Which leads to the story of Chicago Park District Superintendent Michael Kelly and the secret deal he and his team made with Amazon to bring the fun of internet shopping to a park near you. I mean, isn’t it heaven to be able to pick up a package – ignore those delivery trucks – while jogging, picnicking, or enjoying the greenery outdoors in a time of stress?
A different perspective comes from Juanita Irizarry, executive director of Friends of the Parks, a watch group. “Important policy issues such as the commercialization of public spaces and our government’s procurement processes should be discussed transparently, not hidden,” she said. Amen.
News of what Amazon and the Park District are up to for the first time emerged a few days ago when the Block Club Chicago reported that huge metal shelves with delivery lockers suddenly appeared in the middle of the sidewalks of two parks. on the northwest side. The lockers were eventually moved after complaints from local aldermen. But I figured the best story might be in how they got there in the first place. It was.
District Executive Director Juliet Azimi said officials learned late last year that Amazon was working with the Chicago Transit Authority on a program where people could pick up their packages at el stops, rather than go to a local store or trust them. at their home porch. So the neighborhood was called Amazon.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to maximize our non-tax revenue stream,” Azimi told me. “We also consider (the racks) an approval. They work quite well in some neighborhoods. So far, according to the district, the racks have been installed in 49 parks since last December, received 30,000 packages and brought the district just under $ 100,000 in revenue.
Now I wonder if most Chicagoans, who have been hesitant to give the Chicago Bears naming rights to Soldier Field and otherwise objected to the park ads, are crazy about what Amazon is doing. What’s next, turning half of Lincoln Park into a huge parking lot for high-rise neighbors, or electronic billboards in Grant Park touting video poker? In addition, 30,000 packages in 49 parks over nine months amount to something like four per day per location. Some amenities.
But it is debatable. What is not is that the district, unlike CTA, did not bother to bring this to its board of directors for a public hearing. It should also be noted that CTA’s pilot program only covers four stops that already have cafes, newsstands and the like. And that CTA has raised the full $ 1,200 while the Park District is on the verge of raising hundreds of thousands.
Azimi, Avis LaVelle park board chair and others respond that park rules require board approval only for expenses, not new sources of revenue. At least part of the time, local authorities knew and approved the facilities, LaValle adds, although a city councilor she cited, James Cappleman, 46th, says he was “informed”, not asked, of ‘approve a site in their neighborhood.
But even LaValle concedes that she was not given advance notice of a controversial commercialization of park space that involves hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
Amazon said in a statement, “We have been working closely with the Chicago Park District since 2020 to add Amazon lockers following requests from the district for this additional benefit to the community.” Said Irizarry, “Everything about this is inappropriate.”
Somehow I think I agree with Irizarry.