Promontory Point dispute statements, coverage late February, March 2001. Including the Rossi letter and rebuttals (Series 2003-4, #8)

Index to this page
The Point
home and subpages.
site incl. plan.
Peter Rossi contact
City/Dept. of Environment site with city plan updates
Point Wkg Group (Mediator's) website:

The huge inflow of letters to the Herald are cached in
Alderman Hairston's email. To Alderman's website- find City Council and scroll to name.

Mid-2003-March 2004 Series:
1: July 13 Task Force Preservation and Access Plan
2: Reports and text, views, links to view plans

3: City counter/compromise plan, reinstated Jan. 28, 2004
4: September 10 public briefing and summary
5: Reports of the Mediator of the Working Group meetings
7: Reports and Appeals March-December 2003
7: Reports, Appeals, Press from Jan.-Feb. breakdown period, incl. Mediator's Statement
8: [This page:] Point dispute-statements-coverage-Rossi late Feb./March 2004
9: The March 9 summit and costing tasks to lead to final working group report due April 15
10: Listing on the '10 Most Endangered list; disputes over plans and 1994 Memorandum
11: Latest Promontory Point news, Expectations for resumed talks, perspectives
12: Key parts of the Mediator's Final Report, May 2004


Reader, February 13 coverage, stressing the 1994 Memorandum of Agreement.

The Reader February 13, 2004
Final Countdown for the Point
Frustrated Hyde Parkers get ready to play their ace in the hole.
Author: Ben Joravsky Date: February 13, 2004 Appeared in Section 1 Word count: 1451

On January 28 Jack Spicer and several of his Hyde Park allies arrived at a meeting with city officials and a mediator to work out some final details on a plan to rebuild the shoreline around Promontory Point, the popular park that juts into the lake at 55th Street. Spicer thought his long fight with the city was coming to a close.

About four years earlier Park District and Department of Environment officials had unveiled a plan to remove the limestone blocks around the Point and replace them with a concrete seawall, part of a $300 million project to prevent erosion and flooding of Lake Shore Drive by rebuilding revetments from Montrose to 57th Street. Spicer and other Hyde Park residents were furious. They formed the Community Task Force for Promontory Point, wrote countless letters to editors, attended dozens of meetings, made hundreds of phone calls, held numerous protest rallies. "I can't tell you how much time I've spent on this," says Greg Lane, who lives in Hyde Park. "Jack alerted me to the potential destruction of this national historical resource, and I got involved. I'm merely a reflection of a broad passion in this community."

A year and a half ago Lane was working his way through a stack of documents on the project that he'd gotten from City Hall when he discovered a 1994 "memorandum of agreement" signed by the city, the Park District, and the Army Corps of Engineers. In it they agreed "that the design and construction of the revetment will match the existing" revetment around the Point and that the "plan that will be designed and implemented will be the step-stone revetment plan." In other words, the city had signed a legally binding document to preserve the limestone revetment, and the Army Corps had agreed to stop the city if it tried to do anything else. "It's there in black and white for anyone to see," says Lane. "They're obligated to preserve the limestone. The language is clear."

Yet sometime after signing the MOA the city decided to go with concrete, even though it hadn't gotten the approval of the Corps. Why the city changed its mind isn't clear. (Calls to the city were referred to Park District spokesman Julian Green, who said he was only vaguely aware of the MOA's existence.)

When members of the task force complained about the change, city and Park District officials said they were sympathetic, but limestone wouldn't keep the waves from eroding the shore. "They said they were willing to work with us and make modifications in their concrete plan," says Spicer, "but that ultimately most of the limestone would have to go."
The activists could have gone to court to block the project, arguing that it violated the MOA, but as Spicer puts it, "We thought it would be best to try and work with the city."

They did hedge their bets a little, raising more than $60,000 to hire a coastal engineer, Cyril Galvin. He studied the erosion at the Point and in the fall of 2002 released an alternative plan that would use limestone and concrete to repair the shoreline while keeping the traditional look. The city rejected his plan, saying it didn't make the lake accessible to the handicapped. So Galvin altered the plan to make the water accessible. The city rejected that on the grounds that new limestone wasn't available. The residents gathered letters from limestone quarry operators, who said they had more than enough limestone for the project.

"I realized that no matter what we said, no matter what we proved, the city was going to turn us down," says Lane. "They said that [federal] access requirements mandated an all-concrete shoreline. Well, our answer to that was we brought in a nationally recognized expert--I can send you his CV if you want it--and he said, 'Of course you can preserve and provide access.' Otherwise we'd be destroying the thing to provide access to it--Vietnam war thinking. Then they said, 'It's not constructible'--which is interesting, because we have pictures of people in the 1930s building it. It's very curious to me that you can't build something in 2004 that you can build in 1937. I think it was when they said that you could no longer cut the limestone because--I'm not making this up--the quarries had thrown away the saws that they used to use to cut the limestone that I came to the conclusion that these people will say anything to destroy our project."

Daley was largely silent on the issue, though early last year he was asked about it at a community forum. According to one Hyde Parker in the audience, he snapped something like, "Those people in Hyde Park, they're not getting anything. Promontory Point can sink into the lake, and God help them if it does."

But then the city seemed to soften its stance. It suggested a compromise--concrete with the top two steps made of limestone--and last August it agreed to take the matter to a mediator. The two sides didn't wind up meeting until January 12. "The way it worked is, we had our engineer, the city had their engineer, and the mediator had his own engineer," says Spicer. "The engineers from each side got together and stood in the middle of the room and put their heads together and did their engineering thing."

On January 22 the engineers, city officials, and activists met again, and the city finally admitted that the task force had been right--limestone would work as well as concrete in protecting the shore.

"So the only remaining issue was, could we afford it," says Spicer. "The city said their concrete plan would cost $24 million. Our cost analysis for our plan was $18 million. Their original analysis of our plan was $28 million. So now they were going to have the mediator go over all the figures." The city agreed that if the limestone cost no more than the concrete, it would go with the task force's plan.

On January 28 city engineers and officials, including Park District chief David Doig, gathered for another meeting with the mediator and the task force members to go over the figures. But before the meeting started, Doig, in one of his last acts before stepping down from his post, announced that the city would no longer participate in the mediated discussions. Then he gave the task force members an ultimatum--accept the concrete wall with the top two steps made of limestone or nothing at all.

"They were trying to get us to accept the exact same plan they had before the mediation ever started," says Lane. "Six months of working with the city got us nothing." The city officials said the issue was money, and the task force members were too stunned to ask why their plan, which appeared to be cheaper than the city's, couldn't be used.

The Park District's Julian Green explains that times are hard and the feds are strapped--they don't have a lot of money to spend, particularly on controversial projects. "We need to set our priorities," he says. "The Army Corps has seen their funds reduced because of the war in Iraq. We were told by the army that they were going to be short $15.6 million. Since we don't have an agreement on design [at the Point], we can divert funds from that project to help construction on other lakefront projects."

He adds, "The ball's in the community's court." If they want the Point protected against erosion they should accept the city's offer, and they should accept it fast. "The longer it takes them to come to a consensus, the possibilities of the project not happening at all can grow. Congress can come back tomorrow and reduce appropriations even more."

The activists say the city's trying to blackmail them, but they don't seem worried about the consequences if they refuse to go along. "I don't think anyone really believes the Point was going to fall into the lake--a lot of people think it was just a big public works project," says Spicer. "We had an outstanding plan we wanted to implement, but if we have to choose between concrete and nothing, we'll take the nothing."

Spicer, Lane, and their allies have made it clear--to the Hyde Park Herald and anyone else who will listen--that if the city decides to put in a concrete seawall without their consent they won't play nice. "This won't be Meigs Field," says Lane. "The day the bulldozers show up, people will be chaining themselves to trees--and there will be lawyers in court filing briefs demanding that the city live up to the MOA."


Herald February 18 coverage

Alderman intervenes in stalled Point negotiations

Hyde Park Herald, February 18, 2004. By Mike Stevens

Trying to jump start stalled Promontory Point negotiations, Fifth Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston summoned together the principal players to discuss why talks between the city and the community collapsed an how to get the two sides back to the table. "I wanted to get everyone in the same room and for them to present what happened," said Hairston.

A group of Hyde Parkers fighting to preserve the Point's limestone from the city's concrete-based plan have been meeting with city officials since last august to hammer out a compromise plan. On Jan. 28, two days before parks Superintendent David Doig[Ed.: 's resignation became effective], the city issued and ultimatum: accept its current plan o the project, and talks, would be frozen for at least a year. Hyde Park representatives balked at accepting the city's current plan, which includes two limestone steps, two concrete steps with a concrete promenade and is the same plan the city opened with last August,

"We can't make a decision that we feel is contrary to the whole idea of preservation," sasid local representative Fred Blum.

City officials said it would simply cost too much money to build an all-limestone plan. But engineers hired by the community put construction costs well below city estimates, according to Hyde Parker representative Jack Spicer.

Hairston, sounding annoyed, sasid, "I think we need to do more than get in a room and agree to disagree. "

At last week's meeting, Hairston said she would request that officials from the Department of Environment and park district renew negotiations with the community representatives until all sides agree on what an all-limestone plan would cost. Hyde Parkers on the team agreed; whether city officials would agree was unknown by Herald press time.

Hairston also says she plans to talk with incoming parks chief Tim Mitchell and Department of Environment Commissioner Marcia Jimenez.

After four years, Hairston said the community is ready for progress. "I think we need to remember everything has a beginning, a middle and an end," Hairston said.

If it is unused, money currently earmarked for the Point's construction will roll over to fund other Chicago shoreline revetment projects, according to park district officials.



Task Force Statement of February 18, 2004

Letter to Herald - 2/18/04

To the Editor:

Last Tuesday (2/12), Alderman Leslie Hairston reconvened the Promontory Point Working Group, the group working through mediation on the Point preservation. In the wake of the city's sudden departure from the process, talks had stalled. Alderman Hairston wanted to assess what progress had been made and move the process forward.

After hearing reports from members of the group, including Jamie Kalven, the mediator, and Wayne Brunzell, Kalven's engineer, Hairston mandated two actions to move the issue of the preservation of the Point toward resolution. They are:

1. City engineers must meet with the Task Force engineer and the mediator's engineer to develop cost estimates for construction and maintenance of preservation options for Promontory Point.

2. All estimates and options will then be peer-reviewed by a respected independent coastal engineering firm, to be chosen jointly by the parties.

The Community Task Force for Promontory Point thanks Alderman Hairston for her intervention in the process, and applauds her for bringing the Park District back to the table. We look forward to working in an honest and mutually respectful way with the city and their engineers. The peer review will complement this process, and will provide reassurances to the public that all parties are working with integrity and professionalism.

Executive Committee
Community Task Force for Promontory Point

Fred Blum
Bruce Johnstone
Jack Spicer
Connie Spreen


Letters from HPKCC and its board members to the media and Alderman Hairston. Reprinted in the Winter, 2004 Conference Reporter

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Standing for Promontory Point

The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference has supported and continues to support the work of the Community Task Force to “Save the Point.” After several years of research and consulting with the community, the Task Force has presented a viable, cost-effective plan to rebuild the shoreline at Promontory Point. In the past few months of mediated talks, the Task Force and the City have engaged in a creative give-and-take that resolved nearly every issue. The project has benefited from the firm support and guidance of Alderman Hairston.

On January 28, mediated talks that had come close to a mutually satisfactory resolution broke down, at least for the time being. (Those wishing more detail should read Mediator Jamie Kalven’s Report, available at The city cited various time constraints and remaining uncertainties over costs of construction and maintenance of a limestone step revetment. The city’s easy "out" was to insist upon a return to their hybrid, limestone-and-concrete proposal of August 2003, instead of the Task Force’s carefully-refined preservation and access plan.

The city’s plan cannot be called “preservation” and provides inadequate access for persons with disabilities, especially to the lower level and to the water. But it is important to note that (1) the city has not shut the door to another “viable plan within budget” and (2) the city is under federal and state obligations that preclude both unilateral action and walking away from the Point.

It is not acceptable for one of the parties to opt out of productive talks. All involved parties should return to the table and use the 2004 hiatus in the project to arrive at a “best” solution. We ask the Alderman’s good offices in this and are willing to assist should the parties so desire.

The community and its leaders should stand together and support the process in progress until the parties have resumed and carried talks to their conclusion.

George Rumsey, President
Gary Ossewaarde, Parks Chairman

Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference


E-mail Letter to the Editor, Hyde Park Herald [cc. Ald. Hairston]

As a long-time Hyde Park resident and a member of the Board of Directors of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, I support efforts to renew the mediation process between representatives of the City of Chicago and the Hyde Park Community. I believe that it is critical for both sides to agree on a joint plan that preserves as much of the limestone character of the Point as possible. I applaud Alderman Hairston's efforts to try to bring both parties back to the mediation table.

Thank you,
Jay N. Ammerman



Letter from Peter Rossi and signed by c 300 supporting accepting the city plan. Printed in the Herald February 28.

To All Concerned About the Future of Promontory Point:

Kay Clement, Beth Fama, Jerry Marsh, Lauren Moltz, Peter Rossi
Signatories (a few of whom have since withdrawn) are listed in:

---------- OPEN LETTER TEXT -------------------------------------------------

To: Alderman Leslie Hairston and the Promontory Point User Community
Re: The Future of the Point and the Need for Immediate Action
Date: February 18, 2004

We, the undersigned 354 residents of Hyde Park/Kenwood and users of Promontory Point, are writing to express our concern over the future of the Point. Since January of 2001, members of the community have worked hard to persuade the City and the Park District to modify their plans for the revetment at the Point. This hard work has paid off handsomely. The Park District has now offered a plan that calls for reuse of all of the existing limestone in the top steps of the revetment and to provide water access. In addition, the Park District has pledged to restore the original Caldwell landscaping. This plan is esthetically pleasing, respects the past, and provides better water access than the current revetment. In addition, it meets Army Corps engineering standards which are required for funding.

The Park District has indicated that this is as far as they will go in terms of meeting demands for limestone-based plans. This plan has not been accepted by members of the “Executive Committee of the Point Task Force.” The city and the Army Corps of Engineers have taken the position that they will not go ahead without community approval. The 22 million dollars appropriated for the Point in 2004 has been shifted to other projects. We need to act now if we are to have a chance at 2005 funds. 2005 is the final year of funding for the shoreline protection project.

The initiative is ours. We will lose a good plan and the funding for this plan if we do not act now. To delay further is irresponsible. This will only mean that nothing will be done to preserve the Point. We urge you, as our elected representative, to act immediately to save the Point by adopting the new plan offered by the City.

If you would like to join this list, email



Task Force Rebuttal of the preceding letter, February 27, 2004

Dear Friend of Promontory Point,
A letter circulating in the community has caused some confusion regarding the position of the Community Task Force for Promontory Point. The letter being circulated does not represent the views of the Task Force, and we feel it is a step in the wrong direction for the community and for Promontory Point.

The city's current proposal to rebuild the Point in concrete, with two steps of limestone, is not preservation by any standard. Consistent with our mandate from the community, the Task Force will continue to pursue a true preservation plan and is committed to working with the city, through the mediation process, to achieve this.

We understand that there are serious concerns in the community that the city will walk away from the needed repairs at Promontory Point. The city suggested that they could "possibly" lose federal funding, or that funding may "decrease," if the community doesn't quickly agree to the city's non-preservation plan. They have also stated that a preservation plan would fail to meet the Army Corps engineering standards. We take these concerns very seriously, but we have strong reasons to believe that they are unwarranted. And we feel that the vast majority of responsible people in the community would choose preservation over concrete if there were no danger of losing the federal funding.

Our Congressman, Jesse Jackson Jr., has consistently and firmly backed preservation at Promontory Point. He stated last week: "I stand with the community, committed to preservation of the limestone revetment at Promontory Point, and I will not allow the federal funding to be used for anything less. The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) requires preservation, but even if it didn't, the community does and I do." In conversations with Alderman Hairston and the Task Force, Congressman Jackson has assured the community that "next year's Army Corps appropriation will have funds earmarked for preservation at Promontory Point."

Preservation does meet Army Corps standards. The Corps itself confirmed that "the step-stone plan was analyzed from an engineering, economic and environmental perspective and was shown to be feasible" (p. 285, Illinois Shoreline Erosion, Interim III, 1994.). The Corps then signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), requiring that "the design and construction of the revetment will match the existing" (p. 253). The MOA was required by the National Historic Preservation Act, and is a legally binding document. The city is bound by that document, which is part of federal law. The city signed the MOA, twice. Representatives from the Corps, from the national Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, also signatories to the MOA, have stated in no uncertain terms that the MOA must be followed.

The greatest risk of losing federal funding for the Point comes from pursuing a design that does not conform to the explicit terms of the MOA. It is clear that the city's plan for the Point does not meet the Congressional mandates for preservation, and would violate federal law. The city's plan is therefore not legally fundable with federal money. Preservation is. The city's plan does not meet the construction and design standards that the Corps has committed to in the MOA. Preservation does.

The Army Corps is already scheduling portions of the Shoreline Project for 2006 and final decisions about funding for 2005 won't be made until January 2005. There is plenty of time to finalize a preservation plan for Promontory Point.

Clearly, now is not the time to stop advocating for preservation at the Point. Hard work and strong advocacy have moved the city ever closer to preservation. Over 2500 people have signed a petition for preservation. Over $60,000 has been raised for the effort. Countless letters of support have been written to the Mayor. Preservation's list of supporters--individuals, organization, and elected officials--is long and growing longer. The Community Task Force remains committed and willing to work until the city again agrees to preservation, as they promised in the MOA and as the mandate the Task Force received from the community demands.

Executive Committee
The Community Task Force for Promontory Point

Fred Blum
Bruce Johnstone
Jack Spicer
Connie Spreen


An open letter reaffirming support for the Task Force.

[George Cooley is board member emeritus for life and former several-times president of Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference. ]

Hyde Park Herald, March 10, 2004

As Hyde park-Kenwood residents and users of Promontory Point, we would like to reaffirm our support of the Community Task Force in its negotiations with the city. We applaud you and the Task Force for continuing to work to bring the city to the table for true negotiations, especially when other voice are calling for you and the community to reward the city's bad-faith bargaining by agreeing to the city's plan— a plan that the community soundly rejected over two years ago. The Task Force has done a wonderful and conscientious job of representing the community. It has:

No other body or organization has done the job the Task Force has done. Therefore, we believe that the Community Task force is the body that is best qualified and situated to represent the wishes and needs of the HydePark-Kenwood community regarding the restoration of Promontory Point.

We stand by the Task Force and we urge you to continue to do the same.

Michael J. Scott, Jesse N. Sinaiko, Roxanne Friedman, Charles F. Custer, George Cooley, Ada Mary Guggenheim, Jon Will, Joy Clendenning


Letter from new Park Superintendent Timothy J. Mitchell to Hyde Park Herald

February 25, 2004. City sets record on feasibility of limestone

In response to your February 11 editorial, several assertions were made about the Chicago Park District's position on Promontory Point. We would like to clarify for your newspaper that the Chicago Park District, the Department of Environment, and the U.S. Corps of Engineers never stated or implied that it is feasible to reconstruct the seawall at Promontory Point out of limestone. We have made this very clear in the past, in recent mediated design meetings, and in a report distributed to members of the community task force on January 28tht and to the Hyde Park Herald on February 10th.

We have reviewed several limestone options as requested by the community, regardless of feasibility, in order to allow for a more complete understanding of the failure risk, maintenance issues and costs associated with these options.

What do we admit? We do admit that the plans have improved through a community process, an high priority has been given to preservation of limestone where feasible. The city's most recent plan reuses every existing limestone block on site for construction of the upper revetment steps and other limestone features.

For the last three years, the Chicago Park District has worked with the community on this issue more than any other project in the District. We remain interested in moving forward with this project, but our commitment to the taxpayers of Chicago is to design and build responsibly. Promontory Point for years has been a destination for children and families. We hope, with the community's support, we can create an even more accessible destination for the residents of Chicago to enjoy.

In order to dispel further confusion about the project, we will post recent plans, improvements, and status on the Department of Environment website at www.cityof

Timothy J. Mitchell, General Superintendent, Chicago Park District.


Hyde Park Herald coverage of February 25, 2004

Point fight flares up over city's 'two-step' proposal

By Mike Stevens

As the battle over Promontory Point heats up again, Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston has asked the new park district superintendent to restart meetings with community representatives rather than accept the city's current proposal.

Letters poured into the Herald last week decrying the city's latest decision to halt talks with community representatives. But one letter, with nearly 200 signatures, urged the alderman to accept the city's current proposal. Hairston said she understood some of the concerns of those who signed the letter that urged immediate compromise. "You're always concerned about money with today's economy and the President cutting programs," the alderman said. But she added she was reassured about funding for the project after conversations with parks officials and U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-2).

At an introductory meeting with incoming parks chief Timothy Mitchell last Thursday, Hairston recommended that talks between the city and task force engineers should continue in order to resolve differences in cost and maintenance estimates of the community's all-limestone revetment plan.

The new push for consensus comes after city officials froze the Point revetment project in late January. The latest delay in the years-long battle between the city and Hyde Park activists sends funds originally earmarked for Point construction to other shoreline revetment projects, according to park officials.

Following a $15.6 million federal funding cut, the park district would like to have a consensus on a project quickly while funding remains in place, parks spokesman Julian Green said. "We're concerned that if a decision is reached later rather than sooner, the possibility exists that funding would decrease," Green said.

But task force member Greg Lane says dire predictions about lost dollars for a Point rehab represent "bad-faith bargaining" intended to intimidate the community into taking a compromise plan. "The city's bluffing about the funding just like they have been bluffing about everything else," Lane said referring to city claims that limestone was no longer available.

The compromise letter (see page 11) highlights frustrations at continuing delays and concerns about funding in the community.

"It appeared to me that we might lose the money if we didn't use it," said longtime Hyde Parker Judith Getzels who signed the letter after a thorough reading. The letter began circulating via e-mail early last week amongst friends, according to Peter Rossi, a former member of the Community Task force for Promontory Point.

"There's at least [177] people...that are frustrated at the lack of progress about the Point and feel the 'two-step' [proposal] is acceptable," Rossi said.

Though Greg Lane disagreed about the need to accept the city's compromise plan, he said he understood the concerns of people who have signed the letter. "They're scared. This is a city administration that closed down an airfield overnight," Lane said, referring to the city's nighttime bulldozing of Meigs airfield.

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