Dispatch from the Pilsen Polish Sausage Smackdown ...

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I couldn't make it to Monday's community meeting about plans to put an all-night Maxwell Street Polish stand at 18th and Halsted.

And Ald. Danny Solis - who has pledge to block the sausage stand from opening at that location against neighbors wishes-- hasn't called me back yet.

Thankfully, Al DiFranco, a long-time Pilsen resident and former UPI journalist, was at Providence of God Church last night. He was kind enough to send me this dispatch from the meeting.

Danny Solis promised a lot. He said the move by city departments to grant permits and licenses was the "stupidest decision that's ever been made."

Solis said he will immediately put the project on "administrative hold," and that "I'm going to make legislation" for a permanent fix that would bar the hot dog stand.

Solis said, "I have full confidence that I'll stop [Express Grill owner Alex Lazarevski]."

Lazarevski was there, along with at least 200 residents and nearby business owners, including the 86-year-old non-resident John Podmajersky, Jr., and his son , the 40-something John Podmajersky III. They were spectators, not panelists. Pod the Younger asked a couple of technical questions about garbage pick-ups and storage.

Solis was asked if he gave Lazarevski an "aldermanic letter of acknowledgment." Solis said no -- adding that he figured Lazarevski would have avoided that move in anticipation of Solis turning him down.

As frequent public meetings in this church basement go, it was a large crowd. Since moving to Pilsen in 1974, it was also the most unified I have ever seen. Pretty much everybody -- including Solis -- seemed to agree with each other against Lazarevski.

While not offering their opinions much, the City officials, like Bill McCaffrey of the Building Department, had some sobering words. McCaffrey said there is very little distinction in the permit process to weed out a hot dog stand from another kind of restaurant. He said the square footage (under 4,000) of the place was "too small" to require a traffic study.

A Transportation Department representative did cite narrow sidewalks and the location of the Halsted Street and 18th Street bus stops on both sides of the restaurant as a possible barrier to approval. But the CTA rep indicated the CTA was flexible on that issue.

One unidentified resident claimed that crime stats show big trouble at the current site of the two hot dog stands on Union, while another unidentified resident of University Village (the former Maxwell Street market area) said they have the "lowest crime in any part of the city."

Twelfth Police District Commander Dennis Keane did not confirm or deny those citations of statistics, but did say it was illegal to park in front of a place with a bus stop and that the law would be enforced. He was asked and declined to offer his "speculation" on what kind of crimes would increase if the restaurant goes forward. He said the dynamics of vehicle and pedestrian traffic and parking are completely different at the Union Avenue site.

As for citizen DiFranco, he's been in Pilsen since 1974.

His take: "I was relieved to see the hot dog stands relocated from Halsted about a decade ago. Like most of the residents at the meeting, I think, I have seen the litter, the sleazy 24-hour clientele and have smelled the smell to say 'enough' to more of what surely will be the same problems."

(If you were there, send along your take (and pictures or video) of the meeting. Let your voice be heard.)

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As a concerned resident of Pilsen, I too attended the meeting. One interesting question that was directed to Express Grill owner, Alex Lazarevski, was: "Would you approve of your children livig next to a 24hr hotdog stand?" Answer from Lazarevski: "No Comment".

One resident asked Lavarevski if he was ready to give up, and he said "Its ultimately up to my father".

There is no doubt that the location of the 24hr Polish stand is bad, but getting it stopped will be another question. Everyone in the neighborhood needs to stay on top of this, keep pressure on the city council and the Alderman. Email the Alderman, email the Major, make your voice heard!

I went to the meeting wondering what could produce such vehemence, still do as far as the bogus claims of rats, "those people", and prostitutes, and yet I left knowing only a knucklehead would open a "stop and go" restaurant at that site even if a shadow message of "best Polish in the World" clings to Podmajersky's building across the way exposed by another historic teardown produced by his lack of maintenance. Until the city produced legislation that allowed any "lot of record" to be built upon a few years back this would have never happened on such a small parcel.

I supported that legislation, still do, as it allows little lots to be put back in use such as that excellent house on 16th and Throop, but I also think the city needs to enact legislation, before a business license is issued to this foolhardy crass businessman, that stipulates a difference between 24 Hour Restaurants with indoor service and what amounts to Drive-Thru Restaurants with a window who use the public way as their serving grounds and the roadway as the "drive-thru". Our city has perfectly positioned restaurants of this type where sensible locations with an adequate buffer screen them from becoming a nuisance (both during daylight hours with traffic and in the wee hours when bozos get the wicked drunken desire for a quick bite) but unless the zoning and business license code is updated to reflect the direct impact such businesses have on traffic patterns and the surrounding neighborhood this issue of inappropriate sited fast food carnival delivery stands will rear it's head again and again. I can think of several such lots citywide that fit the same parameters.


All Walk up "Restaurants" without indoor service shall be subject to traffic reviews, no matter their built size, and unless they are located in areas of adequate pedestrian traffic to support them they need to provide adequate parking for their "walk up" patrons (who are nothing but drive thru customers without a drive thru) before the issuance of a business license. This is no different than a McDonalds, the old School McDonalds of our youth who did provide parking for their walk up windows, and should be subject to the same parameters of expected volumes of cars per hour and parking requirements.

The yuppie's live in the hood for a couple of years and already making demands?mWhat if it was a taco joint, would that be ok? Cause there's one down 18th and eventually the yuppies will become the majority, just like Wicker Park

If Podmajersky and son are against someone else brining a business to our area, I'm almost sure it is not to their best personal interest. Ask them how they are able to block alleys and have the alderman to sell them city property that was a benefit to the old residents who have lived here since the sixties. Maybe campaign contributions have something to do with it.

It's amazing that now that a polish stand wants to open in a so called up and coming white and uppity hispanic area the stand is not welcome. Those stands have popped up in African American communities all over the city and no one has said a word. If the stands are allowed in the African American community what makes you think your community is so special? If the alderman in this ward blocks the opening of this stand the City of Chicago should revist approving the opening of those stands in African American communities. The same problems that the citizens of Pilsen are concerned with are the same problem that African Americans are subject to everyday!

Resident since 1974? We call that a newcomer.

paraphase a yuppie:

There is no doubt that the gentrification of Pilsen is bad, but getting it stopped will be another question. Everyone in the neighborhood needs to stay on top of this, keep pressure on the city council and the Alderman. Email the Alderman, email the Major, make your voice heard!

I can remember when Danny Solis was a nice guy. Wow, has 35 years passed that quickly?

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Mark Konkol

Mark Konkol covers city neighborhoods for the Chicago Sun-Times. You can e-mail him or call (312) 321-2146.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Konkol published on August 19, 2008 11:19 AM.

Will Pilsen get a Polish Sausage (stand) lodged in its heart? was the previous entry in this blog.

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