This morning shortly after 6 a.m. the noisy set-up for the India Day celebration began in the Republic Bank parking lot. Once again, there will be an over-amplified hours-long concert. Once again, political muscle–and money–have triumphed over common decency. Once again, the event’s organizers have openly expressed their contempt for nearby residents. This being Saturday, neither the DCASE offices nor the alderman’s office can be reached, and since both signed off on this disrespectful production it’s doubtful either would stop it.
Part of the DCASE application asks about noise and its control: “Will electronic sound amplification equipment or a public address system be used at the event? If yes, Indicate, on the Site Plan, the location of the stages and sound systems, the location and direction of all speakers, and the proximity to residential addresses.” The application also asks for the hours during which the amplified noise will occur, and what plans the organizers have for controlling the noise. I don’t know what the organizers told DCASE, but they set up their soundstage directly across the alley from residential housing. Were the organizers, DCASE staff, and the alderman indifferent to the placement of the soundstage? Yep. It’s not outside their homes.
Can you imagine an audience area and sound stage being set up outside the alderman’s home? Or anywhere in her end of the neighborhood? Do you think the organizers of this event would tolerate this outside their homes? Of course not. It’s something the powerful and politically-connected impose on others but wouldn’t tolerate themselves.
Last year’s celebration was handled in the same way. This year, too, there was no advance notice to the residents. No publicity of any kind. Oh, wait. There were posters in some storefronts along Devon that advertised the parade and stated that the Mela (party) would take place in Warren Park beginning at 2:30 p.m. Warren Park?
Look closely at the poster. Just left of center it clearly states that the mela will be held in Warren Park. Did the residents of that pricey area complain? Would the noise be too much for the golfers? Or was it a feint, with the fest planned for the parking lot all along? A required part of the application is a letter from the alderman stating her awareness of plans for the event; the application has to be submitted 45 days prior to the event. That makes it clear that this event was never intended for Warren Park, nor did its organizers have any intention of notifying nearby residents that it would occur in the parking lot again this year. After all, it’s not like the residents on Washtenaw and Fairfield and surrounding areas north and south of Devon have anything to say about being blasted out of their homes for an entire day. Residents don’t matter.
Republic Bank has repeatedly broken its promise to the residents of Fairfield and Washtenaw that its parking lot would be just that–a parking lot, not a concert venue. A couple of years ago, when I complained directly to the alderman about the use of the parking lot for musical events, she looked me right in the eye and said she’d tolerate the noise if it were for the good of the community. I suggested we hold the next concert outside her home. Here’s the current scorecard:
Musical events held outside Silverstein home, past four years: 0
Musical events held outside my home, past four years: 23
The organizers of this event would not accept such disrespect from the eighty percent of West Ridge that is not Indian. Indeed, any and all criticism is immediately denounced as racist and intolerant. But for the India Day organizers to disrespect the non-Indian community? That’s a different story.
The big India Day celebrations and parades this year will take place in the suburbs, in Schaumburg and Naperville, with events also scheduled in Lisle and Hoffman Estates. It may well be that we’ll be seeing an end to the disruption demanded by events like this held on Devon and residential side streets–the bus reroutes, the sidewalk closings, the street shut down for hours for a fast blast of tacky floats, some of which aren’t even identified. As the neighborhood evolves, it may outgrow the notion that we need events like this to draw tourists to businesses that don’t want neighborhood residents as customers. We are currently witnessing the slow death of exclusionary retailing on Devon, and this annual event may also be in its death throes.
To willfully disregard the impact of an event like this on residents is wrong. The Silverstein are counting political contributions, not defending the right of residents to be undisturbed in their own homes. The alderman should serve as a buffer between event organizers and residents who will be directly affected by noise, traffic, and garbage problems. If any such event were scheduled for the area north of Pratt, there would be a community meeting with the event organizers to discuss protecting the rights and property of the residents. Those of us who live closest to Devon don’t get such service. For two years in a row, information about this event has deliberately been kept from that part of the neighborhood most affected by it.
The Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) of Chicago should be ashamed of itself for treating members of the West Ridge community with such arrogance and disrespect. So should the alderman, and the management of Republic Bank of Chicago.