Monday, July 07, 2014

The Flower Terrorists Are Winning

We live in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago.  Admittedly, Uptown can be an interesting place to live.  Sandwiched between the gentrified neighborhoods of Lakeview, Andersonville and Edgewater, Uptown is the last "refuge of the undesirable" on the north side of the city.  It houses the largest number of mental health services in the city and it considered Ground Zero for Chicago's mental health community.  We've had our share of run-ins with the residents of our 'hood, and we've seen enough odd behavior to last us a lifetime - to which we typically shake our heads and shrug our shoulders in a "oh, Uptown" kind of way.  Since moving here in 2008, we've figured out how to navigate the weird to get to the good.

A few years ago, the condo board in our building bought two large planters to place on the sidewalk, flanking the doors into our building.  A resident planted flowers and for two days, the entrance to our building looked very nice.  For two days.  Because 48 hours later, all the flowers were gone and there was dirt all over the sidewalk.  The entrance to our building is not protected by a gate or fenced-in area.  It's directly on the sidewalk on a not-too-busy street.  In Uptown.

Apparently undeterred, another resident bought more flowers and filled the planters again.  This time, I think the plantings might have lasted a full week before disappearing.  The only items left behind in the planters were two 18" pine trees that never grew any larger.  They looked sad and barren in their large pots - a perfect representation of the neighborhood itself:  almost there, trying to show its beauty, but still looking a bit blighted and barren.

A few weeks ago, an owner of a unit in the building bought flowers and planted them in the planters and sent out an announcement to the building, patting herself on the back for generously and single-handedly beautifying the building.  After reading her message, I started my stopwatch; I knew it would be a matter of days before the new flowers would disappear.  And like clockwork, the flowers were gone 2 weeks later.  Our condo board chair expressed sadness over their disappearance and said he would replace the flowers that day.  On our discussion board, I wrote the following:
It's perhaps naive to think that unprotected plants outside the building won't get stolen again. We first learned this a few years ago when The Patricks attempted to keep plants in the planters. Unprotected by a gate or fence or even by moving them inside the vestibule, they're just going to be taken again. It's a nice gesture, but why waste your money?
The condo board chair responded with: 
Naive or not we have to keep trying to make our building and neighborhood more inviting. I have seen one of the residents of the half-way home at Racine and Leland destroy foliage at the Buddhist temple. So I am going to review the video and if I find it is one of their residents I'm going to go there with photos and place a formal complaint so that it stops. 
We cannot let ourselves be intimidated. 
I wanted to point out that the definition of insanity is repeating the same action over and over again expecting a different result.  But I digressed.  However, let me again mention that 1) the planters are completely unprotected from passing pedestrians, 2) we live in a major metropolitan city where theft and property destruction is commonplace, and 3)  we live in Uptown.  

Let me also point out that this "video" he mentions as always seems to be a bit of a Loch Ness Monster: we hear about it, but have never seen evidence of it.  We were told years ago that the video cameras in our lobby capture all the action, however neighbors in the building (and even our renter for the year we lived in Miami) all had packages stolen from the lobby at some point and asked for the video to be reviewed.  To my knowledge, that's never happened.

There are plenty of things we COULD be doing to make our building more inviting, like replacing filthy carpet tiles or power-washing the parking garage or buying decent equipment for the workout room or even not allowing an external business to smack a billboard on the side of our historic building.  These are all great uses of money and resources that can't be undone by someone on their way to the local methadone clinic.Kevin and I have joked that if we let them take the flowers, the terrorists have won.  In a world of picking and choosing your battles, this one, apparently, is a battle our condo board is completely satisfied to lose over and over again.