I guess but for the lack of detail. The accompanying PDFs, however, were perfect. 

I had no idea there were that many gangs in the 17th Police district.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

RIP Shadow, a member of the Latin Kings

"RIP Shadow LKst" reads the black writing on the brick wall, on my way to grab some takeout.

The apartment complex along Ainslie is actually covered in related gang graffiti, all seemingly mourning the death of a comrade. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

Temporary Library Protests Show Alderman Laurino's Corrupt Side

“The people, united, will never be defeated” the motley crew of all ages and races chant, angry at what appears to be the smell of corruption and neglect wafting from 39th ward Alderman Laurino. The protesters wave their signs and an occasional passing car honks. They even say their chant in Spanish: “el pueblo unido, jamas en concedo!”   

It is a Saturday afternoon in Chicago -  September 1st to be exact - and it is supposed to rain any minute. This group of 20 or so are not Occupy protesters though the chant is the same, nor are they members of the Chicago Teachers Union (though there are rumblings of an impending strike already):  they are here on this day, at the corner of Kimball and Foster to protest a library - but really they’re pissed off at Laurino who won’t give them the time of day. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Foster Ave Sewer Project, and Mariano's Fresh Market

Funny how I was just talking about the need for more sewer construction projects, and alderman Laurino (of the 39th ward) sends out a community news blast with the Foster Avenue Sewer Project as the first thing mentioned.

Laurino's staff member writes the Foster Ave sewer line was installed in 1928, so they're 90 years old. Construction begins THIS MONDAY.

The neighborhood is also getting a new grocery; Mariano's Fresh Market, a Milwaukee-based chain run by a former Dominic's CEO.

The news blast:

The North Branch of the Chicago River is Very Photogenic

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Both shots were taken by Flickr user Kymberly Janisch

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Friday, August 24, 2012

I Found Neighbors That Like Picking Up Trash! (Also, Chicago's Underground Infrastructure Needs Your Help)

While I was walking to the Global Garden to care for my lot there of vegetables and herbs, I came across a  handmade sign in the grass. I promptly lost it. 

As in, I lost it in the sense that I got insanely happy, not in the "I lost it because I went crazy" sense.

(But hey, that too maybe? I mean, who my age really enjoys working within their community to make the neighborhood better? I literally get an intellectual  lady boner, if you don't mind me being vulgar, by these communal activities. How do I explain my desire to make my surroundings better, to be part of something that is bigger than me, without sounding like a freak? This is real life, okay?)  

And now, to make this post less about me and Generation Y and more about the city and people of Chicago...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Driving Along Lawrence (Photos)

Lawrence Ave (and Kedzie too) is the commercial heart of Albany Park. It's also an incredibly bizarre street.

You've got the shady businesses, and you've got the legitimate businesses all reflecting the diversity of the neighborhood on one street. The Admiral Club strip joint sits next to a Muslim clothing attire shop, and Korean bakeries are intermixed with Mexican groceries. Stores that really want to buy your gold and/or sell you fuzzy blankets at the same time operate out of old buildings with crumbling but still beautiful facades.

Lawrence also regularly has a traffic problem, as it feeds into a couple of highways at Cicero. Traffic will only get worse as the Lawrence Ave Streetscape project goes into effect. For those unfamiliar, this plan reduces traffic lanes on Lawrence from four to two, and only between Western and Clark. This is being done to add more sidewalk and tree-planting space, because apparently, Chicago doesn't think Lawrence has enough of a congestion problem.

Twitter user (and amateur photog) Bill Schwartz, who likes to share photos he takes while driving around the city, recently drove down Lawrence Ave. While Schwartz could have easily Instagramed photos of the gorgeous old buildings, he instead focused on the multiculturalism on display.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Albany Park's New Library Controversy! [Revised]

Albany Park is set to get a new library in two years time, despite lacking the funds to be fully operational. This irony is courtesy of Chicago's TIF funds reports Deanna Isaacs at the Chicago Reader. So think "hooray!" and then "booooo...."

(Don't worry, I am conflicted too.)

Besides the issue of funds, Isaacs points out the community wasn't consulted when it came time to constructing the new facility, as made evident by an initial 200 signature petition "demanding information and public input" and a secondary 700-person petition demanding full uninterrupted service.

The public library branch located on Foster and Kimball is in Laurino's ward. She's probably happy to have yet another new public project in her ward, but what's this about asking the constituents what they want?

Here is just one of a couple EveryBlock threads discussing the library closing. In it, Albany Park resident Jessland explicitly mentions a lack of communication:

"Since our aldermen are a little lacking in communicating anything..."

Hot Cheetos and Takis... making me want to eat some Takis. 

If you haven't seen it yet, check out this five-minute rap song by Y.N.RichKids, a mini hip hop collective inside Beats And Rhymes, that after-school program at a YMCA in Minneapolis. 

I can't help but think a similar initiative would do really well here in Albany Park, or Chicago in general. (What you say, APCC?)

Monday, August 13, 2012

by Erica Elan Nelson

The Death of Windy Citizen (and, I am the "citizen journalist" success you've been looking for)

I know, I know, I am months late.

The Windy Citizen shut down in June 18, and it is now what... August?

 This post will be worthless to some of you, as "the Windy Citizen" means nothing. But to Chicagoland techies, newsies, journalists, bloggers, media-types and aspiring media-types? The Windy Citizen was one of the hottest places to be on the Web (well, from 2009 - 2011ish). The Windy Citizen was the center of Chicago's (small) tech start-up scene, too.

Maybe I am exaggerating about how cool the Windy Citizen was, because maybe my nostalgia glasses are rosier than I am aware of.  I owe a good portion of my current successful writing career to the Windy Citizen, though, that is a fact and no exaggeration.

Twitter, Tumblr, and Chicago's subreddit were no where near as active as they are now (as Flora noted in his closing post), and EveryBlock was just an automated data site back then. When ChicagoNow launched, editors and journalists sounded off on what this meant for Chicago news and the future of journalism.

Remember all of Geoff Dougherty's flops, from Chicago Current, to Chi-Town Daily News (which posted in April 2012)!? Chicago's media types mocked and scoffed in comment threads, with media kerfuffles drawing the liveliest debates on the social news sharing site.   

WBEZ tried out a lunch time talk show in part because of how popular Windy Citizen was around lunch time. (It didn't work out.)

Anna Tarkov made a name for herself with her Daily Daley blog (as CBS dutifully pointed out)... and so did I with my Albany Park Post blog.

At its height, the Albany Park Post blog on Windy Citizen had "guest reporters" from Medill, Northwestern's Graduate School of Journalism (you can read one of those posts here).

CBS once sent a reporter to this side of the river because of the posts I did on Bodyworxs, that gym which took 3 years to build... (The owner was charging people monthly gym fees despite no place to work out or any construction?! He stole the logo and name from a vitamin and health supplement web store!?)

Aldermen Mell once came up to me at a police event, to let me know he enjoyed my APP post about him. I would complain about street lamps or some other problem, and within days, it would be fixed. A blog commenter, responding to my astonishment, called it "the squeaky wheel" treatment.

An artist included my post about her exhibit on her resume! Urbanophile mentioned the APP in a blog post! Curbed Chicago cited, or linked to me occasionally! 

I still know some of my neighborhood leaders by name, and they still know me. I got to ask Rahm Emanuel a single question during his mayoral race in 2011. I used to talk about his looks on the WC with Samantha Abernethy, and the Huffington Post (and then Gawker, seperate story!) ran a photo of our experience under the title "Why Ladies Love Rahm."

My success at the Albany Park Post helped me in part get jobs at other web publications, and I even worked at various Patches in the north suburbs of Chicago. I've spoken at both University of Chicago and North Park about hyperlocal blogging and the Albany Park Post.

All these things I did without a degree in Journalism. I just went out there into the street, and reported on neighborhood issues. I tried to be a good neighbor, and attend clean-ups, community meetups, and festivals.  The whole thing was a learning experience, and I had a shit ton of fun doing it.


I didn't hear of the Windy Citizen closing announcement until weeks later, and by then it was too late. (I blame the AV Club announcement, stealing all the thunder, but in reality, I had abandoned the site once I got a salaried full-time job at a start-up.) My posts on the Albany Park Post, over a roughly two year period, are all gone.

Thank goodness for Google cache, saving at least a choice few (and my best) posts.

 While I can replicate the success of the Albany Park Post again, (I now work freelance and have more time for things I enjoy), what I cannot  recreate is that "virtual newsroom"...

Where do I go now to read Frank Sennett's pompous opinions or Mike Doyle's bitching about Chicago Now? Where can I read Chuck Sudo and Andrew Huff's online debate about whatever random topic? What does WBEZ hiring Marcus Gilmer as a blogger means for the radio station?

I miss hanging out with all those people, digitally.

There is no message board for Chicagoland journalists or media professionals any more. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Apologies, and EveryBlock

(I had originally wanted to post this on the Windy Citizen, but like most things WC, it is broken. Or my posting rights have been revoked.)

Hello there whoever might be reading this...

Yeah. I know.

I haven't updated this blog in months.

I have two very good reasons for this. First, I got a full-time writing job. And second, I had my heart broken, by EveryBlock.

When I first moved this blog from blogspot to the Windy Citizen, I did it because I was excited by the potential of a group blogging project. I wanted people to become involved with their communities, and I saw the Internet as a great way to do that. The Windy Citizen seemed ideal at the time, as people from all over the city could post to the site.

I was excited by the potential of people sharing informative links, posting pictures of lost pets, or organizing community-oriented projects with concerned neighbors. Thus, the Albany Park Post, where any one who wanted to, could technically share stuff with their neighbors.

I even used to go to beat 1713 CAPS meetings and write up summaries for those unable to attend.
I used to have late night gchat sessions with Brad Flora about how it would be cool if Windy Citizen was in every city, just so community members could engage in hyperlocal blogging and conversation. Patch wasn't around yet either (and yes, I also wrote for Patch...)

EveryBlock at the time was an automated data site. I checked it occasionally, to see if someone had purchased or renewed a lease, but I didn't find it that useful for my purposes.

I met one of the EveryBlock founders at a hyperlocal blogging conference, and like any naïve girl overly enthusiastic about community service, I gushed about the possibilities of the Albany Park Post, and blogs like it.

The listening ear found it oh-so-fascinating, and admitted that was one of the problems with EveryBlock; there is more to communities than automated data – word of mouth, and neighborly conversations are equally important. This, I already knew.

A shortish time later, EveryBlock got a face-lift.

Actually, it was completely revamped. Now neighbors could connect with one another. They could post links to news. They could post about lost pets. About clean-ups. Crime. Garage sales. New businesses. CAPS meeting recaps.

It was everything I told the listening ear about what I wanted to do with the APP, that I was already doing with the APP. 

The color scheme of the site was even the same

I smiled a lot, but as I saw more and more of APP readers move over to EveryBlock, and post what they used to post on my site, I cried a little inside each time.

My heart grew heavy with jealousy and anger.

I would have been happy to have been hired. Even as a community manager. But no offer came.

And I get it. I am just some dumb young blonde hipster girl who doesn't know how to apply for funding, so fine, steal my idea. Take all the credit for building this beautiful platform that fosters neighborhood activism.

EveryBlock, with its MSNBC funding, is so pretty and intuitive and easy to use – all the things the Windy Citizen is not.

Ultimately, my rage has subsided, which is how I can write this blog post today, because, my goal with the APP was to get people more involved with their neighborhood through electronic means.

Everyone is always harping against technology digitally dividing us, but Obama proved in 2008 that it can also connect us. (Yeah, I once told Swedish Covenant's Well Magazine that he was my inspiration for the APP.)

So in the end, it doesn't really matter whose product got neighbors more involved with their community, just as long as it happened. Or so I tell myself, because that is the person I want to be.

I am still bitter over the whole thing... but my desire to be involved with my community, the oh-so-troubled neighborhood that is Albany Park, has returned.

I don't know if I will be using EveryBlock that much, as from what I've read over the past couple of months, people who use it are borderline racists and/or whiny complainers.

As for this blog, I will not be posting anything I used to post, because people can do that now on EveryBlock. I will instead be focusing on what the Tumblr “Fuck yeah Albany Park” called “thoughtful commentary” about the neighborhood.

And whatever else I see fit to print.